Olive Garden is the American-based, Italian food restaurant chain that is best known for its all-you-can-eat soups, salads, pasta, and breadsticks.
While there may be very little about Olive Garden that is authentically Italian, its customers still go wild for the breadsticks that come with every meal.
However, some people refuse to even have the breadsticks at their table because they’re worried that they’ll be charged for them.
Olive Garden has sent a price on the breadsticks, but customers aren’t always going to be paying that price.
Do You Have To Pay For Breadsticks At Olive Garden?
No, you do not have to pay for breadsticks at Olive Garden when they are set on your table.
If you wanted to only eat the breadsticks, then you would be charged $3.99 for the order of breadsticks.
For the holidays, Olive Garden also offers unbaked breadsticks for the same price as its regular breadsticks for the Extra Breadsticks for Santa special.
Instead of baking cookies with the children for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, families can now bake Olive Garden’s signature breadsticks and leave them out for Santa Claus to find instead of cookies.
For those who are intrigued by Olive Garden’s peculiar offer, the website offers step-by-step instructions on how to make your home-baked breadsticks taste just as good as they do in the restaurant.
While the breadsticks may not cost you anything if you order other food at the restaurant, there is a limit to how many breadsticks your server is allowed to bring to the table.
Olive Garden’s breadstick policy that your server must follow is that each table gets one breadstick for every person plus an additional breadstick “for the table”.
The additional breadstick keeps servers from having to refill the breadstick basket immediately.
The breadstick policy went into effect after a 2014 vote among Olive Garden’s investors.
Although the company claims that the policy was put into place to limit the amount of food wasted, it has also helped the company cut back on costs.
At the time of the vote, Olive Garden was annually serving between 675 million and 700 million breadsticks each year.
In another attempt to save money, the investors also decided to use lower-quality to-go containers.
With the additional money saved, Olive Garden began using better ingredients, salting the pasta water, and increasing alcohol sales.
Does Olive Garden Microwave Its Food?
During an Ask Me Anything session on the online forum website Reddit, commenters were able to ask whatever questions they wanted to of an Olive Garden employee.
When asked if Olive Garden served frozen food, the employee told the commenters that nearly all of Olive Garden’s food needed to be microwaved.
Another commenter who claimed to be a bartender for the restaurant chain agreed with the employee and added that Olive Garden’s meats were all frozen because it would be nearly impossible to get fresh meat to every Olive Garden every day.
Olive Garden never came out officially to confirm or deny any of the claims made by the Redditors.
This caused the rumor to spread like wildfire and Olive Garden saw a considerable drop in customers.
However, some employees have come out and sworn that Olive Garden only uses the microwave to warm certain dishes.
The microwaves at Olive Gardens are used on potatoes, vegetables, desserts, a few types of meat, and your sauces.
Your entire meal isn’t made in the microwave, and it is normally just used to keep your dishes warm.
The microwaves come in especially handy for larger tables because every member of your party’s food has to come out at the same time.
Many people have questioned how ethical it is to be using a microwave in a professional kitchen setting.
The problem isn’t when a restaurant uses a microwave during their food preparation process, it’s about how the microwave is used and whether the restaurant is being honest about its use of the microwave.
It’s normal for a professional kitchen to have a microwave in its kitchen arsenal.
They’re regularly used for softening butter or warming food that is waiting for other food to be cooked before it can be served.
Does Olive Garden Serve Frozen Food?
Yes, Olive Garden serves frozen food to their customers, but the reports of how much of the food is prepared in-house versus how much comes to the store frozen are mixed.
There are a few common points between contradictory answers.
Some people claim that the majority of the food served at Olive Garden is made fresh in-house.
While both sides of the argument can agree that all of Olive Garden’s soup, salads, and pasta is made fresh, the meat dishes have not been spoken for.
When previous employees have been questioned about the way that Olive Garden uses the microwave, employees in support of Olive Garden say that it is only used to warm up the frozen sauces and desserts.
During an interview with PopSugar, an Olive Garden representative clarified that the Pasta e Fagioli, Chicken & Gnocchi, Minestrone, and Zuppa Toscana are all made from scratch every morning in each restaurant’s kitchen.
Dishes such as the ravioli and manicotti are shipped to the restaurants frozen regularly to keep up with demand.
The breadsticks aren’t frozen on arrival, but they do come raw, so all the kitchen staff has to do is smother them in butter and garlic sauce before popping them in the oven.
Although the company later released its policy against warming entrees up in the microwave, it has yet to make any statement about the percentage of its menu that is sent to the restaurants frozen.
All consumers know is that their entrees must be pan-fried, deep-fried, baked, or grilled to be served to the customer.
As far as chain restaurants go, Olive Garden is far from the worst about serving frozen food to its guests.
Restaurant chains such as Applebee’s and Outback Steakhouse are much worse about frozen food.
Why Does Olive Garden’s Alfredo Sauce Taste Different?
For those who have had authentic Italian Alfredo sauce, you may find that Olive Garden’s Alfredo sauce tastes different.
Unlike traditional Alfredo sauces, Olive Garden’s sauce adds heavy cream or milk to make the sauce thicker.
Although the sauce is often called the “Americanized” version of Alfredo sauce, Olive Garden’s customers are willing to buy the sauce by the bottle.
When Olive Garden started in the 1980s, it was looking for ways to put its own twist on many classic Italian dishes.
Normally, Alfredo sauce doesn’t have any dairy products other than butter and cheese.
