Olive Garden is an American casual dining restaurant chain specializing in Italian-American cuisine. It is a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: DRI), which is headquartered in Orlando, Florida. As of May 2016, Olive Garden operated 837 locations in the U.S. and brand revenues account for $3.84 billion of the $6.93 billion total revenue of parent company Darden. Reported average store sales for fiscal year 2016 were $4.5 million. It is the largest full-service Italian-themed restaurant chain in the world and is followed in a distant second place by the Bloomin’ Brands owned Carrabba’s Italian Grill with only 257 locations.
Olive Garden started as a unit of General Mills, Inc. with the first store opening in 1982 in Orlando, Florida. Unlike many restaurant chains that start as independently owned stores and grow organically, Olive Garden was started with the intent of becoming a large chain. By 1989, after only seven short years, there were 145 Olive Garden restaurants, making it the fastest-growing company in the General Mills restaurant division. Olive Garden restaurants were uniformly popular, and the chain’s per-store sales soon matched former sister company Red Lobster. Olive Garden eventually became the largest chain of Italian-themed, full-service restaurants in the United States. General Mills spun off its restaurant holdings as Darden Restaurants, named for Red Lobster founder Bill Darden, as a stand-alone company in 1995.