Dark Secrets That The Olive Garden Staff Don’t Want Us To Know

By molly atherton 4 months ago
In the world of dining, Olive Garden stands as an Italian-inspired beacon, drawing in patrons with promises of endless breadsticks, bountiful salads, and hearty pasta dishes. The warm, familial ambiance and the aroma of Italian spices create an inviting atmosphere for families and friends alike. However, behind the scenes of this culinary haven, there lies a tapestry of secrets carefully guarded by the Olive Garden staff—details that, until now, they'd prefer to keep obscured.

1. They really hate the music

The cheesy and cliche music is actually on a loop. Most employees say that "That's Amore" is borderline traumatizing at this point. We get it's for the ~aesthetic~ but maybe it's time to change it up a little bit! Employees really, REALLY hate this music!Original content sourced from Femanin.com
Image Source: Reddit
The anthem on loop that employees affectionately describe as both cheesy and cliche. In our exposé, we unravel the not-so-harmonious relationship between employees and the repetitive tunes, exploring the impact of a musical choice that's become, well, a little too familiar.

2. The decorative wine bottles are full

You didn't hear it from us, but those wine bottles around the restaurant that are used for decoration are actually full and some are quite good! Again, we're no snitch, but we heard that if you've had a long shift, some employees like to swipe one at the end of the day. We don't condone stealing, but also we get it.
Image Source: Reddit
Consider this your backstage pass to uncover the covert world of these aesthetically pleasing, yet fully functional, bottles. Whispers circulating among the staff suggest that, after a grueling shift, some employees might be tempted to indulge in a discreet sampling of these not-so-ornamental libations.

3. They never get tired of breadsticks

Honestly, this is totally relatable, and if we worked there, same. But employees say the BEST part of working at Olive Garden is access to the unlimited breadsticks on each shift. Sounds dangerous for cholesterol levels, but great for emotional health?
Image Source: Reddit
for those who don the apron, these doughy delights are more than just a menu item—they're a lifeline for maintaining morale. It's the ever-flowing stream of breadsticks that serves as a comforting beacon in the very tumultuous world of restaurant work.

4. Your manager holds a lot of power

Almost all employees said that while Olive Garden may not be the dream job, it really comes down to the manager. They said that a good manager can make the job super fun and enjoyable, but a bad one can make your life so miserable. Makes a lot of sense! They also said there's a great sense of team when the leadership is good.
Image Source: Reddit
So, next time you enjoy those breadsticks or savor a bowl of pasta, know that the essence of Olive Garden goes beyond the menu—it's in the leadership that shapes the experience, creating a workplace that feels less like a job and more like a family affair.

5. Hopefully you like the smell

As the clock ticks to the end of a shift at Olive Garden, employees share a peculiar and fragrant phenomenon—leaving the restaurant means you'll inevitably carry the essence of Olive Garden with you. It's not just a job; it's an olfactory experience. The culprit? Garlic...
Image Source: Reddit
Employees report that when you leave your shift at Olive Garden, you will 100% smell like Olive Garden. Basically, garlic is oozing out of your pores, and you will feel like a block of parmesan cheese. We suppose there are worse things to smell like at the end of the day, but maybe wash your hair before bed.

6. You could be waiting a LONG time!

If you show up at an Olive Garden, and they say it's a 15-20 minute wait, then you're in the clear. But if they tell you it's a 45 minute wait, it could really be much longer than that. This is the time increment they use when they really don't know how long it will be but don't want you to go somewhere else!
Image Source: Reddit
Next time you find yourself facing a 45-minute wait at Olive Garden, consider it a subtle invitation to exercise patience and perhaps explore the tantalizing aroma of garlic wafting through the air. After all, good things come to those who wait, especially in the realm of unlimited breadsticks and pasta perfection.

7. Tipping the host/hostess doesn't work

You've seen it work in TV shows and movies, but if you're waiting a long time for a table, don't bother trying to give the host or hostess a tip to get seated faster. They're not allowed to accept your money, so it really won't speed up the process for you! Patience is a virtue :)
Image Source: Reddit
Patience is the key ingredient when navigating wait times at popular restaurants. So, instead of reaching for your wallet, sit back, relax, and perhaps envision the forthcoming feast of breadsticks and pasta delights that awaits you—a reward well worth the wait.

