Olive Garden is notorious for their endless amounts of food and when we say endless, we mean it. While most people regularly go to Olive Garden to gorge on unlimited salad, soup, and copious amounts of their highly coveted breadsticks, customers often flock to the restaurant when they host their popular promotions, such as the Never Ending Pasta Bowl and the Never Ending Pasta Pass.
But with such awesome deals comes some difficult and interesting interactions with customers and employees. We’ve gathered some inside information about what it’s really like to work at the “fake Italian” restaurant chain. You may actually be surprised.
As you can imagine with a restaurant that offers unlimited amounts of food, the employees are lucky enough to benefit from this as well. According to an article on theodysseyonline.com, a recent worker divulged that Olive Garden employees can have free breadsticks during their entire shift.
In addition to that, the unlimited soup and salad deal is available to them for only one dollar. If you’re someone who likes to eat on the job, then you might want to try working at Olive Garden, because free food doesn’t get any better than this. Many employees also note that they didn’t worry too much about gaining weight from this perk because the job has them running around all the time!
Servers’ Short End of the Stick
Although employees’ appetites benefit from the unlimited soup/salad/breadstick deal, they don’t always benefit in what they’re actually there for, which is money. A lot of employees primarily work for tips, but not all customers are aware of this. In an article from cosmopolitan.com, one server admitted that it’s kind of annoying when customers only spring for the unlimited soup and salad combo.
The combo itself is pretty inexpensive, running eight to ten dollars depending on the time of day. A lot of customers take the easy way out and only tip the server based on the total bill, which is less than $12. The server says “A lot of people feel that they should just tip 10 percent, but then we’re constantly refilling so people don’t understand that we’re doing more work.”
The Lie of Tuscany
Reddit user “SellinThings” worked at Olive Garden for five years and was even a manager for two of those years. One thing that Olive Garden used to advertise was that its chefs were sent to a culinary institute Tuscany to learn how to cook authentic Italian meals for the Americans back at home. This was obviously debunked.
“SellinThings” revealed that each year, Olive Garden selects five chefs or managers in all of the United States to go to Tuscany. Another Reddit user who actually went on the trip said it was more of a vacation than a learning experience. Olive Garden essentially pays for these employees to go to Italy to learn about cooking for maybe an hour or so each day, then go sightseeing the rest of the time.
There are many Reddit users who are former Olive Garden employees who will admit that the food is, for the most part, pretty fresh. With the exception of the desserts, which are all frozen and either thawed or microwaved before serving, the other foods are never just in a frozen bag and heated up before being served.
The soups are made in house every day. The bread sticks are baked fresh every 15 minutes. Many of the cooks arrive early in the morning to cook the pasta, then separate it into bags that are portioned for individual servings to be prepared throughout the day.
Bang for Your Buck
When asked what customers can do to get the best value for the least amount of money, Reddit user “SellinThings” suggests that the best thing you can do is to go in before 4:00 PM and order the unlimited soup and salad combo, which is cheaper before dinner pricing starts. In addition to the unlimited salad and breadsticks, you can even switch the soups you get at each round.
But Olive Garden is not bereft of deals, as we’ve previously mentioned. A customer could also go in during the Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion and eat copious amounts of pasta for under $12. Just be sure to tip your server well if you’re using one of these deals (that is, of course, if they deserve a good tip).
Hair in My Food?!
While most restaurants will strive for cleanliness and excellent customer service, there are some customers who will try to work around that just so they can get a free meal. One server caught a woman pulling out her daughter’s hair and putting it on her own food! When the server told the manager, they already knew the woman planned to complain.
The rest of the story goes like this: “I called her out on it and she put up a big fuss. Started yelling out loud, ‘Your mexicans don’t wear hairnets and now my meal is ruined!’ so everyone in the [expletive] restaurant could hear. She was escorted out by authorities who had been sitting in the other section of the restaurant… on their lunch break.”
The Guy Who Got Sick
If that story wasn’t outrageous enough, the same manager also said that one customer once suffered an allergic reaction to his meal. He stood up, threw up everything he had consumed, and passed out in his own vomit in front of the entire restaurant. This caused half of the patrons to leave.
In a similar story, another former Olive Garden employee said that during the Endless Pasta Bowl promotion, his friend ate 14 refills of pasta. Needless to say, this didn’t fare well for the poor man, who ended up throwing up in the parking lot shortly thereafter. During this promotion, this would apparently happen to many customers who were too advantageous with the endless amounts of pasta, salad, soup, and breadsticks.
What is any work environment without some workplace scandal? Reddit user “SellinThings” also admitted that many of the employees would engage in sleeping with each other and it would often cause drama. One ex-manager revealed that while it was more like a game as a server, management felt like they were dealing with people off of Jerry Springer.
Apparently, this is a common practice among many people in the restaurant industry or any workplace that hires a bunch of young people in their early 20s. Luckily a lot of people manage to stay above the drama, but next time you go to a restaurant you’re always going to wonder.
Double Drop Scam
One classic scheme among servers is the double drop scam. If some customers come in and order a basic meal, such as two soup/salad combos and two drinks, many servers would use this to their advantage. Throughout the course of a shift, there is bound to be another set of customers who order the exact same thing, so the server would just use the check from the previous order.
They would deliberately not put the new order into the system so it cannot be tracked and if the new customers pay the bill in cash, the server can pocket the entire bill plus tip.
