Cleaning carpets isn’t that hard when you consider the fact that 99% of all stains can be removed by one cleaning agent or another if they’re taken care of in a few days. However, keeping carpets clean costs enough time and money for Olive Garden to scale back on its cleanliness.
According to BloombergBusiness, Olive Garden’s parent company, Darden Restaurants, has dispatched operations teams to the restaurants to pull “every single invoice” in an effort to find ways to trim about $100 million a year in expenses. Through this investigation, the teams have found that many locations are washing their carpets twice a month, which CEO Gene Lee thinks is far too often.
The crazy part is, he’s not entirely wrong. There are over 800 Olive Gardens. Paying a service to come in and wash each restaurant’s carpet twice a month — and then to replace them when they get worn out — definitely adds up.
“There’s a protocol that you clean carpets once a month,” said Lee. “If you do it more than that, you end up actually destroying the carpet — and really not a whole lot of benefit there.”
Lee and his teams are using the zero-based budgeting approach to pair down expenses. The buyout firm 3G Capital has reportedly used a comparable strategy with Burger King and HJ Heinz Co., going so far as to restrict their use of office supplies, as well as the number of pages that employees are allowed to print.
Lee took over as CEO last October, following activist investor Starboard Value’s replacement of Darden’s entire board in a proxy fight. The new management team has been working hard to trim expenses, and Darden has even announced plans to turn its properties into a real estate investment trust, which could help it cut its debt load by a $1 billion.
“We’re finding things that have creeped in over the years that we’re able to take out,” said Lee.