8. Self-presentation is important

While Olive Garden isn't SUPER strict when it comes to self-presentation, there are a few rules. Of course, you have to be in the standard uniform. Another thing employees sited the most is that you cannot have a lip ring in during your shift. They said it's for hygiene and appearance reasons.
Image Source: Reddit
This directive, they share, isn't just about aesthetics; it's a melody of hygiene and appearance considerations. While the restaurant embraces a certain level of individuality, the refrain here underscores the importance of maintaining a polished and uniform presentation.

9. The Andes mints are a great pick-me-up

Similar to the unlimited breadsticks, employees say they love to take a handful of the Andes mints at the host/hostess stand. They say it's the perfect little pick-me-up during a shift when you need a hit of sugar and chocolatey goodness. I would eat an entire bowlful probably.
Image Source: Reddit
Insiders admit to the allure of these mints, and some even go as far as envisioning an entire bowlful disappearing in the blink of an eye. It's a testament to the simple pleasures that add a sprinkle of sweetness to the Olive Garden workday, creating a momentary escape.

10. The chicken isn't real!

Okay, according to reports, Olive Garden changed where they get their chicken about 7 years ago. The previous chicken was relatively good quality, but apparently the new chicken is not 100% chicken. The chicken that's in the never-ending pasta bowl is from a can.
Image Source: Reddit
You might find yourself contemplating the journey of the chicken in front of you—from its source to the can and onto your plate. It's a testament to the ever-evolving nature of the restaurant world, where even the humble chicken undergoes a culinary metamorphosis.

11. We can't prove this one, but...

Allegedly, there are bugs in the salad. We're not sure how much validity there is to this statement, and how much of it is over-dramatized from the fact that we're talking about produce here. But an employee said that they have found caterpillars and spiders in the salad mix. Hopefully they're washing it first!
Image Source: Reddit
As diners fork into their salads, the subtle question lingers—beyond the vibrant colors and crisp textures, could there be a tiny hitchhiker nestled among the leaves? One can only hope that the diligent kitchen crew ensures a thorough washing routine.

12. This is the best menu item

It kind of goes without saying, but in terms of taste and quality, the breadsticks are probably the best menu item. The bread isn't frozen; it's stored in a dry storage, and employees say when it comes to quality of ingredients and flavor, this is where it's at!
Image Source: Reddit
Unlike other items that might take a chilly detour to the freezer, the breadsticks are bestowed a special treatment. Nestled in the dry storage, each piece of doughy goodness awaits its turn to be transformed into the iconic breadstick that has become a hallmark of the Olive Garden experience.

13. The sections of the restaurant are named after wines

There's perhaps nothing more Italian sounding than good pasta paired with the perfect wine. So it kinda makes sense in sticking with the theme that the sections of the Olive Garden restaurant are named after wines to help servers remember. For example, "Table 43 is free in 'Pinot Noir.'" Kinda cute!
Image Source: Reddit
It's a delightful and thematic twist that adds a touch of whimsy to the organizational structure. This clever naming convention not only aids servers in efficiently managing their sections but also immerses them in an ambiance that resonates with the essence of an authentic Italian trattoria.

14. The restaurants had an outbreak of Norovirus

Back in 2006, Olive Garden experienced an outbreak of Norovirus, which resulted in at least 373 customers getting sick. It causes vomiting and diarrhea, which is not how you want to revisit your food... EVER! To make matters worse, it's contracted when you eat food that's been contaminated with feces or vomit from an infected person. Barf!
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The mere thought of such contamination adds an unappetizing layer to the dining narrative, turning the experience into an unfortunate episode of unintended consequences. Outbreaks are rare and swiftly addressed by health authorities, the 2006 Norovirus incident serves as a reminder of the importance of stringent hygiene practices.

15. The food isn't particularly healthy

We don't think anyone sits down to a bowl of pasta thinking about how healthy it is, but Olive Garden pasta contains an overwhelming amount of gluten, calories, and sodium. It will likely make you feel bloated or tired afterwards. A lot of customers said that they have stomach aches after eating too much.
Image Source: Reddit
The pasta dishes, though rich and flavorful, carry a weighty load of these components, potentially leaving diners feeling bloated or tired after their indulgence. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, can be particularly troublesome for those with sensitivities or intolerances.

