There's a reason Olive Garden is the largest full-service Italian food chain in the United States. The successful restaurant does a lot to embody its slogan "We're All Family Here." From their never-ending pasta pass to their hilarious Ask Alfredo tweets, these things make Olive Garden all the more delizioso!
They Don't Salt Their Water
Anyone who makes pasta at home knows that it's commonplace to salt the water before adding in the pasta. Infusing the boiling water with salt is said to add flavor to the finished product.
Whether that technique is effective or not, Olive Garden doesn't buy into it. According to Business Insider, the restaurant skips the salt so that their pots will last longer. Apparently, seasoning the pasta afterward is sufficient, plus it's better for cookware.
There's An Olive Garden Cooking School
You may remember the Olive Garden commercials that featured chefs wearing the company logo on their coats while cooking in Italy. The spots were meant to reflect the Olive Garden cooking school, which is a real thing and is actually located in Tuscany!
The Olive Garden Culinary Institute has been around since 1999 and is a place exclusively for the chain's top-performing chefs. Olive Garden's best 100 chefs get to spend 11 weeks taking authentic Italian cooking lessons there!
The Times Square Location Goes BIG On New Year's Eve
Times Square is the place to be on New Year's Eve if you're looking to party, and Olive Garden is no exception. Guests who want to dine at the in-demand location on New Year's Eve will need to drop $400 on a reservation.
That may seem like a steep price for such a value-oriented restaurant, but it's actually a great deal. The restaurant has three floors of dancing and a DJ that plays until 1 A.M.! There's also bottomless food and drinks on the house!
They Have Centuries-Old Italian Menu Items
One thing that Olive Garden strives for is authenticity. When their piadina hit the menu, some speculated that they were doing a twist on the quesadilla. In actuality, this appetizer is a street snack that originated in Italy.
Not only is it genuine Italian food, but it's been around for centuries! The appetizer has two variations, both of which are loaded with Italian ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, basil, Italian cheese sauce, roasted red peppers, and grilled chicken.
They Bring In A Ton Of Revenue Despite Value Pricing
Of all of the restaurants that parent company Darden owns, Olive Garden is the most value-oriented. Its per person check average was a sixth that of sibling restaurant Capital Grille in 2009!
Even so, Olive Garden brings in more than half of Darden's overall revenue each year. This isn't that much of a surprise considering Olive Garden has more than 900 locations in the country. Today, they are the largest chain of Italian-themed full-service restaurants in the US.
It Used To Be Sister Companies With Red Lobster
Diners who love both Olive Garden and Red Lobster may be happy to hear that the two used to be sister companies. Both were owned by Darden Restaurants until 2014, at which point Darden sold Red Lobster to Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion.
Olive Garden still has many other restaurant "siblings" (aka those Darden also owns). These include Yard House, LongHorn Steakhouse, Eddie V's, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, and Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen.
They Tweet Out Dating Advice
Like many companies these days, Olive Garden has social media accounts to keep fans in the loop about new menu items and deals. What makes their Twitter account a little special, though, is the Ask Alfredo hashtag!
Anyone can tweet out a romance-related question with #AskAlfredo in it, and the company will actually respond with a clever joke! One person asked what they should order for their Valentine's Day date, and the company replied, "You already gnocchi what we're going to say!"
They Make Their Soups From Scratch Every Morning
If you're paying that massive upcharge for a bowl of soup from a restaurant, you want to be sure it isn't full of canned ingredients. Even worse, it could be leftover from another day!
At Olive Garden, you won't have to worry about either of those things. One of their representatives told Popsugar that the soups are all made from scratch every morning! Not only that, but they also use fresh, whole ingredients, not the canned stuff.
The Never-Ending Pasta Pass Is Worth Hundreds On eBay!
Back in 2013, Olive Garden started the insanely popular promotion where you could get a "Never Ending Pasta Bowl" for just $9.99! After selling 13 million bowls of pasta, they got the idea to morph the promotion into the "Never Ending Pasta Pass."
Starting in 2014, guests could use this $99 pass and use it to eat all the pasta they want for a seven-week period. Though the promotion became an annual tradition, only the first 1,000 buyers could get one. As a result, passes have sold for upwards of $900 on eBay!
Their Servers Get Stellar Discounts
Many restaurants offer their servers a discount on the food. After all, it's important that servers try the items they're selling! However, Olive Garden has one of the best deals for their staff.
Not only do servers get 50% off meals any day that they work, but they also can take advantage of unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks for a measly dollar! Hopefully, their uniforms are stretchy because that deal would have us eating all day long!
