While Olive Garden isn’t a very well-known brand in the UK, you might have heard of its famous breadsticks in your favourite American TV shows or while on holiday. In this article, we find out if you can start an Olive Garden franchise unit in the UK.
Olive Garden is an American casual dining restaurant chain predominantly offering Italian-American cuisine, including pasta dishes, steaks, soups, salads and the brand’s much-loved breadsticks. It was founded in Orlando, Florida in 1982, and it’s a company-owned subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, Inc., an American multi-brand restaurant operator. With there being over 850 Olive Garden restaurants across the globe, with over 96,000 employees, it is no surprise that the chain makes a whopping $4 billion in annual sales. Below, you can find out if it’s possible to operate your own Olive Garden franchise business in the UK.
The history of Olive Garden
When Olive Garden started out, it was a subsidiary of General Mills, Inc, the company that markets popular American brands including Betty Crocker, Cheerios and Haggen-Dazs. The restaurant franchise opened its doors in 1982, and just seven years later customers could choose from one of 145 locations. Its rapid expansion resulted in it becoming the biggest chain of Italian-themes restaurants in the US.
Does Olive Garden franchise in the UK?
Unfortunately, no. There aren’t currently any Olive Garden branches in the UK. So far, international expansion has reached Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.
The Italian restaurant industry in the UK
Italian food is a firm favourite among us Brits. The cuisine is the most popular choice with the average Londoner, with around 80 percent of the London sample tested bringing the comforting, garlicy aromas of Italian food to their kitchens more often than any other cuisine in 2018 (L’ItaloEuropeo). And with many Italian restaurants boasting boosts in profits year on year, it is not surprising that they are one of the most popular eating-out dining choices in the UK.
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Similar franchise opportunities
New Italian franchises are constantly popping up all over the UK to keep up with consumer demand. Why not take advantage of this and start an Italian restaurant franchise unit? Not only are you providing one of the Brits’ top cuisines, but you can operate under an established brand with an existing customer base – taking much of the risk out of starting a new business.
1. Bella Italia
With a recognisable image and more than 40 years of industry experience, Bella Italia is a hugely popular brand among franchisees.
- Becoming a Bella Italia franchisee: To be accepted onto the franchise programme, you should have a good network of contacts, a strong track record in the food and drink industry and have the motivation to take the business to the next level.
- How much you need to invest: You must be able to put £700,000 into your new business.
- What you get for your investment: Bella Italia does not leave you in the dark when it comes to setting up your business. Franchisees will be able to rely on access to an operations portal and a comprehensive training package to ensure that the business runs at maximum efficiency. What’s more, Bella Italia will also provide a dedicated support team to assist franchisees throughout their franchising journey.
This franchise’s business model caters to the demand for affordable food that can be prepared quickly and eaten on the go. Wolf has been in operation since 2015 and offers healthy Italian street food made from locally sourced ingredients. Wolf prides itself on its high-quality offering; for example, all meat is bought from farms that adhere to high animal welfare standards and marinated for at least 24 hours.
- Becoming a Wolf franchisee: Wolf encourages entrepreneurs that are eager to become multi-unit franchisees and share a passion for the business concept to get involved.
- How much you need to invest: If you like the sound of this opportunity, you need to be prepared to source the total investment of £200,000.
- What you get for your investment: The Italian food franchise was created with the franchisee in mind. New franchise units demand low levels of skill but are high-quality operations, so that franchisees can sell competitively priced Italian street food from the get-go. In addition to this, strong branding, a four-week intensive training programme, ongoing store support and a marketing plan uniquely developed for the franchise unit’s specific territory will equip franchisees with all the necessary tools to flourish in this competitive industry.
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Who needs Italian food when you can drink Italian wine? Veeno aims to provide a ‘gateway to Italian culture’ and has spent the last few years setting up Italian-style wine-cafés around the country.
- Becoming a Veeno franchisee: Veeno has big plans. It aims to bring its Italian experience to Ireland, Scandinavia and the Far East, demonstrating the ambition of the team behind the rapidly expanding brand. When you join, you’ll be responsible for finding a great location for your new business in a busy area, which Veeno must approve to ensure maximum profitability.
- How much you need to invest: Prospective franchisees should be able to fund start-up costs of up to £80,000. However, this franchise is all about flexibility and is enthusiastic to help investors who might not yet have managed to obtain the funds to open a new franchise. Therefore, Veeno will work with investors to help break down barriers to investment and can offer a range of different investment options and packages depending on the location of the proposed site.
- What you get for your investment: New franchisees can look forward to completing Veeno’s comprehensive training programme and taking a trip to the business’s family vineyard in Sicily. There, you’ll learn about the company’s roots and how its wines are created.
Start an Italian restaurant franchise
While it isn’t currently possible to start your own Olive Garden franchise in the UK, there is an abundance of other food and beverage opportunites out there. Got a thirst for finding out which other famous American brands offer franchising opportunities in the UK? Why not check out whether Hardee’s franchises this side of the pond?
Becky Martin, Point Franchise ©