16. The job requires a LOT of patience

Yes, we love the unlimited breadsticks and access to the food, but the job requires a lot of patience. As with most jobs in the service industry, you have some beautiful, fun moments with guests, but there's also a lot of challenging guests who leave bad tips, are super rude and demanding, and speak down to you when you're just trying to do your job.
Image Source: Yelp
For those donning the Olive Garden uniform, each day is a delicate dance between delivering exceptional service and navigating the complexities of customer interactions. It's a testament to the resilience and patience required to navigate the ebb and flow of the service industry.

17. They use a microwave a lot

This is another former employee, so it's possible the person is disgruntled, but they said that the food isn't made fresh to eat. It's often microwaved. So whether it's your veggies or sauces, and sometimes even meat, it's often just microwaved and thrown on the plate.
Image Source: Reddit
According to this insider, various components of the dishes, from veggies to sauces and even meat, don't undergo the culinary dance of pots and pans but instead take a detour through the microwave before making their grand entrance on the plate. Freshness is just an illusion!

18. You can't just eat free breadsticks

There was a time when Olive Garden almost put a limit on their breadsticks. But instead, they decided to put a system in place so people won't come in only to eat breadsticks and leave. Servers can't bring you a second basket of breadsticks until orders are placed.
Image Source: Reddit
Technically, they're not supposed to bring ANY until orders are placed. It's a delicate dance between the desire for unlimited delights and the restaurant's strategic goal of encouraging a more comprehensive exploration of the menu - as well as actually spending some bucks.

19. Employees have reported "mystery cheese"

One former employee said that the cheeses and where they're sourced is a bit of a mystery. Employees have said that there's a reason you might have a stomach ache after eating at Olive Garden, and it's more than just over-indulgence. They say the quality of the food is not good.
Image Source: Reddit
The enigma surrounding Olive Garden's cheeses adds a layer of mystery to the culinary narrative, according to insights from a former employee. Whispers suggest that the sourcing and quality of these cheeses might be a puzzle even to those behind the kitchen doors.

20. They send the chefs to cooking school, kinda

While it's true that Olive Garden sends some of its select chefs to Tuscany for cooking school, it's not what you think. They don't attend an actual Tuscan school. They have an experience that's much more relaxed than real cooking school that is orchestrated by Olive Garden itself.
Image Source: Reddit
Insider whispers suggest that Olive Garden orchestrates an experience that, while inspired by the famed Italian region, deviates from the structure of a formal cooking school. The immersion in Tuscan flavors becomes a more relaxed and curated affair, crafted by Olive Garden itself.

21. This is the worst item on the menu

Employees seem to agree that out of all the dishes, you're probably better off avoiding the chicken scampi. This is due to the incredibly high fat and salt content, and also the aforementioned fact of the chicken not being the best or 100% real. Try the Fettuccini Alfredo instead!
Image Source: Reddit
Employees, in agreement, point to the dish's notably high fat and salt content, coupled with concerns about the quality of the mystery chicken. For those seeking a savory alternative, the advice echoes in favor of steering toward another choice entirely.

22. This will definitely be your favorite spot

So it seems like the biggest perk here is the access to the food. And honestly, that's probably enough to make us want to apply. Employees say the dessert fridge is pretty impressive and will become your favorite spot. Especially after a stressful shift. We'll take one of everything, please!
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For those with a penchant for desserts, the prospect of being surrounded by a tempting array of treats could indeed be a compelling reason to consider donning the Olive Garden uniform. After all, who could resist the allure of a dessert fridge stocked with an invitation to indulge in a post-shift sweet symphony?

23. This can't be true

A former Olive Garden worker said that there was a slug problem. Specifically around the soda machine. This person said that they had to knock slugs off of the machine before filling up your drink and the managers just kind of ignored the issue. If this is true.... YIKES!
Image Source: Reddit
While it's crucial to approach such claims with a balanced perspective and consider potential motivations behind disgruntled statements, the mere possibility of such occurrences serves as a reminder of the importance of stringent hygiene practices in the food service industry.

24. You gotta be ready to work!

Servers have said that Olive Garden is a super fast-paced environment. It's very rare to have a slow shift, so get ready to be on your feet and moving and talking and carrying heavy trays. The servers call themselves the Olympians of waitstaff, if that gives you any indication!
Image Source: Reddit
The insights from server testimonials offer a glimpse into a dynamic and action-packed environment where each shift is a marathon of activity and interaction. It's a testament to the dedication and resilience of the individuals who keep the Olive Garden dining experience running smoothly.

