Olive Garden to open Plaza las Américas location
SAN JUAN – With a modern design, new services and a $2.5 million investment, Olive Garden will open its doors in Plaza las Américas next week, becoming the first restaurant in the franchise to be located in a shopping mall in Puerto Rico.
Dionisio Trigo, president of Restaurant Operators Inc. (ROI), owner of the local franchise, emphasized that the multimillion-dollar investment for the island’s fifth restaurant, which is slated to open March 6, proves the company’s commitment to the island’s economic development amid the fiscal crisis.
In addition to the creation of 200 direct jobs in operations and another 100 indirect in its construction phase, the new restaurant distinguishes itself by providing a pickup and delivery catering service.
“We strongly believe in the island’s potential. We have been successful thanks to the excellence in service, food quality and our employees’ performance… We believe we will do well in the restaurant; there is traffic here to support an Olive Garden,” Trigo said when announcing the opening of the restaurant on the mall’s third floor.
As for the delivery service, Darden Restaurants Vice President Chip Knott explained that these make up 20% of sales stateside. In order for the service to be free-of-charge, Trigo explained that the order must be over $125. The option will be available initially within mall premises.
Along with the new offer, the location presents Darden Restaurants’ most recent prototype, with a Renaissance-inspired design. Knott said this style has a more “modern and intimate” approach, without losing track of its Italian and family-friendly origins.
“Here [in Plaza las Américas] we had to adapt our structure and operation inside the mall, which has its challenges… Operating inside a mall isn’t the same, [but] we have adapted…,” Trigo assured.
When asked by Caribbean Business if the Labor Transformation & Flexibility Act approved in late January would apply to new employees, Trigo assured these would retain their benefits because they were hired before the law’s enactment.
Regarding expansion plans, the ROI president said they expect to inaugurate three more restaurants, for a total of eight Olive Gardens. Construction for the next location will begin in 2018, although the location has not been revealed.
“We average a higher guest count per store than the United States,” Trigo emphasized. Knott added that visits per week in stateside locations average around 1,000 clients, whereas in Puerto Rico that number reaches some 6,000 per restaurant.
The other Olive Garden locations are in Guaynabo, across from San Patricio Plaza; the Convention Center District in Miramar; Barceloneta; and Bayamón. The Plaza las Américas restaurant will be open until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.