🥖 Olive Garden's short breadstick

Friday, June 26, 2020 by Robinhood Snacks | Disclosures

When the takeout is Olive Garden, but the drinks are BYO

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Hey Snackers,

Helvetica, Arial, Comic Sans and... Goldman Sans. In case the world's 200K fonts weren't enough, Goldman Sachs just released its very own typeface, free for public use. The 1 rule of Goldman Sans: you can't use it to criticize Goldman Sachs (no joke).

Markets rose on word regulators will loosen some rules put in place after the '09 Great Recession (aka the Volcker Rule) — the move from the FDIC gives banks more freedom with cash deposits, like the ability to more easily invest large sums in venture capital. JP Morgan and Citi jumped on the news.

1. Olive Garden's sales plunge on closed stores and limited alcohol: the BYOB problem

Short end of the breadstick... Olive Garden parent Darden Restaurants got it on earnings. In addition to the unlimited breadstick icon, Darden parents eight other restaurant chains, including Capital Grille and LongHorn Steakhouse. All its kids disappointed this quarter.

  • Sales plunged 43%, and Darden posted an Eggplant Parm-sized $480M loss (compared to a $209M profit last year). All of its 1.5K dining rooms were closed at some point in the March-May quarter.

Blame the booze... During lockdowns, 99% of Olive Gardens were open for curbside pickup. Takeout sales soared 142%, and 3X'd at LongHorn (Darden doesn't deliver). But that wasn't enough to make up for all the lost booze bucks.

  • Alcohol makes up around 30% of restaurants' sales. And that $40 bottle of Merlot you see on the menu probably cost the OG just $15.
  • Boozy beverages have around a 70% profit margin, so a restaurant makes 70 cents profit on each buck of price. Your $10 mojito cost $3 to whip up — the restaurant pockets a $7 profit.
  • During closures, restaurants lost their biggest profit puppy: alcohol. Lockdowns mean takeout, and takeout means BYO(cheaper)B.

Big chains can survive and come back stronger... Darden stock jumped because it survived — 91% of its dining rooms are now open and it expects earnings will be positive again by 1st quarter 2021. Plus, it still has $750M in cash to weather slowdowns. Smaller biz isn't so lucky: 53% of restaurants that closed during the pandemic said they won't reopen. That wipes out a lot of Darden's competition.


Gmail's worst nightmare... Almost exactly a year ago, Slack went public with the goal of killing company email forever. It hasn't been able to do that completely because of one big roadblock: you're still emailing people outside your company. Slack is almost exclusively an internal messaging tool. But with its latest development, Slack might be able to drive the nail into all of work email's coffin:

  • Slack Connect: Tired of that 40-page long email thread with your marketing partners/clients? Slack Connect allows up to 20 orgs to collab over Slack.
  • Shared channels: It's a magnification of Slack's "shared channels" idea, first tested in 2017 to allow multiple companies to work in a (you guessed it) shared channel. It is inter-office communication — but 100X more ping'able.

Nothing like a Nando's name drop... to seal the value statement. Slack believes Connect is for more than just project-based communication. Over 1M users have already tested it.

  • Mention: UK chicken icon Nando's has been using it to communicate with its food delivery partner. Others are using it for customer support, and some doctors are even using it to share COVID-19 experiences.
  • Flex Mention: Slack humble bragged that it used Connect to coordinate its (super low-interest) $800M convertible bond offering. The law firm, the consulting firm, and the i-bankers... all in one channel.

Consumer messaging could be Slack's next frontier... Slack is 100% focused on business communications. Now, it's expanding its focus from pure intra-company to cross-company. Microsoft just launched a personal version of its Slack rival, which is called Teams, to communicate with friends/family. With the "Connect" platform already built out, Slack might not be far behind.


Well, that's a change... Google will pay some news publishers to license their content for a new service it's launching this year. News outlets have been wanting this for years. But why is Google finally doing it now?

  • Adpocalypse: Even before 2020, news outlets have been losing ad sales to Big Tech. In 2019, 52% of American adults got news from Facebook. You scroll your feed to scan the headlines, Facebook gets the ad bucks.
  • Under Pressure: Google's been getting heat from antitrust regulators in France and Australia. They want it and Facebook to share revenue with news publishers, who drive eyes to Google pages (but don't get Google ad money).

This is a step in that direction... Google's future news service will include content from local and national news publications — and the news agencies will get a piece of the ad money Google brings in when you scroll. It has a few on board already, and is looking to expand. It's not the first to dabble in paying publishers:

  • Facebook began paying some publishers in its news section back in October.
  • Apple compensates news publishers for their content on its Apple News+ subscription service.

This aims to solve two existential problems... for news publishers:

  • #1: Most people have been trained not to pay for news, thanks to years of free news available on tech and social platforms.
  • #2: Big Tech does ads better than news publishers because it connects ads with the right viewers thanks to better targeting.
  • Solution: Google's news service will likely be free for consumers. And publishers will get a cut of the ad revenue that Google generates adjacent to their articles.
What else we’re Snackin’
  • Chucky: Chuck E. Cheese's parent company files for bankruptcy after losing most of its sales cheddar in the corona-conomy.
  • Interesting: Ford signs a deal with European telecom company Vodafone to build a private 5G network in its factory in the UK.
  • TicTac: TikTok launches a business platform for advertisers, offering brand marketing solutions for how to not be lame on TikTok.
  • Groce: Safeway-owner Albertsons just IPO'd, and its shares begin trading today.

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And when you're not here, you're not spending a ridiculous amount of money on booze.

Tune into our insanely digestible pod Snacks Daily for more on Olive Garden's takeout blues.

  • Consumer spending and personal income report for May.

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