"This is the biggest lie of Olive Garden," a former Olive Garden employee commented regarding this proud "tradition." While Olive Garden claims it sends 100 chefs to the Olive Garden Culinary Institute of Tuscany every year, the number is actually closer to about five. But the chefs chosen really do get to go to the Institute for an 11-week, all expenses paid course in how to make authentic Italian dishes. The chefs also get paid while they're taking the course, so it's almost like they're getting paid to vacation. So, how beneficial is this luxury training?
Another employee commented, "I met a chef who did do the whole Tuscany trip. It's true that only a handful are selected and these are regional chefs, not in-house chefs. He said the old Italian woman in the commercials was real and they spent like a week learning some classic and regional techniques. Of course, anything they bring back with them is severely diluted by the time it hits the table in front of the customer."
Olive Garden staff aren't immune to petty workplace fights. If a server is a jerk to the host/hostess, then it's likely that they'll seat that server with the worst tables that come in. So, if you're a party of eight, with several small children, you'd better hope that the host/hostess is getting along with the staff that night. An Olive Garden hostess confessed that she often did this, especially if the server was mean to her. "I will do that and I don't feel bad about it. The other day this one server yelled at me about her section (something I don't even control) so I sat her a party with an infant, a toddler, a grandma, and the adult daughter. Of course her tip was gonna be horrible." It never hurts to be kind to the host/hostess. If they like you, they'll more than likely sit you with their favorite server to whom they give the "golden treatment," which means they'll help them out in any way they can. Other, less favorable servers don't get this treatment. The host/hostess will simply watch them struggle and feel nothing about it; man, that's cold.
The rules about breadsticks: they can't bring a second basket of bread until someone orders something, and yes, soda counts! So technically, you could walk in, fill up on delicious breadsticks, and run along on your marry, carb-loaded way (though that would be a total jerk move). And for how many breadsticks come in each basket, there is a science behind they figure out the "golden" number.
The math goes as follows: you get one breadstick per person at the table, with exactly one extra added on, or x+1= your breadsticks, with x being the number of people at the table. Did anyone else just get a flashback to freshman year Algebra, or is it just us? This policy was designed to prevent food waste. Of course, policies are meant to be broken, and certain servers may have their own rules in deciding how many to grab. At the end of the day, Olive Garden is quite aware at the costs involved in their "unlimited" breadstick deal, but thankfully for us, they aren't willing to change anything.
Some crafty servers, unhappy with their wages, or management, or just looking to sneak a few bucks employ a scam to squirrel extra money away: servers don't have much authority when it comes to changing or removing items on bills, but they do have the authorization to duplicate receipts. Let's say a couple comes in around lunchtime and orders soup, salad, and soda. The server prints out their bill, they pay and go on their way. A little bit later, another couple comes in and orders the same thing. Instead of actually entering in their order into the computer, these servers just print out a duplicate receipt of the earlier transaction since everything is the same. If the latter couple pays in cash, the server can pocket that money with management none the wiser. This system doesn't work at restaurants that keep a head count of how many guests come in during the day, but not every restaurant has that. It's a skeezy way to make a couple extra bucks, so hopefully, most servers don't try this trick.
The food at Olive Garden may be cheap, but it's plentiful, delicious, and the kitchen staff doesn't take shortcuts. A lot of the food is frozen, but it's never microwaved; microwaves are just for heating up dipping sauce and warming up some desserts, everything else is grilled, pan-fried, or deep-fried. The soups are made in-house daily, so they're pretty much the freshest thing you can order. Pasta is also made to order.
Even though some of the food is frozen, that doesn't mean that the kitchen staff doesn't perform intense food quality checks on everything in their kitchen. All of the ingredients are tasted to make sure they're up to snuff. They always make sure to get fresh gloves for each thing they're sampling so that there's no cross-contamination.
Another plus? If there's a meal you had once in Olive Garden, but they no longer have it on the menu, you may still be able to get it if you ask your server. There's a chance they still have the all the ingredients needed for it back in the kitchen, and the chefs are paid really well to keep them on, so they'll probably remember how to make it.
And for those with allergies, when Olive Garden says gluten-free, they mean it. Just make sure to stress that you don't want any croutons in your salad and ask for the light salad dressing, which is assuredly gluten-free.
About that dressing - ever wonder why it's so addicting? It basically boils down to the salt, fat, and sugar. A regular house salad with no dressing is only 50 calories, 250 mg of sodium, 2 grams of fat, and 2 grams of sugar, while a salad with dressing is 150 calories, with 770 mg of sodium, 10 grams of fat, and 4 grams of sugar. So even if you're not gluten-free, perhaps opting for the light dressing isn't that bad if you're looking to save some calories and fat off your diet, as this slimmed down version will only add an extra 30 calories, 440 mg of sodium, 2 grams of fat and 2 grams of sugar
As for house wine, just because it may be the cheapest option doesn't mean it's the worst. In fact, the "house specialty wine" is actually one of the wines Olive Garden prides itself on as it's made specifically for the restaurant. Of course, you can also get a sample if you're not sure you'll like it, in fact, you can get up to four free samples.
