This is a crime:
Hedge fund Starboard Value delivered the mother of all food reviews this week with a 294-page slide presentation tearing apart Darden Restaurants, the struggling parent company of Olive Garden. It charges the Italian chain with all manner of incompetence—from serving too little alcohol to serving too many breadsticks—but the most powerful accusations are reserved for its pasta.
Here’s why: Olive Garden has stopped salting its pasta water.
The reason is PRICELESS:
“According to Darden management, Darden decided to stop salting the water to get an extended warranty on their pots,” Starboard, which is in a proxy fight for control over Darden’s board, explains.
Even if they salted their pasta, the food would still be inedible as far as I am concerned, but this is just the most perfect example of what the MBA mindset is like. This time, it’s about the food, so people are noticing, but usually this is the mindset that screws workers and customers in the pursuit of immediate profit.
Interesting that even
Thinks this goes too far.
I still remember the day an MBA walked into the offices of the publisher where I worked. It was the beginning of the end.
Question: since MBA’s destroy whatever they touch, why do companies still hire them and give them the keys? From what I’ve seen, if I were hiring, an applicant’s M B A would out him straight into the round file.
The Jungle was meant to be about the workers, but people only noticed the food. C’est la guerre.
I ate at an Olive Garden once around 20 years ago and it was just about the worst approximation of Italian food I’ve ever had. It’s hard to imagine that it could have gotten worse.
Here’s why: Olive Garden has stopped salting its pasta water.
@Mnemosyne: The description of the boneless hams in The Jungle is something that will be with me always even though I only read it once when I was 13 or 14 years old.
Davis X. Machina
Everyone else is hiring them — you hire them too. See ‘school reform’ for the latest outbreak.
If you’re management, and not an actual owner-owner, going broke the same way as everyone else is vastly superior, as a career move, than succeeding in an unforeseen or unusual way.
The ‘owner’ is probably a bunch of funds anyways.
They make movies like Moneyball or about Steve Jobs. for the same reason they made All The President’s Men — because it’s unusual.
Hmm, and what’s the problem with too many breadsticks? If people fill up on them, they’d end up not ordering as much of the more expensive entrees. Where’s the payoff on that?
The Olive Garden near my house is one of the favorite restaurants of a good friend who’s retired and on a budget, which means every few months I find myself there. The trick is not to order anything remotely Italian. They do pretty decent grilled chicken and salmon and do not overcook the broccoli. I get a healthy meal. She thinks she’s eating Italian. It’s all good.
BTW, what kind of pot manufacturer offers an extended warranty for not using salt? I suspect most pot users aren’t as honest as Olive Garden about following that rule.
Why the devil would anyone waste their money at Olive Garden? Get the same quality by going to a store and buying Chef Boyardee spaghetti-in-a-can and dumping Kraft American Imitation Parmesan Cheese Powder on it.
Wasn’t Darden also one of the first a**holes to threaten to eliminate all their full time positions so they wouldn’t have to provide insurance? So F$&k ’em.
Not Adding Much to the Community
I ate (for free) at Olive Garden a couple of months ago and I gotta say, their reputation is far worse than their food. All of what we ordered was good and some of it was above average. Better than your standard Applebees’ I would guess (I would have to guess, I don’t eat there either).
ETA: Agreed with Emma. We didn’t have much of anything that involved pasta and/or marinara sauce and it was decent.
Howard Beale IV
I seem to recall that salting the water to make pasta doesn’t do squat anyway.
So, when you eat at Olive Garden, the food is cooked in pots and pans of such low quality that they disintegrate in salt water. Eater Beware.
Darden was, and is, trying to cut costs, but making the food less appetizing is not the way to increase restaurant traffic. Neither is cutting staff so they have to toss lots of food at you so they can get to the next table and do the same thing, instead of having to come back and actually do something resembling table service. How much money can you save by driving your customers away?
@Hal: The first time I watched Anne Burrell, I was horrified. I am pretty sure she put a weeks worth of salt in one dish.