25. The fillers might have plastic

Unfortunately, we've heard that this is probably true of just about anywhere you go these days, even if it's super high-end. It has more to do with a processing thing, but a lot of fillers these days have small, microscopic bits of plastic in them. Sounds delicious!
Image Source: Reddit
The unsettling notion of small, microscopic bits of plastic finding their way into food items is indeed a growing concern across various culinary landscapes. While it's true that such occurrences are not exclusive to any specific dining establishment and can be attributed to processing practices!

26. There are lots of work crushes

Pretty much all of the waitstaff have said that it's super fun to flirt with the other waiters. Everyone says that the staff look pretty good in their all-black uniforms, and it makes the shifts more fun and bearable if you find a little work crush to have inside jokes and cute moments with.
Image Source: Reddit
The notion of inside jokes and cute moments shared among coworkers adds a social dimension to the work experience, creating a sense of camaraderie that goes beyond the functional aspects of the job. This playful dynamic becomes a part of the fabric of the Olive Garden team.

27. Some employees might not do a great job with hygiene

We've talked a lot about all the delicious food readily available for employees to eat, though some make take this too far. There have been reports that some employees use their fingers to pick at toppings and eat them throughout their shift without washing their hands.
Image Source: Reddit
If true, such behaviors raise significant concerns about food safety and hygiene standards within the restaurant. Proper handwashing is a fundamental practice in the food industry to prevent contamination and ensure the health and safety of both employees and customers.

28. It gets worse

We also found out that Olive Garden apparently took away the sanitizing wipes that a lot of the servers used. So it's said that a lot of them don't wash their hands after picking at the food or touching other objects before bringing it out to your table.
Image Source: Twitter
Proper handwashing and sanitizing are critical in the food service industry to prevent the spread of contaminants and uphold high standards of cleanliness. The reported challenges faced by servers in accessing sanitizing wipes may raise questions about the restaurant's commitment to maintaining a hygienic environment.

29. They dread the dinner time rush

While it definitely makes the time pass quickly, most employees say the dinner time rush is unbearable. They said that without fail, the lobby is packed with people who are incredibly hangry, and they have the unpleasant task of telling them it will be over an hour to be seated at a table. Be nice to your service staff!
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delivering the news of an hour-long wait becomes an unenviable task. The term "hangry" aptly captures the mood of the crowd, and the employees find themselves in the challenging position of conveying less-than-ideal news to a hungry and potentially frustrated audience.

30. But when you're here, your family

The employees do hold true to the Olive Garden motto. Even when things are busy or challenging, they do try to give every customer the best experience they can and make sure they feel like they're at home enjoying a meal with their family. This is what has kept people coming back for years, and why it's always crowded!
Image Source: Yelp
In the world of dining out, where ambiance and service play pivotal roles in shaping the overall experience, the efforts of Olive Garden employees to uphold a sense of warmth and hospitality contribute significantly to the restaurant's enduring appeal.

31. It was founded in Florida, not Italy

Olive Garden is all about that Italian food and culture, and it's basically its personality - but it wasn't founded in Italy, as much as it would like to think that it's Italian: it was founded in Florida, USA. It was founded in 1982 by the company General Mills, which owns other chains.
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Olive Garden's success in presenting an Italian-inspired dining experience in a distinctly American setting speaks to the diverse and dynamic nature of the restaurant industry, where culinary influences and cultural themes are skillfully woven together.

32. They ALMOST cut down on breadsticks

Breadsticks are the reason people go to Olive Garden 99.9% of the time, but did you know they almost agreed to the decision to cut down on breadsticks? This was after someone brought up the valid point of how much money they lose on unlimited breadsticks - luckily, they didn't agree to get rid of them altogether.
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The discussion arose from a financial perspective, with concerns about the potential losses incurred by offering unlimited breadsticks. While the deliberation took place, Olive Garden ultimately decided against the drastic measure of getting rid of the beloved breadsticks altogether.

