Olive Garden is proof — that dine-in ISN’T dying.

olive garden research, restaurant research

You sit down.

Shelly, your best friend, settles into the chair across from you. She’s chatting up a storm, like it’s been two years since you saw her last. It has — dumb virus. 

You can’t help but smile. 

Under a warm glow, you peer over a menu of mouth-watering pasta pairings. There. You spy a cheese ravioli. That’s it. Right on time, the waiter walks over, lifts a black pen, and asks …

“Are you ready?”

Yes, you are.

Here’s the who, what, where, when — and why … on Olive Garden diners. 

Who: loyalists.

Let’s start with loyalists, the people who love your brand.

We talked to them as they walked out of the restaurant. After all, we need a fresh opinion. One that’s piping hot with possibilities, for you to use in marketing. So, let’s be sure we give you the best. Here’s the data, with a side of advice on how to use it.

Olive Garden has an avid follower base, 66% go there often, compared to other restaurants. The chain is a $4 billion business, so it certainly seems like they’re doing something right.1

How often do you visit Olive Garden compared to other restaurants?

They are.

6 in 10 Olive Garden diners are extremely likely to dine there again. As far as top box scores go, that’s a pretty impressive one, considering we haven’t even added the second box, yet.

So, let’s add it. We’ll put in a top 2 box for their recommendations. Here you go — 88% of dine-in patrons say they’d recommend others to eat there as well. That’s how a following is created. By happy people sharing opinions. We call it word of mouth. Customers call it…


A full 71% of people leaving the restaurant are very satisfied with the food they chose. The same number also prefer to order their food for dine-in at the restaurant — with 60% of people eating in with a party of 2 to 3 people with them. 

That’s important.

Seeing people return to dine-in is a welcome relief for all restaurants. It’s been a very hard time for them. Now, let’s follow them inside for more. 

What: customer experience.

It’s a haven.

You’ve created a place where people want to be. That’s how you make your brand special. It takes more than just differentiation to make a difference in your competition. And at Olive Garden, it’s working, 85% of diners are satisfied with their experience.

It’s also worth it.

The customer experience carries more weight than any form of marketing. So, here’s how to get that right. Look at the restaurant through the eyes of your loyalists. They matter most. Olive Garden does this, by earning excellent ratings in food, service, staff, value, and food quality.

Highest, of course, is food at 62%.

That’s it. 

Focus on what they want, believe in why you’re building a better experience, and you’ll be rewarded. And, if you’re wondering what the loyalists love to order, well, that’s easy. The patrons we talked to as they left were all about pasta (84%) + breadsticks (82%). 

Mmm…carbs. 😋

197 Olive Garden dine-in patrons leaving the restuarant.

When: now + in the future.

Hungry for more?

Me too. Let’s dig into how these decisions impact things: now and in the future. We’ll start with what they’re doing now, of course. 84% of Olive Garden goers have been dining there more, or the same, for the past 3 months. Pretty impressive, huh?

But, what’s it tell us…

Well, in spite of all that’s going on, people are starting to feel more comfortable going out again. For any business built on foot traffic, that’s music to their ears. Yes, but will it last? There’s been so much talk about the Delta variant lately, you’ve got to be concerned about longevity.

Don’t be.

The future is bright – 91% expect to eat out more, or the same, for the next 3 months. Finally. Restaurateurs can breathe a small sigh of relief. Yes, we’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re getting closer. And this data has much broader implications than just Olive Garden.

Like, the fact that 73% are likely to dine in at other casual restaurants in the next 3 months. Whew, it’s nice to see that in writing. It means that the worries may finally subside.


This is why we survey.

Data isn’t enough. You need to know why people take certain actions. So, we asked. The reason 43% of people are dining in at Olive Garden more is to spend time with family and friends. So important. I feel that one. We’ve all missed being connected.

Well, not everyone, actually.

There is a group who’s not dining in more. That 39% say it’s because they’re cooking at home more often. Even so, the vast majority are looking for ways to be out of the house. And, frankly, they’re happy to do so. They like Olive Garden’s food too — 78% say it’s why they eat there.

Why do you visit Olive Garden more often than other restuarants?

So, why not go more often?

This, my friends, is how you create loyalty. See, when your buyer loves to be where you are, it’s a beautiful thing. You steal business from the competition, with happy, loyal customers. Is there anything better? Not for the 37% of customers who ate at Olive Garden last week. They were craving it and came back for seconds.


That’s exactly what you want.

Data + surveys = power.

You have the power.

With quality consumer insights, you’re in charge of the market. You can find out exactly what you need to do to beat everyone else. This is business. Your role is to be ruthlessly focused on making great decisions that will increase your bottom line. The right way — of course.

That’s with data.

Use it as your guide to decision-making, then survey to confirm your choices. This is certainly a good time to check in. The Delta variant is still making 38% of diners feel nervous. Find a way to help them. See what your buyers need. Then, make it happen, because dine-in is here to stay.


  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/284442/casual-dining-restaurant-chain-olive-garden-us-sales/#:~:text=This%20statistic%20shows%20the%20total,from%204.01%20billion%20in%202020

By Allyson Wehn

Reviewed by Urielle Corcuera

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