The cost cutters are the true sorting-demons of the universe, emphasis on demon.
There is a short period between when you cut costs and when your customers realize that your product now sucks. That’s the only money they’re looking at.
I just love that you can get an extended warranty on pots by agreeing not to use salt in the pots. It seems so insane and pointless.
Olive Garden failed in Canada years ago. But we have our own crappy restaurants, so i won’t brag.
I ate at an Olive Garden about 5 years ago, with a friend. We were both strapped for cash, and were delighted with the bottomless salad and soup. We filled up on it for not much money. We didn’t even order an entree, IIRC.
Not sure if they still have the bottomless salad and soup, since I haven’t been there in years.
@Howard Beale IV: You can do this as a taste test at home.
Dog On Porch
@Howard Beale IV: Try garlic salt sometime.
@Kevin: One of the pots I use belonged to my great-grandmother. Neither salt nor nuclear holocaust could ever damage that thing.
Not all companies are MBA-driven, for example, quoting Tim Cook, Apple CEO:
5-10 years ago, Olive Garden used to be decent. Their sauce was tangy and tomato-y and not as sweet as the red sauce at the typical Italian restaurant around Buffalo. But, it started going downhill and is pretty bad now. I haven’t eaten at one in over a year though it is the closest Italian restaurant to me.
Not Adding Much to the Community
@CaseyL: They still offer that; it’s been their signature since they started, AFAIK. Ah, the joys of being young and impoverished. Back in the bad old days, a local gaming establishment had an all you can eat fried chicken buffet (and sides) for $1.99. Me and my destitute pal would scout for loose coins (back when they still used such things) until we scrounged enough to eat. That or the 99 cent breakfast…
Not Adding Much to the Community
Oh forgive me, ye FYWP Gods, as my moderated post used a word synonymous with ‘gaming establishment.’ Please for to fix, yes?
While elsewhere in the industry they’re going to bat in favor of using unlimited amounts of salt to preserve sales and doing their best to confuse any studies about the impact of salt on health (which is likely complicated). ah, the little dears.
Howard Beale IV
@Dog On Porch: That’s not exactly cricket as you’re adding an additional food item beyond the salt. @beltane: I found this little tidbit on a quick strafing run.
Isn’t Olive Garden the restaurant that just offered all-you-can-eat pasta for seven weeks? Which sounds disgusting but whatever, and then like 3 days later I read this thing about them not salting their pasta water.
I just have to call BS on the whole charade and think this is all part of some kind of big Wall Street takeover BS drama.
Who gives a flying fuck. If I want pasta I’ll cook it my own damn self.
Depends on your point of view. Hedge Fund takes over Darden Restaurants. Hedge fund manages to close / sell-off loss making parts of the business, and hold the profitable parts long enough to be able to sell out at a later date, the hedge fund has not destroyed what it touched. It has done very well for itself.
If you were someone, who was working with Darden for a long time and was banking on something like job security, you may well be destroyed.
As Obi-wan Kenobi advised Luke Skywalker, in the swamps of Degobah, truth greatly depends on your point of view.
Also, I remember when an Olive Garden opened up in Cary, NC, back in the early, early 1990’s and the place was packed, because for places like North Carolina, Olive Garden represented a fancy-ish Italian dining experience that was absent from places that did not have massive Italian communities, like Boston, New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
Darden’s problem is they really got hit hard by the Great Recession and have not really been able to recover. Their price point / value to the customer was just high enough that the spike in food prices and the drop in sales, because of cost conscious customers hit them from both ends of the business and they were not able to adapt.
They also faced competition from places like Chipotle and Panera Bread Co,, which offer an above McKey D’s level of food quality and service, at prices that were a bit more attractive than what Darden could offer, with their actual kitchens and wait staff and all.
I do wonder what magic powers McDonald’s has to thrive like it does, and other fast-food places like Burger King and Taco Bell, because the food is not tasty and when you start adding sides and a drink it can run you $7-$10 for a meal, which is no longer cheap.