33. There's a rule how many breadsticks you actually get, too

Although they didn't put a strict rule on the breadsticks situation, there is a policy that the servers follow in terms of how many breadsticks you're allowed to have. The server should bring one stick per person at the table, plus an extra one, for the very first basket they bring.
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After that, they bring only one per person. This policy reflects a strategic balance between offering the beloved breadsticks generously while ensuring that the flow is controlled, potentially aligning with considerations related to operational efficiency and cost management.

34. And they know how to deal with a breadstick scam!

If you're thinking you might try and scam the system by only eating the free breadsticks, they're already onto you! You can't go hoping to just eat all the breadsticks, drink water and get a free meal. The servers bring the first complementary breadsticks but they're not allowed to bring anymore until you've officially placed an order.
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While the allure of those freshly baked breadsticks is undeniable, Olive Garden's policy reflects a commitment to maintaining a fair and sustainable approach to the dining experience, encouraging patrons to explore the diverse range of offerings on the menu.

35. You can get free stuff through the rewards app

Did you know you can get free Olive Garden items through the official app? If you go to the restaurant too many times to count, then it's definitely worth downloading the app to get a load of freebies. The rewards include free appetizers, and a free dessert on your birthday!
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This program not only enhances the overall customer experience but also serves as a strategic approach to customer retention and engagement. By providing tangible benefits to app users, Olive Garden encourages diners to continue their patronage and reap the rewards of their loyalty.

36. You can even use the rewards at other restaurants

Not only that, but the rewards you can tally up through the Olive Garden app can actually be used at other restaurants, not just Olive Garden. As long as the restaurant is owned by Darden like Olive Garden is - which gives you an option of six different restaurants - you can use the deals!
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This multi-restaurant approach allows customers to explore a diverse range of experiences, all while enjoying the advantages and savings earned through their loyalty to the Darden family of restaurants. It fosters brand loyalty but also provides a broader and more inclusive incentive.

37. You can use more than one coupon if you split the bill

Instead of one person at the table paying for the whole bill so you can sort out who owes what once you get home, and then only use one discount coupon for the bill at a time, you can actually save more money if you split the bill. You can use a coupon per portion payment.
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This clever approach allows each diner to take advantage of the available discounts, ensuring that the benefits of any applicable coupons are fully utilized across the entire group. By strategically applying discounts to individual portions, diners can collectively enjoy the best possible value for their meal.

38. There's a specific time that's the best time to eat

Did you know there's an optimal time to go and eat at Olive Garden? This one might be a tough one for people who work through the week 9-5, but if you wanted to pull a sicky, the best time to go is actually Monday to Friday, between 3pm and 5pm. This is because they have some great deals on food during this time.
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During this window, Olive Garden often offers enticing deals on food, presenting an opportunity for diners to enjoy their favorite dishes at a more budget-friendly price. People can take advantage of this off-peak period may find themselves enjoying both the culinary delights and the added benefit of cost savings.

39. They don't use salt in the pasta water

So you don't need to be Italian to know that you should put salt in the water of pasta when you're cooking it - but if you are Italian, it's an even bigger insult not to do this. At Olive Garden, they don't use salt in the pasta water at all, because of it compromising the lifespan of the pots.
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The decision not to use salt in the pasta water at Olive Garden also reflects the standardized approach often adopted by chain restaurants. Chain establishments like Olive Garden typically adhere to carefully calibrated recipes and cooking methods to ensure consistency across their locations.

40. The desserts are frozen!

The desserts are delicious, no doubt about it - but they're also frozen, not freshly made. But this isn't too bad when you consider it's much better to enjoy a frozen dessert than a frozen main meal. The good news is some stuff at Olive Garden is freshly prepared... even if it's not all of it.
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The decision to use frozen desserts may be driven by factors such as convenience, consistency, and efficiency. Managing a large-scale operation like Olive Garden involves striking a balance between delivering a delightful dining experience and streamlining certain aspects of food preparation.

41. It's not an authentic menu (awkward)

We already mentioned that restaurant was started in the USA and not Italy, so it might not be a huge surprise that you're not getting authentic Italian dishes all the time when you eat here! The food is inspired by the cuisine of Italy, of course, but that doesn't mean it's authentic.
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This disclosure aligns with the broader trend in the restaurant industry, where establishments often blend influences from various culinary traditions to create an accessible dining experience. While Olive Garden may not replicate the authenticity of Italian home cooking, it succeeds with satisfying a wide range of diners.

