Experience Italy on Olive Garden's New Web Site

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Experience Italy on Olive Garden's New Web Site: Tour the company’s Culinary Institute of Tuscany, peruse an extensive Italian recipe box, cook with the help of streaming video and learn to pair food and wine perfectly.

Olive Garden has added some innovative new “bytes” to the menu, its online menu that is, with a host of culinary tools for the at-home chef, restaurant guests and lovers of Italian food, wine and culture.

“The new Web site was designed to convey warmth and welcome, the same attributes we are known for within our restaurants,” said John Caron, executive vice president of marketing for Olive Garden. With this in mind, he adds that the new features all have one thing in common. “They are designed to bring the genuine Italian dining experience closer to our guests – right into their homes – so they can share the same passion for Italy that we do.”

For the cook at home, http://www.olivegarden.com touts an extensive recipe box with more than 100 step-by-step Italian recipes, including some from the restaurant menu, for gatherings of two to 24. For those unsure about a preparation or cooking technique, they can learn by example via streaming video as Olive Garden Executive Chef Paolo Lafata demonstrates several featured recipes and the methods used to create great-tasting dishes during his guest appearances on “The Tony Danza Show.”

Olive Garden’s award-winning culinary team also shares how to create a well-stocked pantry of Italian essentials, with information and tips on olive oil, pasta, cheese, bread and wine.

Guests planning to dine at Olive Garden or preparing a dinner at home can utilize one of the most exciting features of the site, the interactive Food & Wine Pairing Tool. This matchmaking feature allows guests to choose any dish on the menu and receive three suggested wine pairings based on their preference of white, red or blush. Conversely, guests can enter a favorite selection from Olive Garden’s award-winning list of 38 wines and receive up to five recommendations on a complementary meal choice, complete with photos of all dishes and wines, and an explanation for the suggested pairing.

Anyone with a passion for Italian food, wine, culture and hospitality will not find a visit to the site complete without an inside look at the company’s culinary credentials in Italy. Visitors can take a virtual tour of Olive Garden’s Culinary Institute of Tuscany, the inspiration for many dishes on Olive Garden’s menu and where 100 restaurant managers travel to train each year.

Site guests can follow managers as they learn the time-honored traditions of Italian cooking techniques from Olive Garden’s Italian and American executive chefs, shop for the freshest ingredients in the al fresco markets of Florence and tour the Rocca delle Macie winery in Castellina in Chianti.

And if a virtual tour of the Culinary Institute whets a visitor’s appetite, from now through May 29, guests can enter for a chance to win a trip there and experience firsthand how Olive Garden sources its inspiration from Italy. Full entry details appear upon accessing the site.

All of these features are in addition to more traditional functions that guests would expect to find on Olive Garden’s Web site, such as locating their local restaurant, obtaining the name and contact information for the general manager, reviewing menus – along with pricing and photos – and ordering gift cards. It’s also easy to contact Olive Garden’s Guest Relations or learn more about the company.

San Francisco-based Real Branding is the interactive agency that partnered with Olive Garden on the site redesign and was integral in determining how guests used the site and how to develop technologies that would make it more useful and easy to navigate.

“These new features, and all the functionality behind them, were developed by listening closely to Olive Garden’s guests,” said Bob Johnson, vice president of account management for Real Branding. “We had to first understand how they used the existing site and what was on their wish list that also made sense for the brand. We are excited by the positive response of Olive Garden guests and are already developing ways to keep the Web site fresh.”

Real Branding is one of the largest independent interactive agencies in San Francisco, considered a leading market for interactive talent, innovation and expertise. The agency has earned national recognition for its creative and media planning innovations. Information on Real Branding can be found at http://www.realbranding.com.

Olive Garden is the leading restaurant in the Italian dining segment with 575 restaurants, 70,000 employees and more than $2 billion in annual sales. Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE:DRI), the world’s largest casual dining company.

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Laura Davis
Olive Garden
954-776-1999 243
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