I think maybe those places put heroin or crack in their burgers and fries, because there’s no reason for people to keep those places thriving otherwise.
P.S. Just want to add, as someone who has to watch his salt intake, I stopped salting pasta water a long time ago and you can still get pasta to come out well. I think the hedge fund should actually try cooking, instead of trusting everything it reads on the internet.
These days, I try to avoid corporate chain restaurants in general. That way, the CEOs/boards can’t use my money to pay for lobbyists; not to mention, make contributions to candidates/causes/PACs that I don’t support or approve of.
Darden is Exhibit A – see: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-09-26/news/os-darden-pac-elections-20120926_1_darden-restaurants-pac-donations-political-donations and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/darden-medicaid-california_n_3466638.html for example.
Sure, the local, small restaurateurs I patronize might donate to candidates, etc. that I don’t like, either – but they’re not in a position to do nearly as much damage. And they provide better quality food, too.
@JaneE: They probably figure people will line up to eat there no matter what.
We eat at, or do takeout from, Olive Garden on occasion because my daughter unaccountably loves the place, even though all she ever orders is cheese ravioli without sauce. I think she mostly wants the breadsticks.
It’s not inedible; there are dishes there that are OK; but it’s thoroughly mediocre, and this is an area that has a lot of actually good Italian food. But Olive Garden is always packed on the weekends anyway. I think a lot of it is that families with kids go there because the kids regard it as predictable, non-threatening food.
Has anyone checked how much salt the NFL is or isn’t using in their cafeterias and kitchens? Maybe that’s what’s needed to get a little movement ousting current upper management. Pot — metallic even — abuse (or regulations on same) seems to be more a hot-button trendy item among those sporting hedge funds.
@Hal: And Alton Brown.
Let’s cut to the chase and say “anyone at Food Network”.
I go to Olive Garden once in a blue moon, because somebody I know wants to go. The only positive I find about the place, the only positive, are the bread sticks and the endless salad I get before the shitty pasta arrives.
Now I hardly ever eat out so I guess I am not their target audience, but I’d say 50% of the time I do (2-3 times a month max) I choose Fazoli’s. Cheap and fast pasta that IMHO ain’t half bad. Pretty large portions. Olive Garden should maybe take note I think Fazoli’s is superior to what they serve.
But that is just me ….
@Matt McIrvin: Worth noting, I guess, that even ‘good’ restaurants are not generally looking out for your health. If you want to avoid salt, butter, and sugar– don’t eat restaurant food.
Fickle customers are the true demons.
If customers kept buying the same things, from the same places no established business would ever have to cut costs.
GM would not have needed a bail-out to stay solvent and would never have needed to renegotiate labor contracts or shift operations to Canada or Mexico, to save money.
K-Mart and Sears would be dominating retail and Woolworths and Montgomery Wards would still exist.
Don’t knock a business trying to survive. No one wins, if they close down permanently.
James E Powell
MBAs may destroy companies, but they do a very good job of increasing management’s personal fortunes. That is what US business is all about and has been all about for the last thirty years or so. A company or brand is just a way for somebody to get rich. It often means destroying it, but the people who walk away with the cash do not care.
Howard Beale IV
@MattF: Oh, yeah-Justin Danhof. Don’t ever forget that name. He’s a Mark 1 sockpuppet for the Koch’s and their ilk. His job is to fly around the country to shareholder meetings and present the view of the uber-greedy and fuck corporate social responsibility.
James E Powell
@Howard Beale IV:
I seem to recall that salting the water to make pasta doesn’t do squat anyway.
Doesn’t it raise the boiling temperature of the water? I thought that was why we do it.
Howard Beale IV
@James E Powell:
In reality, you would need to add 230 grams of table salt to a liter of water just to raise the boiling point by 2° C. That is 58 grams per half degree Celsius for each liter or kilogram of water. That is much more salt than anyone would care to have in their food.
Last time I went to Olive Garden, I can assure you that they salt their soups. It was awful. Fortunately, I live in a town with several restaurants that are not chains.
