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

By molly atherton 11 months ago

1. They really hate the music

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Content Source: Femanin.comThe 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!

2. The decorative wine bottles are full

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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.

3. They never get tired of breadsticks

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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?

4. Your manager holds a lot of power

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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.

5. Hopefully you like the smell

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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!

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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!

7. Tipping the host/hostess doesn't work

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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 :)

8. Self-presentation is important

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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.

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

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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.

10. The chicken isn't real!

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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.

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

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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!

12. This is the best menu item

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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!

13. The sections of the restaurant are named after wines

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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!

14. The restaurants had an outbreak of Norovirus

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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!

15. The food isn't particularly healthy

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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.

16. The job requires a LOT of patience

Image Source: Yelp
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.

17. They use a microwave a lot

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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.

18. You can't just eat free breadsticks

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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. Technically, they're not supposed to bring ANY until orders are placed.

19. Employees have reported "mystery cheese"

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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.

20. They send the chefs to cooking school, kinda

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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.

21. This is the worst item on the menu

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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!

22. This will definitely be your favorite spot

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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!

23. This can't be true

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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!

24. You gotta be ready to work!

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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!

25. The fillers might have plastic

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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!

26. There are lots of work crushes

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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.

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

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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.

28. It gets worse

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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.

29. They dread the dinner time rush

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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!

30. But when you're here, your family

Image Source: Yelp
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!

31. It was founded in Florida, not Italy

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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.

32. They ALMOST cut down on breadsticks

image source: reddit.com
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.

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

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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. After that, they bring only one per person.

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

image source: reddit.com
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.

35. You can get free stuff through the rewards app

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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!

36. You can even use the rewards at other restaurants

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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!

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

40. The desserts are frozen!

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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.

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

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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.

42. You can customize your meals

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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.

43. You can actually bring your own wine

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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.

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

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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.

45. They even have a free wine tasting!

image source: tripadvisor.com
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.

46. Olive Garden is pretty hated for some reason

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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!

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

image source: thewashingtonpost.com
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.

48. But it was actually an instant success

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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!

49. The original appeal was salad - not breadsticks

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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!

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

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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!