The Butter Problem
One Olive Garden employee complained of a customer who was too entitled and freaked out because the server set the butter packs on the table as opposed to putting them on a plate. He apparently made such a big deal over it, that management let him leave with a gift card and not have to pay for anything.
According to a lot of former Olive Garden employees, the management will do this a lot. If a customer complains too much, they’ll just comp the bill and even give the customer a gift card to ensure that they will come back. Sometimes management will do anything just to get a difficult customer out of their faces.
The Strict Dress Code
One former Olive Garden employee apparently had a strict manager who made the servers line up at the beginning of each shift to make sure that they were following the dress code standards. The managers were very nitpicky about the socks and insisted on seeing everyone’s socks before the shift started. The former employee never understood why it mattered if they wore black socks or not if you can’t even see them because the pants would cover them.
Talk about a stressful work environment! Luckily not all Olive Garden managers were like this and were okay if the socks just weren’t visible, according to Reddit user “SellinThings.” Some people were not so lucky!
Lack of Renovations
One Reddit user complained that all Olive Gardens – no matter where in the country they decide to visit one – smell absolutely terrible. Other Redditors also asked about the wheeled chairs, which were sometimes filthy. “SellinThings” bluntly explains that it’s because Olive Garden doesn’t renovate any of its stores.
In addition to that, they have the same soundtrack of generic Italian-sounding songs on repeat throughout the entire day. They never change the music! Many employees have even admitted that they know all ten of the songs on the Olive Garden playlist by heart. Talk about a company that could use a facelift.
One thing Olive Garden does do right is donating the extra food at the end of the day. If there is any extra or leftover food Olive Garden will donate the food to a local soup kitchen. This is because Olive Gardens have partnerships with companies to donate unused food.
It’s good to hear that Olive Garden doesn’t let anything go to waste! There are a lot of food-serving businesses that have strict policies against saving unused food. Some restaurants or cafes will even throw perfectly good food away. Maybe they should take a page out of Olive Garden’s book and put that unused food to better use.
When You’re Here, You’re Family
Olive Garden’s slogan is “When You’re Here, You’re Family,” indicating that you will get the best service and that they will treat you as if you were their own. Some people, however, took this a little too literally. Reddit user “MrChris_H” who used to work at an Olive Garden in southern California, says “I personally interpreted it a different way…”
“…I used dry humor and brutal honesty when I worked (def backfired a few times). But if someone asked how a certain dish was, I had no problem telling them it sucked.” Chris says that a lot of people appreciate the honesty when talking about certain dishes.
Catering to a Certain Group
Olive Garden is under Darden Restaurants, which is a dining company that also owns Longhorn Steakhouse, Seasons 52, and The Yard House. One Reddit user noted that “Darden is notorious in the restaurant industry for bringing in low-quality clientele and having low employee morale.”
“MrChris_H” says that he would agree, in terms of the types of customers Olive Garden attracted. He says “I live in a pretty affluent city… and I would find myself every shift asking myself ‘where the hell do these people come from?'” Olive Garden itself is notorious for attracting “less affluent” customers who think that Olive Garden is a “fancy” and authentic Italian restaurant when it is, in fact, just a chain.
Sit at the Bar
Because Olive Garden attracts a lot of customers, the wait to be seated is often too long. What a lot of people don’t realize is that the bar at Olive Garden still serves a full-service menu. People probably don’t think to sit there because it is a bar and the dinner atmosphere is usually different, which goes for other restaurants as well.
Reddit user “MrChirs_H” who was also a bartender at Olive Garden says that he encouraged people to sit at the bar since it meant more money for him. So next time you’re waiting to be seated at Olive Garden, check out the bar — just make sure you’re not in a party that is too large for the bar.
One former Olive Garden employee revealed that they had a co-worker who would put dirty lemons in customer’s drinks. Whenever that co-worker would be dealing with a difficult customer, they would deliberately throw the drink lemons on the floor before putting them on the rim of the drinks.
This is obviously a huge health code violation, but for anyone who has worked in the food service industry, sometimes you just want to stick it to customers who are unnecessarily giving you a hard time. Be sure you treat your servers with respect, especially the ones at Olive Garden, who are not actually required to treat you like family.
Drinking on the Job
Some employees admit to drinking on the job. One former server at Olive Garden revealed that a lot of their co-workers would sneak drinking wine during their shifts. It was actually pretty easy to get away with this since servers had full access to the wines and didn’t have to go through the bar. Other former employees can attest to this, saying that they would sneak the wine in white styrofoam cups and drink them when management wasn’t watching.
Management couldn’t keep track of this either because Olive Garden gives free samples of wine to curious customers. The former server even admitted that when his cousin was in the restaurant, he ended up slipping him a whole bottle of Cabernet!
The Secret Menu
There are a lot of popular menu items that have since gone off the market, much to the chagrin of Olive Garden regulars. But Olive Garden employees reveal that you can still order these items so long as the kitchen still have the correct ingredients for it. Chicken Fettuccine Florentine anyone?
Apparently Olive Garden can make anything you want, as long as you know how to customize your order. Mentalfloss.com reports that “secret menu suggestions aren’t all that secret, they’re simply substitutions for standard menu items that many people don’t know are possible, like changing ravioli fillings.” Give it a try next time!