So Cole — who sucks worse, MBAs or the Supreme Court? Discuss.
@JPL: Oversalting food is bad enough, but I’d be more concerned with putting sugar in the tomato sauce…
The OG will be the finest dining many of us can afford in the future.
I am working on my re-labelled cat food brand. Still figuring out how much the FDA payoffs will require. Got a Senator handy?
Haven’t eaten at an Olive Garden in years because we have a very nice local chain of authentic Italian restaurants here in Connecticut called Illiano’s which is no more expensive and far more tasty.
Chains are what they are — guaranteed levels of reasonable food at a decent price. When in a new place where I don’t know what is good or not I fall back on them.
But one if the joys of getting established in a place is finding out the good local restaurants.
@MattF: Tim Cook has an MBA. Steve Jobs famously didn’t have one, neither does Steve Ballmer. Carly Fiorina, MBA. Steve Wozniak, what do you think?
Who does not salt their soups to death?
I cannot think of any restaurant, chain or mom-and-pop, that does not view a soup as needing a week’s worth of salt per serving.
@Robert Sneddon: I guess it isn’t the MBA per se that matters, but whether maximizing short-term ROI is the optimal way to run a company.
Olive Garden isn’t very good, but I’ve had some horrible food in Rome. Way worse than Olive Garden.
It’s entirely possible to be authentically Italian and still suck.
@MattF: Neither Apple nor Microsoft have ever worried overmuch about the next three months figures the way the MBA-focussed types are supposed to do. Ballmer was near the top or in control of Microsoft for about 30 years, an eternity or three for the average CEO/CFO type, while it had 500 billion in revenues. It only made a loss in one quarter during that time, courtesy of a writedown over a company acquisition (eQuantive) which crashed and burned.
Both Cook and Nadella, Ballmer’s replacement at MS have MBAs but they’re products of their companies in their own way and hopefully have had all that stupid shit beaten out of them.
@gene108: Exactly! All you whiney “customers”, the free market it’s not at all about what you want or need! Determine the needs and expectations of the various business models and fucking match them in every way, at all times! It’s the American Capitalist Way and what made us / makes us the Greatest! They’re all just jealous and hate us for our Freedom!
@Not Adding Much to the Community: I kind of agree. Olive Garden is nowhere I ever choose to eat, but it’s not vile. Bear in mind that I once got food poisoning from a Chili’s that was so bad that I puked and shit myself in the street, so THAT is what I consider a truly vile eating experience.
The people that want to maximize short term ROI in favor of long term will hire MBAs because that’s what most of them learn to do. Like all groups of humans there will be those who execute based on evidence rather than rote learning and that have the interest of all parties concerned in whatever business they are in. Some of these people will have an MBA, it’s one more ticket to get a foot in the door. But, as far as I’m concerned an MBA’s main goal and training is to inflate short term ROI to raise stock pricing and management bonuses, with no regard for any damage that may bring. And I think the majority of “evidence” is on my side.
I used to travel a lot for work and would if necessary eat at a McD. But the last two times I ate there I got massive food poisoning. The first time I thought, I’ve never gotten food poisoning from McD before so it may be a one time thing, but the second time, about 4 months later in a different state told me that I was wrong. Haven’t set foot in one since and that was almost 25 yrs ago. I have raised my standards a bit. Fool me once, and I’m done.
I actually skimmed the 294 page document, and it was pretty interesting reading. There really wasn’t anything unreasonable in it. Maybe I’m biased because I own a business (albeit a very small one).
In this particular case, I don’t think it’s that instructive to say “this is typical of what MBA’s do” when it’s MBA’s (the fund) who are specifically proposing increasing the quality of the food and service — i.e. the core customer experience — as the central platform of restoring Olive Garden’s business. That’s good, right?
The point of a business is to offer something that people want to buy. Then the business owner makes money, and the customer gets something they want. Everybody wins.
