Branding With Breadsticks – It’s All About Value

The concept that ‘more is better’ seems to have permeated our culture. This is especially true in food service and restaurants as evidenced by larger servings, ‘all-you-can-eat’ specials and unlimited drink refills. The belief is that quantity is the secret to driving business by attracting and satisfying customers. 

One restaurant, The Olive Garden, is known for its practice of giving their customers as many breadsticks as they want. This practice was challenged recently as part of a nearly 300 page assessment of the chain published by hedge fund Starboard Value. The report was part of Starboard’s effort to take over the board of Darden Restaurants – Olive Garden’s parent company*.

Starboard wasn’t challenging the practice of unlimited breadsticks as much as they were questioning the manner in which it was being fulfilled. Servers had gotten in the habit of bringing a full basket of breadsticks at the beginning of the service – regardless of the number of diners. Two guests? – full basket. Six guests? – full basket.

It was pointed out by Starboard that Olive Garden servers were not following the company policy of bringing a basket with one breadstick per guest plus one. Once those were gone, the server would be expected to bring more. Some might ask “What’s the difference? – Each approach conveys the intended “Italian generosity” statement.”   

The ‘bring a full basket’ approach fulfills the ‘unlimited breadsticks’ policy – as does the ‘guest +1 with refills’ practice. The ‘side effects’ from each approach however, are quite different. The full basket approach reinforces the concept that ‘more is better’ – a quantity approach. With the one per guest +1 does that and more.

  • The customer gets as many breadsticks as they want and they are delivered hot.
  • There are more touch points with the server which allows for better customer service.
  • It allows the server to build more rapport with their guests which will likely increase their tips.
  • Bringing breadsticks on an ‘as needed’ basis will mitigate waste and reduce cost to the restaurant.

The “+1” delivers quality – it adds value. So a better concept to adopt in business – and in life –  is this :

More value is better.

If you’re not providing great value then you are not getting the most from your brand. If you’re not getting the most from your brand – you need to take steps to do so immediately. Your brand is your value as perceived by your customers. The first law of The Go-Giver – The Law of Value – states “Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.”  Want to earn greater profits? Deliver greater value! How? Build a fearless brand. Here are three steps to do just that.

  • Reignite your passion – Value begins with your why. Are you still giving it your all? Are you still motivated?
  • Review your skills/competencies –   Value  is dependent on providing quality. Are you offering the best product/service possible? Do you need to update processes, get more education, better train employees etc.
  • Fine tune your relevance – Even with endless the passion and high quality, there is no value unless what you’re offering is relevant to those you would serve. Are you fulfilling your customers needs and wants?

By itself, more is not better – however, more quality is always better.


* Starboard’s initiative to take control of Darden’s board was successful. Last Friday, October 11, the entire incumbent board was replaced by Starboard’s nominees.


Coach, International Speaker and Thought Partner - Bill’s mission is to add value to the world – one brand at a time. Bill guides individuals and companies alike in building what he refers to as a ‘fearless brand’. This is the process of discovering, embracing and delivering their greatest value – which allows them to realize greater profit. Read More

2 comments on “Branding With Breadsticks – It’s All About Value
  1. Doug Wagner says:

    Excellent points as always. I certainly don’t want to feel guilty leaving excessive bread sticks on the table that are going to get wasted. Is encouraging you to over eat really better? Or is just enough to make everyone happy, better. Better is better.

    • Bill says:

      Better is better – I like it. Thanks for your comments Doug, wishing you fresh and warm breadsticks with your supper tonight! 🙂

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