Extensive Data Insights Key Customer Loyalty at Darden Restaurants

All loyalty marketers have access to various amounts of consumer data, but it’s how they strategically sift through, refine, and, ultimately, personalize offers that leads to customer loyalty.

Just ask Darden Restaurants, which owns several casual dining restaurant chains including: Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, The Capital Grille, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, and Yard House.

Darden Restaurants posted some impressive second-quarter numbers and CEO Gene Lee pointed to come key reasons for the company’s consistent positive results.

“I’m more convinced than ever that our success has been driven by the strategy we implemented three years ago,” Lee said during the second-quarter earnings call. “Our intense focus on improving the food, service, and atmosphere in our restaurants, combined with relevant integrated marketing, remains a winning strategy for our brands. The long-term investments we have made and will continue to make and these areas are paying-off and we will work hard every day to better execute in these critical areas. This back-to-basics operating philosophy is coupled with Darden’s four competitive advantages; one, leveraging our significant scale to create a cost advantage, two, using extensive data insights to improve operating fundamentals and to better understand our guests and communicate with them more effectively, ensuring our brands systematically go through our rigorous strategic planning process, and four, cultivating our results oriented people culture to enable growth. Together, our operating philosophy and competitive advantages give me confidence in our ability to continue to deliver our long-term framework overtime.”

Turning to Olive Garden, its promotional strategies and core menu are working together to create everyday value, and drive increased frequency for Darden’s most loyal guests, Lee noted.

During the quarter, Darden ran its two most popular value promotions: Buy One Take One, which appeals to guests’ need for convenience, and Never Ending Pasta Bowl, which highlights the brand pillar of never-ending abundance.

“Both promotions leveraged brand equities and were supported by strong integrated marketing campaigns highlighted by Olive Garden’s most anticipated event of the year, The Pasta Pass,” Lee added. “This year, in addition to making 22,000 pasta passes available, we introduced the first of its kind Pasta Passport, which included all the benefits of the Pasta Pass plus a trip of a lifetime to Italy. Once again, all pasta passes were claimed online immediately. The volume of social media and PR buzz surrounding this event illustrates the strong emotional connection our fans have with the Olive Garden.”

LongHorn Steakhouse recorded a strong quarter as investments in the past two years significantly improved consumer perceptions and motivated guests to visit more frequently, Lee noted.

Same restaurant sales grew 3.8 percent. What’s more, this marked LongHorn’s 19th consecutive quarter of same restaurant sales growth. The emphasis LongHorn’s leadership has placed on simplification like reducing its menu items by nearly 30 percent has led to higher levels of execution.

“At the same time, they continue to enhance the quality of guest experience with strategic investments in food, service, and atmosphere,” Lee added.

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