It’s pretty simplistic to say that cost-cutting is always bad, because it’s one of only two vectors for creating profit. If the other one, increasing revenue, isn’t working out for you, because there’s insufficient demand, then you gotta figure out what to cut. It’s not just MBA’s who make penny-wise and pound-foolish decisions for the sake of trying to meet their figures — small business owners do it all the time, because being in business is difficult.
It’s when someone’s raking it in hand over fist and still screws their customers and employees that I think there’s a morality problem.
@MattF: Then you’ve never had a grandmother from Benevento. She often added sugar to get the “correct” taste balance. We were related to a large immigrant population in our small upstate NY city, and they did the same. I pretty much grew up not knowing that Italian was a category of ethnic food. That was home cooking and casual dining. The one bad steak house in town was the oddity.
Now, after our portion of the family moved, this does not mean that grandma ever adjusted to this Cincinnati Larosa’s stuff that calls itself pizza or sauce – crazy sweet sauce! Still can’t find pizza out here.
@Mike J: Yup. The worst pizza I’ve ever had was in Italy (absolutely burnt black).
@Ruckus: When I was in college, I figured out that I could get an order of spaghetti and marinara as take-out (there was an OG next to the store I worked at), and they would include so much salad and so many breadsticks that I got two full meals. It was not bad food by those standards. I haven’t been in one in years, but I don’t really get why they are considered the worst. I think many of the other chain restaurants are worse.
Villago Delenda Est
The solution to this is obvious.
Heads of hedge fund managers on pikes until they stop pursuing short term profit for their worthless parasite selves at the expense of long term prosperity for the people who actually produce the value that they hoover up.
Businesses do not exist in a vacuum.
Big Evil Corp slashes costs / lays people off because it is not competitive and customers are purchasing from its competitors. BEC cannot survive at its current employment levels, without reducing costs because customers are not boosting sales / profits by buying more and more of BEC’s product.
It’d be nice, if we lived in a world where everyone could win at every competition and there would never have to be any losers, but we have not achieved that level of enlightenment.
Businesses do, do things for reasons beyond exacting sadistic pleasure from their employees’ sufferings at the hands of management, contrary to the beliefs of folks here.
Darden got hit really, really hard by the Great Recession, which saw not only a drop in consumer spending but an increase in the cost of food, from 2010 till this year (food prices seem to be down a bit, per the link, this year) which restaurants could not pass onto consumers without risking a loss in business.
Maybe they are doing some stupid shit trying to keep from going under, by mucking up their Olive Garden menu, but their decisions probably have some basis other than how much they can hurt their employees.
i had a similar experience in a red lobster, which i believe is also a darden’s chain.
i, however, made it home before the ejection of tainted foods from both ends began.
a highly amusing evening ensued.
I think the hate for Olive Garden stems from their overall cookie-cutter formula and relatively bland Italian compared to the more fanciful, home-cooked elements one would get at a personally-owned hole-in-the-wall neighborhood Italian eatery five blocks away from the nearest NYC subway stop.
I’ve done a few Olive Gardens in the Florida suburbs, and they’re not half-bad. But I’ve also done a couple of small neighborhood Italian places and I can recognize the differences.
And they’re right about the over-reliance on the breadsticks.
@Howard Beale IV:
It adds a little flavor to the pasta. And that’s about it.
You need a little sugar in pasta sauce to cut the acidity, but we’re talking a teaspoon or two. Maybe a tablespoon if you’re making a huge pot. My family’s fabled recipe uses grated carrots instead, but I’m having a hard time getting my aunt to cough up a copy.
Eh? Microsoft was rather infamous for apparently massaging how they put their Windows, Office, and similar license income on their books so that they looked like they had steadily increasing earnings every quarter. Only MBAs and accountants would worry about that.
@tybee: I literally vomited on myself, in the street, while running toward a trash can. A woman came over to me and asked if I was okay. I replied, “Um. No.”.
Chili’s is so fucking gross. Ugh.
and sometimes businesses are just assholes and deserve to die.
Dog On Porch
God bless Italian cuisine, and God forgive those who desecrate it in pursuit of mammon (for I shall not).
