A propos of yesterday's post on kosher wine, a reader pointed me to this article on the Olive Garden's attempt to increase its wine profits:
The present purpose of the Olive Garden is to sell you their wine. That's it. The food and the commercials exist to get you there to sell you wine. The chairs are there so you have a place to sit while you buy their wine. The tables are there so the wine has a place to be. The air-conditioner is there so the wine doesn't go bad. (They don't want the wine to go bad, because they would sell less. If it still sold, they wouldn't care if it went bad. The point is to get you to buy it.)
I don't know why a fairly inviting restaurant chain chose to transform itself to a hard-sell restricted-selection liquor store. Perhaps the "kindly grandpa" in the commercials owns a winery and is Connected. Or, more likely, this conversation took place:
CEO of DARDEN RESTAURANTS: Things are going well. Our "Red Lobster" restaurants are doing well. Our "Bahama Breeze" restaurants allow people to experience the delights of visiting the Caribbean without having to worry about interacting with Caribbean people. And our "Olive Gardens" are successfully matching a dinner-house concept against the independently-owned restaurants that used to be the mainstay of Italian dining. But if only we could make more money...
GUY WITH MBA: Well, you have a huge mark up on your wine. Right now you have a bunch of customers who will never buy wine. You can't do much about them. You have a bunch of customers who will order wine no matter what, because they like it. We are fine on that front. But there are a few people who are so incredibly suggestible and stupid, that they wouldn't normally buy wine, but they will if you badger them about it. So I say that you change your restaurants from a "pleasant dining experience" to an "annoying as bugfuck we will get you to buy our god damn wine sellfest." You may make some more money that way.
CEO of DARDEN RESTAURANTS: Okay.
I have an acquaintance who is a serious alcoholic. As soon as you walk in the door, he is waving a bottle at you, trying to get you to have a drink with him so he has an excuse to have several. Even at his worst he is not as obnoxious as the Olive Garden is. As I said, I am not a good enough writer to properly convey the cheesy hard-sell atmosphere of the new Olive Garden.
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