Their Gluten-Free Pasta Is Imported From Italy
Having a gluten allergy can be a huge disappointment to someone who loves Italian food. Fortunately, Olive Garden understands that, so they rolled out a gluten-free pasta! They didn't cheap out on their gluten-free alternative, either.
These noodles are imported all the way from Italy! Manufacturers use brown rice flour as the primary wheat substitute for the best texture possible. Chefs also cook the pasta in separate cookware to avoid cross-contamination. The restaurant also has a gluten-free menu available on their website.
Olive Garden's Logo Has Changed Multiple Times
If you've ever had a hard time recognizing an Olive Garden, that's probably because they've changed their logo five times. Their first logo was very simple and simply read "The Olive Garden" in green cursive.
The next logo added "Italian Restaurant" to the name in all caps. It wasn't until 1998 that the logo featured those recognizable purple grapes in the corner. They then added a tan backdrop, before nixing the whole thing and coming up with the modernized logo it is today!
The Restaurant Was Founded In 1982
With how many Olive Gardens there are all over America, it's hard to imagine a time when they weren't around. In actuality, they only date back to 1982. That year, General Mills, Inc. started the restaurant chain. The first Olive Garden appeared in Orlando, Florida.
It quickly became General Mills' fastest-growing restaurant, with 145 locations open in just seven years. General Mills eventually created Darden Restaurants, a company reserved for just its restaurant holdings. Olive Garden now has almost 100,000 employees!
Chicken Alfredo Is Their Most Popular Dish
Olive Garden has so many desirable dishes that it's hard to guess which one is the most popular. Spaghetti and meatballs is one of the more common dishes at Italian restaurants, but it isn't the most sought-after at Olive Garden.
A representative for the restaurant chain told Popsugar that the most-ordered dish is actually the Chicken Alfredo. Between the creamy sauce, tender chicken, and filling pasta, it's no wonder this entree is a fan favorite.
They Have Locations Around The World
Olive Garden is such a hit that they've even expanded to other countries. They have eight locations in Canada, including two in Manitoba and in Saskatchewan, three in Alberta, and one in British Columbia.
There are also restaurants south of the border in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Cancun. Olive Garden has even expanded overseas to Kuwait, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, and the Philippines! So if you're taking a trip and yearning for Italian food, Olive Garden may be in town.
For 125 bucks, Olive Garden will set you up with full-blown catering tins for your to-go order. Enjoy spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmigiana, chicken marsala, breadsticks, salad, and so much more!
It's a pretty solid catering option considering how much bang you get for your buck! One sure-fire way to ensure that all of your guests leave happy is to fill them up with delicious carbohydrates. Everyone will be talking about the food coma you put them in. Thanks, Olive Garden!
The Breadsticks Make For Really Delicious Pizzas
The next time you end up with a bag of leftover Olive Garden breadsticks, it may be worth trying a couple of delicious at-home meals that appeared on MasterChef Junior. The first idea is to cut up the breadsticks and toast them to make crostinis.
Top them with Olive Garden meatballs for a quick lunch that coworkers will envy. Another idea is to cut the breadsticks in half and layer them with red sauce and cheese for a personal pizza! The restaurant debuted both of these appetizers in honor of season 2 winner Logan Guleff.
You Can Buy Their Italian Dressing
One thing that Olive Garden is known for is their soup, salad, and lunch deal. While salad seems like the least appetizing part of an Italian restaurant, Olive Garden's dressing takes it to the next level.
Their first slogan was even, "Good Times, Great Salad, Olive Garden." Yeah, the salad was the original selling point! That's how good the dressing is, which is why it's also available for purchase. It's available online from numerous stores.
They Give Discounts On Expensive Gift Cards
Olive Garden gift cards are now easier than ever with their digital versions that you can send electronically. You can also buy Olive Garden gift cards online for US or Canada locations.
They've even partnered with Fandango to create dinner and movie combo packs. If all that wasn't exciting enough, they'll knock off 5% for any gift card purchase over $500. If you exceed $1,000, that discount gets bumped up to 10%, which is $100+ off.
They Have A Coloring App For Kids
For decades, restaurants have offered coloring pages and crayons to keep kids occupied while they wait for their meals to be prepared. Olive Garden took that concept into the digital age with their coloring app!
The app enables kids to color in their characters and bring them to life! Naturally, the characters are all modeled after ingredients that go into Olive Gardens dishes. These include Ollie the Olive, Gina Grape, Bene Breadstick, Tonya Tomato, and Ricky Ravioli.