17 Secrets Olive Garden Doesn’t Want You to Know
Here's everything you've wanted to know about your favorite breadstick-serving restaurant.
The chain was founded in Orlando, Florida
Although Italian food and culture inspired Olive Garden, the actual restaurant was founded in Orlando, Florida in 1982. General Mills, the company that owns brands such as Pillsbury and Betty Crocker, launched the chain. Later, the company also started Darden Restaurants, Inc. which owns LongHorn Steakhouse and Yard House, among others restaurants. These are the secrets your restaurant server isn’t telling you.
The Tuscan cooking school isn’t what it seems
Yes, Olive Garden does send a select few chefs to Tuscany. But they don’t attend an actual school as some sites report. According to eater.com, the experience is more relaxed than a real cooking school.
They almost limited their breadsticks
In 2014, one Olive Garden investor presented how much money the chain loses on unlimited breadsticks. Thus, they proposed limiting the cult-favorite.
There is, however, a rule of thumb for how many breadsticks come in your basket
Olive Garden does have a policy on breadsticks. Typically, a server is supposed to bring one stick per person plus one extra for the first basket. After that, the rule of thumb is one breadstick per person. Here are the sneaky menu tricks that influence your order.
You won’t get away with only trying to eat the free breadsticks
Try as you may, servers have a system to deal with people trying to scam the restaurant. Servers are not allowed to drop the second basket of breadsticks until someone orders. Other reports claim servers aren’t even supposed to bring one basket until customers actually order.
You can get tons of freebies by downloading their rewards app
The Olive Garden App is worth downloading for people who frequent the restaurant. One perk includes free appetizers with entrees. Plus, if you sign up for Olive Garden rewards, you could get a free birthday dessert or breadstick dipping sauce.
And you can redeem them at other Darden owned restaurants
Rewards are redeemable at any of the six restaurants owned by Darden. Find out the weirdest restaurants around the world.
If you split the bill, you can use two coupons at once
Splitting the bill seems worth the hassle when you can use two coupons instead of one. These are the most overpriced foods sold in restaurants.
The best time to eat is weekdays from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Between lunch and dinner, you’ll get the best bang for your buck at Olive Garden. Their Dinner Duo deal is an $8.99 entree plus never-ending salad and breadsticks.
They don’t salt pasta water
Olive Garden, an Italian-inspired restaurant, doesn’t salt their pasta water. The restaurant overlooks this fundamental pasta-cooking rule because of salts impact on pots. According to the Wall Street Journal, putting salt in boiling water could compromise the warranties on the pots.
Some of the food is frozen
The soups are made in-house daily—but all the desserts are frozen. The pasta, however, is made to order. The restaurant only uses microwaves for heating dipping sauces and warming desserts. Otherwise, everything is pan fried, deep fried, or grilled. Find out why you need to cook your pasta in red wine.
The menu is not entirely authentic
Olive Garden is an Italian-inspired restaurant, so all of their meals aren’t necessarily authentic. In 2012, the restaurant admitted that some of its menu items aren’t found in traditional Italian cookbooks. These are the little etiquette rules you should follow when dining at a restaurant.
You can seriously customize your meals
Olive Garden has a huge menu, but you can easily finagle the menu to create your own dish if you can’t find what you want to eat. For example, it is still possible to order discontinued items like Chicken Fettuccine Florentine—if the restaurant has the right ingredients on site. Other swaps, such as changing ravioli fillings, are little-known hacks that could make your order even better.
You can bring your own wine
Bring your own wine and pay a fee at some Olive Garden locations. This “corkage fee” is usually about $7. Beware, only some locations allow outside bottles. You could also sample up to three wines for free before buying one of their bottles.
They serve Italian soda, even though it’s not on the menu
Secret menu items don’t get much better than Italian soda. Although Olive Garden took this off their menu, you could still order one with the flavors from the Olive Garden lattes for about $4.
They offer a free wine tasting
Olive Garden is very proud of its award-winning wine program. They have over 25 different wines that range from “light and sweet to dry and full-bodied.” Guests over the age of 21 are encouraged to sample a complimentary one-ounce portion of any of their wines to see if they like it.
A food critic un-ironically praised Olive Garden and got famous
Marilyn Hagerty is a local newspaper columnist for the Grand Forks Herald. In 2012, her review of a local, newly-opened Olive Garden went viral, becoming an instant sensation. She has since continued to review other restaurants. If you’re looking to save some money the next time you go out to eat, try these tips to get free food from your favorite restaurants.