42. You can customize your meals

In case you didn't know, you can absolutely customize your meals at Olive Garden! Just in case something on the menu isn't cutting it for you. As long as they have the menu items on site, you can pretty much create whatever you want if you ask and they have it - like something that's no longer on the menu.
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Olive Garden's willingness to accommodate custom orders, within the availability of on-site ingredients, adds an extra layer of choice and creativity to the dining experience, ensuring that customers can enjoy a meal that suits their individual palate.

43. You can actually bring your own wine

Olive Garden is big on its wine stuff (the bottles on display, the sections being name after wine) so you might think they'd be offended if you brought your own to drink. Nope! They do have a corkage fee if you bring your own bottle to drink, which is around $7... so cheaper than if you actually bought one at the restaurant.
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The fact that Olive Garden permits customers to bring their own wine and charges a corkage fee of around $7 showcases a customer-friendly approach. It adds a layer of convenience for patrons who have specific preferences or wish to enjoy a special bottle with their meal.

44. You can order Italian Soda - but it won't be on the menu

Italian soda is a hugely refreshing drink, made from syrups that don't have any caffeine in them. You won't find this drink on the official menu to order because it's a secret menu item - but you can ask for it and they should bring it to you! Perfect if you don't want wine.
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Italian soda, typically made from flavored syrups and carbonated water, provides a caffeine-free alternative for those who prefer a non-alcoholic option or simply want a different kind of beverage. This information empowers patrons to explore beyond the standard menu!

45. They even have a free wine tasting!

Even though they let you bring your own, they're very proud of the wine they have over there, and they'll even let you have a little tasting for free - just so they can show it off! They have over 25 different wine flavors to choose from, ranging from light to full-bodied.
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The opportunity for a complimentary wine tasting not only allows customers to sample and select a wine that complements their meal but also serves as a demonstration of Olive Garden's pride in its curated wine offerings. This gesture aligns with the broader trend in the culinary world.

46. Olive Garden is pretty hated for some reason

There actually seems to be a lot of hate on social media and the internet as a whole for Olive Garden, despite how famous their breadsticks are. This is mostly because people think it's a bit overpriced or poor quality "authentic" food that you could get at an independent restaurant for much better!
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Different diners have varied preferences when it comes to culinary experiences. Some appreciate the reliability and familiarity of chain restaurants, while others seek out one-of-a-kind flavors and innovative dishes that may be more commonly found in independent establishments.

47. And a food critic went famous for praising Olive Garden... for a strange reason

With that in mind, you'd expect the food critics to be out in full force with awful reviews. But when one food critic, Marilyn Hagerty, actually wrote a glowing review for the place, it went viral simply because it was a genuinely good review and people were mocking it.
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The internet often amplifies and distorts reactions to content, and in this case, the review may have become the subject of memes or jokes, contributing to its viral nature and widespread criticism. Internet culture has a way of turning unexpected moments into trends.

48. But it was actually an instant success

Despite what people might think about it this days - and it clearly still has a popular following - it can't be denied that Olive Garden was an instant success when it was first opened. When the first restaurant opened in Orlando, Florida, it quickly matched Red Lobster for sales!
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The restaurant's menu, featuring unlimited breadsticks, salad, and a variety of pasta dishes, provided a unique and appealing dining proposition. The combination of comfort food and the alluring "endless" options contributed to its huge popularity in the beginning.

49. The original appeal was salad - not breadsticks

While people might flock there now to try and get as many breadsticks as possible - and while you might be surprised that it was something healthy that at first drew people in - it was indeed a salad that had people hooked. It was the temptation of unlimited salad that had people going!
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The emphasis on freshness and the availability of unlimited salad appealed to diners who were looking for healthier dining options. In a landscape where many casual dining establishments focused on hearty and indulgent dishes, Olive Garden's salad offering stood out.

50. You can buy a bottle of the salad dressing from your server

Say what you want about their salads - or salads in general - but there's no denying that the salad dressing from Olive Garden is often the highlight of a visit. You can actually buy it from the restaurant by asking your server, and they should sell you a bottle! Saves you trying to create your own replica at home!
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The fact that Olive Garden allows customers to purchase bottles of their salad dressing to take home adds an extra layer of customer engagement and brand loyalty. By offering this option, Olive Garden not only provides a convenient way for customers to enjoy the flavor of their favorite dressing.