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How will Olive Garden market new Italiano burger?

Published December 5, 2013 at 1:12 pm

There’s nothing wrong with mixing and matching when it comes to food. Tex-mex and sushi pizza are examples of successful culinary crossovers. And that doesn’t even include the Cronut, which just sort of sprang from Americans’ natural tendency to gravitate toward sweet pastries.

But there are, once again, branding concerns to think about when you offer up a new item on a restaurant menu. If you specialize in one type of cuisine, what happens when you expand those offerings into other areas? Does it change your overall message or alter how customers perceive your restaurant?

There appears to be some movement on this front when it comes to Olive Garden. The commercials, advertising and decor of this restaurant have for years sought to conjur​e up images of old world Tuscan charm to those who might seek a table there. Now, there will be a new addition to the stable of pasta dishes featured: a burger and fries.

CNBC reported on the development of the “Italiano,” a burger offering that it speculates is intended to put Olive Garden on the same plane as sit-down grill restaurants like Chili’s or Applebee’s.

And while it may make sense from a corporate perspective or on paper, this new offering needs to be rolled out properly, or else it risks being perceived less seriously by customers and could quickly be phased off of the menu.

That’s not to say an Italian burger can’t be done, or won’t be. And these lessons apply to any business, not just restaurants, that expands their product or services offerings. The marketing implications are worth thinking about when you start looking at the “menu” of options your company maintains, whatever that may be.

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