I think your grammatical formulation here is suggesting unintentional support for the idea that corporations are people.
hmmm. perhaps you are correct. how about:
I think John’s comment about MBAs actually was referring to the MBAs that ordered them to stop salting the pasta water to save the warranty on the pots, not the ones trying to fix it.
Darden maybe bad, but the Vulture fund will be worse.
They will sell off the land and buildings that the Olive gardens are on and rent/lease it back. Profit now and then loses later. I mean, they called the savings from owning the building and land, “rent subsidies” talk about transparent motives on on the vulture funds part.
They will sever ties with the current suppliers and move to cheaper ones.
They will reduce full time employees to part time and start the wage theft and unpredictable hours.
I stopped after 25 slides.
I think the really damaging thing is not the MBA, per se, but the belief that an MBA is all you need. There is a school of thought that seems very popular among business school grads that fundamentally business is business, so a smart businessperson can jump from industry to industry, or a newly-minted MBA is superior to an experienced non-MBA businessperson. It’s the school of thought that led Apple to believe that it made sense to turn the company over to John Sculley, whose previous experience was running Pepsi, and makes billionaire sports team owners decide to meddle with their front office.
I have long referred to the Olive Garden/TGI Friday’s/Ruby Tuesday/Benigan’s etc. restaurants as “corporate food,” and the last time I ate in any one of them was in 2006 (I remember, because I was a guest of others).
I don’t mean that the food is bad–it isn’t really. But it has always struck me as focus-grouped to hell, the product of marketing and market testing, not of real interest in good food. That’s part of my reason for calling it “corporate.”
The other reason is that those restaurants seem to attract a lot of the corporate types. A bunch of them are MBAs who haven’t hit it off yet. Always seems to me a lot of lower echelon management types, who have a teeny-tiny expense account and think this makes them look bigger than they are.
I had a Linda Blair moment (color, force and range) in a restroom at the event I was working. Actually I had 2 LB moments. In between I got to clean up the restroom, the walls, the sink, the floor…. I think I hit every thing but the ceiling. And that was close. Spent the next 3 days in a hotel with a 104-105 fever.
Mike in NC
I would prefer to go hungry than eat at places like Olive Garden and Cracker Barrel. Ugh.
That sounds like a horrible experience, but I laughed. There’s some inexplicable part of my brain that always finds vomit stories unspeakably hilarious.
Dog On Porch
@Ivan X: Which perhaps serves to partially explain why the Romans introduced the ‘vomitorium’ to Western civilization.
@Howard Beale IV:
Do the experiment yourself. Bring 2 pots to a biol, salt one, and cook two batches of pasta.
Eat both with butter and parmasian cheese.
Tell is which one tastes better
Why would you salt your pot? It burns the lungs when you do that,
@gene108: Fickle customers are not a “problem” exactly, which implies they should or could be “fixed’, Variable and inconsistent customer preferences are a reality to be worked with, and around. The fact that living people don’t match up to the idealized staple preferences consumers they’ve used in all their models is not the consumers fault.
@MattF: Apple isn’t MBA-driven, that’s true. In fact, it’s true to the degree that they instead run their own internal university that is very good according to a few people I know that have taken classes. It basically exists so they don’t have to hire MBAs (Steve hated MBAs): http://fortune.com/2013/02/13/apple-university-hires-another-high-profile-academic/
But Apple isn’t above such kinds of decisions. When the iPhone 6 came out this week Apple dropped the 5C down to a $0 on contract phone. At the same time they dropped the 32GB and 64GB options on that phone and cut the base storage from 16GB to 8GB. Now, 8GB costs no more than $3 to Apple, and they’ll turn about $120 in profit on each 5C sold even at $0 on contract. They can sure as shit afford to keep that phone at 16GB. The real reason they did it is to upsell consumers to the 16GB iPhone 5S at $99 on contract which will net them an additional $40 or so in profit. I understand why they did it, but it’s the kind of decision that MBAs are trained to make.