Olive Garden’s version of the sauce has butter, milk, heavy cream, flour, garlic, and imported cheeses such as Romano and parmesan.
The recipe calls for one tablespoon of minced garlic cloves, which is about three or four cloves.
For those interested in making the sauce at home, you will also need salt, pepper, and some fresh parsley for garnish.
Because of the creamy taste, Olive Garden’s alfredo sauce pairs well with both chicken and shrimp.
Those who may not be the best at cooking but can’t get enough of the restaurant’s sauce will be able to buy it by the pint at the Olive Garden locations or order it to go online.
Each pint will cost you $7.99.
In 2020, Olive Garden decided to allow its stores to add 30% more Alfredo sauce after receiving comments from patrons that the pasta barely had enough sauce.
While some consumers were concerned that this would cause the price of the dishes to be increased, Olive Garden promised that this sauce-related upgrade was going to be completely free of charge for the consumer.
Is The Endless Food Deal Worth It?
Yes, the endless pasta deal can be well worth the $7.99 to $9.99 for all of the pasta, soup, salad, and breadsticks you can eat.
Those who are not used to eating a lot of food in one sitting, however, may want to consider another option.
Olive Garden knows what they’re doing when they’re offering their patrons all the soup, salad, or pasta that their patrons can eat in a single sitting.
They’re offering patrons the cheapest foods to make large quantities of and the foods that are going to fill up their patrons the fastest.
When considering ordering endless pasta, soups, or salads, you could consider what kind of each dish you are going to eat.
For the Olive Garden superfan, there was the Never Ending Pasta Pass which ended in 2019.
The Never Ending Pasta Pass allowed customers to come to eat any pasta off of their Never Ending Pasta menu as many times as they wanted within a nine-month span.
The pass did not apply to any takeout orders, only dine-in.
They also had the Lifetime Pasta Pass for a limited number of customers, which offered the same benefits as the Never Ending Pasta Pass for the rest of your life.
For those wanting to purchase the lifetime pass, you would first have needed to purchase the Never Ending Pasta Pass for $100.
Once you have completed the nine-month period, you may have become eligible to purchase the Lifetime Pasta Pass.
There were only 50 Lifetime pass holders at a time, meaning that you would have had to wait for someone to be taken off the list.
Eligible customers would be notified by email and must reply within 48 hours, or the next person on the list of nine-month pass holders would be notified about the opportunity.
When upgrading to the Lifetime Pass, pass holders were charged $400.
Unfortunately, the Never Ending Pasta Pass and the Lifetime Pasta Pass were discontinued in 2019, but one can always hope for a big comeback.
Does Olive Garden Really Send Its Chefs To Italy?
Yes, Olive Garden sends a select few of its chefs to go study at its seasonal training school in Tuscany, Italy.
However, the classes are more like beginner-friendly seminars and don’t go very deep into the ways of Italian cooking.
Olive Garden has teamed up with a Tuscan hotel that allows the chain restaurant to use the hotel as a school during its off-season.
The hotel offers plenty of rooms for the students to stay in and the small restaurant attached to the hotel gives the chefs a place to watch authentic Italian chefs cook some of Olive Garden’s dishes.
The hotel is small and only has about 20 rooms for guests to stay in.
The classes are normally quite short, only lasting about an hour each day.
During the rest of the day, the Olive Garden staff is sent to tour the hotel grounds and other parts of Italy.
The Tuscan trip serves more of a public relations and marketing purpose than any kind of educational purpose.
At the end of each tour, the group is dressed up in chef’s outfits to take photos with the local chefs.
Then Olive Garden sends the photo and pre-written article out to the local newspapers to get people in the mood for their food.
The trip is strictly reserved for chefs, but Olive Garden is known to send managers to the site as well.
While the trip may not be as educational as Olive Garden makes it out to be, you won’t hear the employees of Olive Garden complaining about a free trip to Italy.
When eating at one of the Olive Garden locations, you can see the training facility on the front page of the menu.
The vineyard on the front of Olive Garden’s menu sits in front of the hotel.
What Happens To Unused Food At Olive Garden?
Olive Garden works with Feeding America to help spread its unused food across the many locations’ local food drives.
Through Feeding America’s Harvest program, Olive Garden has been able to donate 40 million pounds of unused food from their restaurants since 2004.
Olive Garden has been known to donate food that is deemed imperfect.
Whether that be dented packaging or a dish that has been broken into pieces during the delivery process, Olive Garden is unwilling to serve these foods to their paying customers.
One Olive Garden in Maryland has donated more than 42,000 meals to one of its local food drives.
Since 2003, the Salisbury Olive Garden has donated 51,200 pounds of food to the Joseph House.
However, Olive Garden doesn’t handle all of its donations by itself.
The company has instead teamed up with Food Donation Connection, a service that connects major chain restaurants with the food drives that need their dishes the most.
Food Donation Connection’s goal is to reduce the amount of food that is being wasted across the country and use it to feed those in need.
Americans annually throw away about 96 billion pounds of food, which is more than 25% of all the food that is prepared annually.
Everyday consumers aren’t the ones who are wasting the majority of food, but rather the fast-food and restaurant industries.
To Food Donation Connections and many food industry employees, it is important that the food goes towards feeding the hungry rather than rotting in some landfill.
Although Olive Garden doesn’t have the best reputation, its food and service are better than some people on the internet may have you believe.