An activist investor looking to prove that Olive Garden needs shaking up presented a massive slide deck enumerating all that’s wrong with the troubled Italian restaurant franchise. But one problem really stands out: no salt in the pots! They’re cooking pasta for goodness sake–you have to salt the water! Everybody knows that. “Shockingly, Olive Garden no longer salts the water it uses to boil the pasta,” is just one of the revelations exposed in the exhaustive presentation.
But the interesting thing is why. The restaurant doesn’t skimp on salt to save money on the salt itself. Salt isn’t too expensive–and salt use is a great contributor to the bottom line on drink orders. (That’s why 100% of bar snacks are salty.) So why skimp? Because an efficiency expert got in there and looked at the pots instead of the people. So in order to get a longer warranty on the pots it uses, Olive Garden agreed to stop salting the water. (Salt-free water is far less corrosive to cookware.) It’s smart management, if you only manage and measure by the numbers. But if you measure your operation by smiles and satisfied bellies, it’s a bad move.