That’s why I tell it. Otherwise it’s just trying to gross people out. That and may be changing someone’s mind about eating at McD. Some things in this world are just evil.
Schlemazel [was Schlemizel till NotMax taught me proper yiddish!]
We eat at OG on rare occasions. The quality has gone down hill in the last few years & the butter & fat content off the charts. The key to enjoying OG is to not accept that it is Italian food. It’s more “Italian inspired” and in no way authentic. The last time we were there, about 7-8 months ago it was noticeably worse. It happens to every chain restaurant, the rules are that you must increase profit quarter over quarter into infinity. There are only a couple ways you can do that & price increases are not generally on the table.
@Mike in NC:
Used to eat lunch at Cracker Barrel once in a while. The food wasn’t bad and there was plenty of it. The ambiance on the other hand… Getting through the front room full of nick nack crap was like running an obstacle course in the military. Never since have I seen so much crap in one place that no one needed.
@Schlemazel [was Schlemizel till NotMax taught me proper yiddish!]:
This sums up the MBA ethos as best as I’ve ever seen.
I see you’ve never visited Congress.
Actually, that would be an improvement on MBA ethos.
More accurate would be “The rules are that you must increase profit quarter over quarter while producing as little actual value as possible into infinity.”
There’s nothing wrong with increasing profit every quarter forever so long as you produce something of value while doing it. If Elon Musk keeps doing what he’s doing and makes ever more money until the day he dies, we’ll all walk into a much better future. If the MBAs take over, they’ll gut the place, churn out shit products, lay off all the workers, and at best make exactly the same profits of the same time period. More likely they’ll raid the coffers and leave it for dead.
My understanding was that MBAs didn’t give a shit about quality or increasing value one way or another. Profits and only profits is what is important. Anything else is totally immaterial. It’s just that increasing quality or value usually costs something or takes some effort and actual thought about what you have, where you are going and how you are getting there. That doesn’t increase profits nearly as fast as screwing over everyone and stealing them blind although it may(and probably will) in fact increase profits better and for longer.
@Howard Beale IV: Yeah I used to salt the water when I made pasta. Then I forgot once or twice and now I don’t bother. Can’t really tell the difference.
I used to work at a Chili’s in college; your experience doesn’t surprise me. While I was there, management decided to save money on laundry costs by limiting the cooks to one towel per shift. This is what cooks use to clean their prep area, knife blade, etc… You would normally go through 8-10 per shift (more on a busy day or a messy station), swapping out when one got dirty. With only one, by the end of the shift it would be unspeakably vile – not something that should be coming within 10 feet of food being served to customers. I quit shortly after – I’ve never worked anywhere that was so focused on the bottom line above all else. Management’s job was clearly not to ensure that their customers had a good dining experience, but to squeeze every last cent of profit from the food before it was consumed. Worst…job…ever.
@MattF: You got that right. I wish I had the time and energy to cook every day at home, where at least I know the ingredients I’m using, but I don’t always, and the sheer convenience of going out is tempting.
A perfect example of (foiled) MBA strip mining is Market Basket.
@Dog On Porch: that’s actually a myth you know. a funny one tho.
@Pogonip: Managers with MBAs hire other dimwits with MBAs and make them managers. Rinse, repeat.
@Ruckus: I had my one and only hangover when I miscalibrated my intake of red wine and liqueurs at a friend’s place. Staggered to bed, woke up feeling horrible, and took two Tylenol, which my body reacted to with great physical disdain.
It had been so long since I had last vomited that I forgot that you’re supposed to kneel before Zod. Pro tip: bending over at the waist to vomit will NOT improve your aim. After a thankfully brief series of heaves, the bathroom looked as if I had murdered a watermelon. (Yes, I cleaned it all up.)
We gunna talk about self inflicted expulsions of previous intake?
That’s a whole different set of stories. Most of which I’ve tried mightily to forget, rationalize or just plain lie about. They did however slow way down upon release from the navy.