Lastly, they keep huge stockpiles of those amazing chocolate mints in the freezer. You can always ask your server for extra, or for a tasty bonus, ask for the frozen stash. Trust us, it's life-changing.
In any industry, there are always people out there trying to take advantage of others, and Olive Garden is no different. One former Olive Garden manager recalled the time they caught a guest trying to scam her way into a free meal. He was walking through the tables and when he passed by a table with a mother and her young daughter. He noticed the mother pluck a hair from her daughter's head and place it on her plate. He simply waited for the complaint to come, and oh did it come. "I called her out on it and she put up a big fuss, started yelling, 'Your Mexicans don't wear hairnets and now my meal is ruined' so loud everyone in the freaking restaurant could hear. She was escorted out by authorities who had been sitting in the other section of the restaurant on their lunch break," ah, karma is so sweet.
It's not like Olive Garden is known for tiny servings. It's Italian food, so the helpings are hearty as heck. Of course, some menu items are more plentiful than others. When Olive Garden says bottomless pasta, they absolutely mean it. One Redditor recalled a guest getting through nine refills of never-ending pasta before he finally called it quits. Another worker remembered someone ordering two Tours of Italy platters which he asked to be served on a single plate. There's just something about Olive Garden that makes people want to eat, and eat, and eat. It's like a buffet, but with more dignity.
It's all about the timing. Olive Garden has several different deals that come into play at different times in the day, so you should plan your visits accordingly. If you come in before 4 p.m., you can order the unlimited soup and salad combo for only $6.95. You get four different soup options and you can switch types whenever you want. Going in around dinner time opens you up to the "Neverending Pasta Bowl" special if it's available. They're not joking around when they say "neverending." It's basically a buffet starring pasta, so essentially it's the best kind of buffet. That deal starts at $9.99, so it's quite the bargain. Make sure to ask before diving in, though, because not all locations have the same specials.
Possibly the best thing about Olive Garden is their willingness to put cheese on absolutely anything and everything. Cheese on your salad? Sure, can do! Cheese on your cheesy ravioli? Darn tootin! Cheese in your Long Island Ice Tea? That's kinda weird, but they'll still do it. Cheese is king in Olive Garden, so it's no wonder that they have to order so much of it. It's delivered once a week in huge 30-40 pound boxes. "We'd go through maybe 4-5 boxes a week, and we were a slower store by comparison," estimated one Reddit user. That's a whole lot of cheese to go through in one week, but that's not even a lot by Olive Garden standards. Man, now we really want cheese...
Everyone loves Olive Garden's breadsticks. They're so soft, warm, and delicious, it's impossible not to love them. Just what is it that makes these breadsticks so addicting? Probably the butter and garlic salt, which gives the breadsticks that mouthwatering flavor, which fits perfectly on the bread ship from Turano, a Chicago based bread company. There's also the fact that Olive Garden has figured out exactly how long to keep them in the oven so that they're the perfect temperature without getting all hard and crusty. You should just hope that your server isn't taking care of their tables when a fresh batch of sticks drop, as fresh batches never last long since the servers try to refill all of the bread baskets in their section lest their tables start a mutiny.
It's not unusual for co-workers to hook up with each other for a fun game of hide the sausage, and Olive Garden is certainly no different. It's great for a time, but the drama of it soon wears on those workplace lovers. One Olive Garden manager used to be a bit of a player during his server days, but after his promotion to manager, he viewed the constant hook-ups differently. "When I was a server it was more like a game, but when I became management, it was like dealing with people from the Jerry Springer show. Chairs being thrown, a lot of crying girls."
Like any other service-based industry, Olive Garden depends on customer satisfaction staying as high as possible. In order to do that, OG tends to favor the customer in almost every way possible. Complaints about the food or service can get you a free meal for that visit as well as a gift card for your next visit. Whether the complaint is fair or not, true or not, management errs on the side of caution since their biggest goal is to get you back in the restaurant. Some people take advantage of that courtesy, coming back again and again only to complain about the service just so they can get some free food. It truly is despicable what some people resort to.
It might be an Italian restaurant, but that doesn't mean that the staff doesn't have as hard of a time as you pronouncing all those Italian words. Don't be embarrassed by a mispronunciation, more than likely your server has heard that particular wrong pronunciation a million times before. There's also a good chance that they themselves pronounce that word wrong. As long as they know what it is you want, they won't bust your chops too hard for mangling the Italian. Whatever you do, just don't point at the picture and say, "That." At least give a good, college try.
Food waste is an issue at every restaurant. What do you do with food that was never sold? Most restaurants just throw away that excess food, but not Olive Garden. Whenever there's excess food left over from the night before, Olive Garden freezes the food and donates it to the homeless. Many places don't donate their food waste for fear of being sued. If a homeless person got sick from the food they got from the restaurant, they might sue since the restaurant is still liable. To be clear, Olive Garden doesn't give away the table scraps left behind, since that would hold a higher chance of making someone sick if they ate it. It's a pretty smart system OG has. They get to be the good guy and provide a service to their community and they don't contribute to the ongoing epidemic of food waste. Way to be, OG!
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