How Brands Like Olive Garden Are Pinching Pennies in Unexpected Ways

The unexpected ways that companies are trying to cut costs.

ByABC News
June 24, 2015, 3:03 PM

— -- To offer customers discounted meals such as the "Never Ending Pasta Bowl," Olive Garden is keeping its costs low with some creative measures, including limiting its carpet cleaning, a company executive said.

Darden Restaurants Inc., which owns Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and other restaurants, is trying to save as much as $100 million a year from its restaurants, according to Darden CEO Gene Lee.

Here's more about Olive Garden's carpet cleaning and other atypical cost-cutting measures from corporations.

1. Carpet cleaning

During an earnings conference call question and answer session on Tuesday night, Lee said the company is pulling "every single invoice" in its brands to analyze expenses.

"And so I think our team, our operating teams are doing a great job of going in and saying, for example, how many times do we really need to clean the carpets in a restaurant? There's a protocol that you clean carpets once a month. If you do it more than that, you end up actually destroying the carpet and really not a whole lot of benefit there," Lee said Tuesday. "So we found a lot of restaurants that were cleaning carpets twice a month."

Ron Defeo, a spokesman for Darden Restaurants, told ABC News today that the company is not reducing or altering its cleaning standards.

"The restaurants are continuously cleaned and vacuumed throughout each and every day. The carpets are steam cleaned as needed -- and at least once a month," Defeo said.

PHOTO: Some companies are getting rid of cleaning carpets to save money.
Some companies are getting rid of cleaning carpets to save money.

2. Linen, menu printing

A penny saved is a penny earned, whether it comes from the cost of table cloths or printing paper.

Darden is looking across its business to look for ways to cut costs, Defeo said, "with an intense focus on areas that are non-consumer facing."

"Specifically, we have looked at many of our existing service contracts and re-bid them to ensure our costs are in-line with the market. These include linen contracts, menu print production costs and standard shipping rates," Defeo said.

3. Voicemail

Corporations like J.P. Morgan Chase and Co. are cutting the use of voicemail to cut costs, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, noting that tens of thousands of employees are set to lose voicemail services in the coming months.

Smith said voicemail service can cost $10 a month per employee, or $120 a year per employee.

"We realized that hardly anyone uses voicemail anymore," Gordon Smith, head of the J.P. Morgan's consumer- and community-banking unit, said at a financial conference on June 2, the Journal reported. "We're all carrying something in our pockets that's going to get texts or email or a phone call."

Smith's unit plans to save $3.2 million a year due to this measure, a spokeswoman told the Journal.

PHOTO: Some companies are getting rid of voicemail to save money.
Some companies are getting rid of voicemail to save money.

4. Office space

Law firms are rethinking how much office space they need, with many hoping to cut square footage by one-third, according to the North America Law Firm Services Outlook Report released by Colliers Law Firm Services Group earlier this year.

In this post-recession period, gone are the mahogany walls in many law offices. Instead, first-year law associates share workstations and learn to get comfy, reported.

5. Food waste

A company called Avangard Innovative, based in Houston, can help corporations recycle or reduce its waste while increasing their bottom line.

Avangard can help break down food in its digester machines or compost it and contribute up to 20 percent of their profit, founder Rick Perez said, according to the Houston Chronicle.