@Ruckus: Heh. That’s my only self-inflicted puking story. Never forget. Never again.
and this time i really mean it. :)
Any place where they fuss over the photos in the big menus or on the wall much much more than they do the actual food they wind up selling you is a big red flag to me.
Fortunately, I live in an area with few chains, so while I can’t pick up meals for a few bucks, they are meals worth paying for.
Howard Beale IV
@Roger Moore: Then, of course, you get sports management who decide they need senior management who does understand the game. May I introduce to you Matt Millen….
A blue-collar co-worker had a useless MBA degree. He only had an hour or two of college homework each night, and was astounded when our engineers told of 6 to 8 hours of nightly homework to get a hard science degree. No wonder the degree only polishes turds. They’re only buzzwords and bravado. Whatever theory is making the rounds on Wall Street this year is going to be the hammer they carry.
My latest experience with MBA dumbassery isn’t food-related, but it’s worrying. Yesterday was a regional manger visit, which meant pretending to care about metrics and displays. And they also decided to shut down the shop on Sundays, which is genius because this place was one of the few in the neighborhood actually taking cars in on Sundays. You’d think that might be a good idea to keep, but what do I know? After all, I don’t consider signing people up for membership cards all that important.
When a company starts obsessing on every detail but its actual operations, that’s a bad, bad sign.
John M. Burt
@Ruckus: VOMIT STORY WARNING.
My only self-induced regurgitation story stems from my own time in the Navy, during which I only tried once to drink like a sailor, but that one time, by the time I realized I was toxically drunk, I was tickling the back of my throat with two fingers and not getting any gag reaction. At that point I became truly terrified and scrambled like mad to achieve an upchuck, which I fortunately did.
The hangover lasted three days (all of which I had to work). If I had not vomited, I am confident I would not have survived.
END VOMIT STORY.
CHAIN JOB WARNING.
I was just fired from a job which I had expected to be more work for more pay, but not 100% more work. It felt as though the job were impossible, even before my supervisor casually mentioned that the previous six people in the job had “washed out” (fired or quit or just didn’t show up).
This job was, of course, crafted into its current form on orders from Corporate.
END CHAIN JOB WARNING
Speaking as one who’s a light drinker (Elizabelle, efgoldman and Mustang Bobby can all vouch), who’s been in a low-sodium household since he was five, and who’s had more Olive Garden slop than he cares to admit, this is what got me:
Translation: the clientele isn’t getting drunk enough (and therefore not either consuming more of the expensive alcohol) and they’re getting filled up on the breadsticks instead of the (again, more costly) entrees, and now they’re being exposed to [horror!] less salt so they won’t be so thirsty later (and thus won’t consume more of the costly alcohol the restaurant isn’t selling enough of to begin with). The “extended warranty on their pots” bit is just icing on the cake: trying to save money by doing something essentially healthy for their diners which also gets them better value on their cookware, and look what they get for it.
Someone not an MBA (Mr. Mayhew, perhaps?) really needs to explain why any of this is bad – let alone as bad as the MBAs at Starboard seem to think.
JR in WV
We have an old family Italian place with good food, and an old family Italian place with very ordinary (not bad, just unexceptional) food. There’s a modern place with great Italian stuff, and there’s an Olive Garden… my young cousin worked there as a front door guy, wouldn’t eat stuff for free.
For a small town of ~60K we have good local food. 3 Indian places, a good high end continental place we go to every 4 or 5 years. A great Pizza place!
Olive Garden, 1 once never again unless the other place is McD’s which I hate.
@Howard Beale IV: There’s a reason most eateries have resisted placing dietary information in their menus. I think you just found part of it.
Person of Choler
Odd, Apple got to be the world’s richest company by not caring whether or not the selling price of its goods covered the cost of capital and other inputs necessary to produce them.
The Other Chuck
@Dog On Porch: Vomitorium is an exit lane for a stadium. The crowd “vomits forth” from the exit. That’s all.
@Ruckus: The quote that always resonates with me is “Growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of a cancer cell.”