Retirees have lost their appetite for Cracker Barrel and Olive Garden since the pandemic — and it’s not clear when they’ll come back, according to the chains’ top brass.
No amount of biscuits and gravy or unlimited pasta refills seems to be enough to entice the 65-and-older crowd as they continue to pinch pennies amid high inflation and duck the coronavirus, according to Rick Cardenas, chief executive of Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden.
“I do believe that they were a little bit more spooked on the COVID side,” Cardenas told analysts on a Thursday conference call.
“We’d love to see them come back more frequently.”
Indeed, seniors are heading to the budget-friendly pasta chain less often than they had before the pandemic, added chief financial officer Raj Vennam on a conference call on Thursday with Wall Street analysts.
He pointed to a “slight decline” in their numbers from the previous quarter.
Olive Garden’s restaurants are hoping to lure customers in the coming weeks as it reintroduces its wildly popular Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion on Sept. 25 through Nov. 19 at a price of $13.99.