I've worked at Olive Garden and so has my husband. What I can't understand is why in the heck Olive Garden, which is an extremely good chain restaurant, is getting so much flack lately. I feel it's time to set the record straight.
First, Olive Garden doesn't pressure any of its servers to sell alcohol. Sure, they like alcohol sales. Tell me one restaurant, chain or otherwise, who doesn't. There's a huge markup on alcohol. Heck, if I were running a restaurant, I'd want people to buy a drink or two as well. But pressure on the servers to sell alcohol? No, no way. Being threatened with the loss of your job if you don't meet an "alcohol sales quota?" That's one of the biggest "urban legends" I've ever heard. It honestly makes me laugh out loud.
Now, on to the accusation that Olive Garden sells "fake" Italian food. Yes, in a way, it does, but its patrons are happy about this fact. I used to live in Italy, in Tuscany, too, so I know what I'm talking about. The food there was very, very bland. Blah. Olive Garden's food isn't so much "fake" Italian and Italian "dressed up." Be glad of it. I have to admit, I find the salmon a little dry, there aren't enough mashed potatoes with the wonderful Stuffed Chicken Marsala, and the salad and breadsticks could be better, but on the whole, the dishes are tasty and filling, without being "too" heavy and they're very creative.
I've read allegations that Olive Garden isn't clean. Okay, this is yet another untruth. Olive Garden has got to be one of the cleanest restaurants I've ever been in. Food temperatures, both hot and cold, are monitored constantly and the wait staff has to wash their hands every hour. No, they aren't threatened with the loss of their jobs if they don't sell enough alcohol, but they will lose their jobs if they aren't super clean.
And what's this I read on a well-known Website about Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana not being authentic Italian? LOL This is one of the restaurants most authentic dishes. The person who said that obviously hasn't spent much time around Italian food and none at all in Italy, itself. In addition to being authentic, Zuppa Toscana is both delicious and filling, especially on a cold winter's day.
I've heard complaints about the long wait at Olive Garden. Well, if you have to endure a long wait, you have only yourself to blame. While Olive Garden doesn't accept reservations, they do have "call ahead seating." Just call them and tell them what time you'll arrive and they'll put your name on the seating list and your wait, if any, will be greatly shortened.
I've even read the preposterous lie that the wait at Olive Garden is deliberate. LOL No, not true. Olive Garden, in case anyone hasn't noticed, is a "for profit" business. They want to get people in and out (though you can linger as long as you like) and make as much money as possible. Sure, some servers turn their tables faster than others. Some servers even set up their own tables and don't wait on the bus boys to do it. Other servers are lazy. One woman, without knowing both my husband and I have worked at Olive Garden, told me the table rotation was actually designed to make patrons wait. No, not true. When a server gets his or her table ready for the next patrons, he tells the host, who proceeds to seat the next people in line. It's as simple as that.
Olive Garden isn't fine dining. It isn't haute cuisine. But then, it never pretends to be. It's a family restaurant, a place where you can take your kids or enjoy Sunday dinner with all your relatives. The prices are great and most of the dishes are, too. The Olive Garden where I eat at least once every week employs more than fifty servers, so some are naturally going to be faster and more personable than others, but on the whole, this is a great restaurant with good food and a relaxing atmosphere.
Bottom line: All the bad talk about Olive Garden lately is totally undeserved. Spring and summer are coming and Olive Garden will be packed with people just waiting for Fettuccini Alfredo, Stuffed Chicken Marsala, Zuppa Toscana, Seafood Portofino, and more. The lines will be spilling out onto the sidewalk. Can one hundred million people be wrong? Of course not. But some people just like to grouse and it seems they always will. I almost feel sorry for them.