"When you're here, you're family."
We have all been to this staple restaurant chain at one point or another, especially with the unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks being a staple of eating wisely – even more so on a college student's budget.
We have seen the array of the menu, ranging with fish, chicken, beef, and vegetarian options (all of which feature a 'lighter' dish or two for consumers that are careful of calories and their consumption), and their reasonable pricing to each meal. Unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks are customary to each meal, and there are options to only pay for the unlimited items if you're not interested with any other dish for the meal. Selections of wines are placed on the table accompanied by a dessert menu, a smart tactic on their part because you're immediately drawn to review and decide on a treat of either kind. Waiters are disseminated between multiple sections, and the staff is quite large in most venues. Having your meal prepared and arrive occurs quickly, with the exception of large parties, the wait time is between ten to fifteen minutes in my experience.
Olive Garden is a very nice place to eat with family and friends, truly fulfilling their promise in their slogan. However, their customer service can be unpredictable, and the business of the restaurant will determine the accuracy of the meal.
On the night that I went to Olive Garden, the restaurant was particularly busy, especially in the section that my friend and I were seated. Our waitress arrived in a timely fashion, no longer than five minutes (which was fine considering we were having a conversation), offered us a taste of their wine of night (I declined due to the fact that I'm underage), and wrote our drink orders down with our appetizer to bring out within ten minutes.
We didn't see or hear an attitude of any kind in the beginning, however as the night progressed and we asked for water or another salad, we noticed that her attitude shifted and became slightly impatient and less polite – it could have been due to another table or working hours, but it was unprofessional.
Our dinner was given to us within fifteen minutes of our appetizer, and we noticed that the sauce was wrong. We ordered the "Make Your Own Pasta" (which would be split for five dollars between us) with Cavatappi pasta and a "Meat Sauce". We didn't have many expectations because neither of us had had the meal before. Our meal arrived on two plates (which was especially helpful, so we didn't have to split the pasta ourselves and create a mess), and the sauce was steaming across the pasta and looked very delicious. It wasn't until our third or fourth bite than we realized the sauce was wrong.
We politely asked to have an extra sauce to have instead of sending the meal back (it truly wasn't necessary for a simple pasta) and there was a hint of an attitude because of our request. The rest of the staff was completely professional, and we were unaware of what caused the shift. We stayed at our table for around forty-five minutes, and we had to have our bill adjusted three times to ensure that we weren't paying the wrong amount.
It wasn't my favorite experience at the restaurant, however, I have had very pleasant experiences and meals at Olive Garden, and my opinion didn't shift much. We have all had rough days or an unprofessional moment or two (working in retail, myself included in this presumption), and I don't feel that making a judgment on an entire restaurant chain is fair because of one "off" meal.
Why does this review matter to you as a student, individual, potential consumer?
We talk about popular culture, "pop-culture", and we address topics of social media, music, television, interactions, but the food is not always brought into the categories. Popular culture is an important conversation because it naturally affects our ways of production and consumption. Our habits and natural draws to certain companies, foods, cultures, products are going to create a mass production and consumption.
Italian meals are a staple of American culture, hence the multitude of chains the exist throughout the country: Carrabba's, Olive Garden, Bucca Di Beppo – all of which claim to be authentic meals. However, if you are able to visit a true Italian restaurant, especially in Little Italy in New York, you will find that the meals are prepared much and taste vastly different. It's a cultural and local experience with chain restaurants, especially with the inclusion of pictures of Italy or floral wallpapers to exhibit the livelihood.
Such inclusions are due to the draw for consumers to build their business – building their consumption and therefore production, which creates the popular culture label.
Overall, Olive Garden is a well presented, tasteful restaurant. We can find professional customer service (on a great day) or ill-mannered staff, your food may be perfectly done or mistaken, and the collection of the bill and payments might take longer than expected. However, this is all customary to a chain restaurant and must be taken into account.
Is Olive Garden production of popular culture? Yes.
Is it unpleasant and not worth the money? Not necessarily.
A suggestion is to try new dishes and find what you like best if that's your restaurant of choice – you may find that your experience is much better than my own.
Here's to a successful review.