- Facebook/Olive Garden
Olive Garden’s sales are booming, but the chain is still breaking a basic rule of cooking.
The Italian-food chain still does not add salt to its pasta water, The Wall Street Journal reports.
According to executives, adding salt to the boiling water could jeopardize warranties on pots. The company reportedly decided that updated sauces added enough flavor to the pasta on their own, without added salt.
Salting (or not salting) water became a widely known issue at Olive Garden in September 2014,when the activist investor Starboard called out the chain for ignoring the ingredient.
“Shockingly, Olive Garden no longer salts the water it uses to boil the pasta, merely to get a longer warranty on its pots,” Starboard wrote in a300-slide presentation. “This appalling decision shows just how little regard management has for delivering a quality experience to guests.”
One slide in the Starboard presentation said “the first step of Pasta 101 is to salt the water.”
According to Smithsonian Magazine, adding salt to the water gives the pasta a better flavor.
“Do as Mario Batali does and salt the water until it ‘tastes like the sea,'”the magazine says.
Starboard has since pulled off a shareholder coup and made major changes at the chain, including simplifying the menu, adding tabletop tablets, and investing in takeout.
“The overall experience inside an Olive Garden is significantly better than it was 12 to 24 months ago,” Olive Garden CEO Gene Lee said Tuesday during the company’s earnings call.
The company reported its best quarterly sales in years, with a 6.8% increase in same-store sales, or sales at restaurants open at least a year, in the quarter that ended February 28, marking the company’s sixth consecutive quarter of same-store-sales gains.