Dining Tips From the Former Olive Garden Waitress

You may or may not know that I used to serve at the Olive Garden. It was a great experience, I had a lot of fun, and I got some great discounts on marvelous food. It was awesome, but some of my customers didn’t really realize all that my job entailed, and were really quick to anger. I will bet you money that when your server applied for their job, they just wanted to take orders and serve food, not worry about add on percentages, average wait times, and alcohol sales. But unfortunately that’s what the OG and any other chain restraint has become, a corporate soul eating, money machine.
Ok maybe not that bad, they had some great bennies (benefits). But these days even waiting tables now includes trying to sell your butt off. It sucks, and the wait staff hates it. So in the name of justice for the wait staff I’m throwing in some golden Olive Garden waitress knowledge from personal experience. Most of this stuff can be applied to other chains as well.

Dress it Down

If you’re trying to weight watch, for the love of PETE do not eat the dressing on the salad. Yes it’s good. And so high calorie it’s crazy. Ask your waitress to bring the balsamic vinegar and olive oil that they keep in the back.

Much Healthier

Also weight watchers, there is a “Lighter Fare” menu. It usually has to be specially requested, but has great options. And be aware that most of the soups are pretty high cal, exception of Minestrone.

NEPB

If you come during the “Never Ending Pasta Bowl” promo, the first plate is a normal sized plate. Every bowl ordered after is exactly that. A bowl. The portion won’t be huge either. If your goal is to try all the sauces, you can put two sauces on your pasta. If you or anyone in your group order more than two bowls, please tip well. Your server has to fight the crowd of 30 other waiters on a busy night to get you your refill. The cooks might try and push your order off as unimportant. It’s flippin frustrating. Don’t be that guy. I guarantee every waiter hates that stupid promo.

What to Get?

If calories are not a concern, try the lasagna fritta (appetizer), grilled shrimp carbonara, vanilla Italian cream soda, and the black tie mousse cake. You’re welcome.

Keeping Them Waiting

Don’t sit in an empty section during lunch and read a book well after everyone else has left. The waiters usually only get a quick break and then work the dinner shift as well. Or they are ready to go home or to night class, and need to clean their section. They cannot leave until you are gone, no matter what. If you want to linger somewhere and enjoy the atmosphere, go to a coffee shop.

Corporate Machine

The OG, and probably many other chains, grades the waiters by the amount of “add ons” they successfully sell. This includes appetizers, alcohol, drinks, specialty drinks, and desserts. Please don’t be annoyed when they greet and suggest. It’s their job. They do get griped at if they don’t have a high add on percentage. Even if you don’t like the things they suggest, take the time to look at the menu. Get a boat of Alfredo or Marinara for your breadsticks if nothing else.

Al-kee-hall

After 5 every night and all day on weekends is dinner standard. This means you automatically get a dinner menu, and your server MUST tote a bottle of wine to your table when they greet you. It’s great, we love it. Just kidding it sucks. We have to offer a sample, they’re only like a quarter. If you like wine, do your server a solid and get one, it makes them look good to boss man/woman . If you don’t like wine, get the Bellini Peach Tea or whatever fruity concoction they’ve come up with. DON’T go off on your waiter because your religion doesn’t allow drinking, or you are against it because your mom/dad/third cousin was an alcoholic, ect. You are in an ITALIAN resturaunt. Italians, pasta, wine? Helllooooo, picture getting yet? Besides how is the waitstaff supposed to know your preferences? Be couth and don’t get snappy, just politely decline and say you don’t drink.

Accidents

The trays are HEAVY! Like 50+ lbs. Balancing them on one hand all day is no easy task. And the tops get slick from everything that drips, spills, and condensates on them. So stuff slides. And stuff slides off. Accidents happen, an trays get dropped daily. If this happens around you, don’t make a huge scene. Just wait for your server to clean it up, and get you fresh food if it was your order. Want to know what’s worse than dropping a tray? Dropping one on a small child. Keep your kids in their seats, don’t let them run Always accompany the really short ones to the bathroom. Again the trays are heavy. If a kid runs out in front of someone, they’ll probably have too much momentum to stop quickly. And even if they do, something’s gonna spill. This hasn’t happened to me but if it did, I would feel terrible. Avoid putting high chairs at the ends on tables too, if possible. Who wants a tray waving over their baby’s head.

Where’s my Waiter?

Every now and again you will get a terrible waiter. It happens. I’ve seen staff stand around any talk and gossip while tables go unattended. But it isn’t your job to assume. They may have another section, or might be assisting another server, it’s SOOO common. But there is hope! At the OG and most other restaurants there’s more than one server to a section. They are called a service partner to your waiter. Make eye contact and raise your eyebrows, and they usually won’t mind helping you out.

Couponing and Tipping

My husband was raised in the country and rarely went out to eat. McDonald’s and Sonic were a big deal, especially when you grow up broke. When we moved to a bigger city, he didn’t for the life of him understand why he had to tip. When I would say “if you can afford to eat out you can afford to tip” he would stare blankly at me, he just didn’t get it. ( I would tip don’t worry) Finally when I went to work at the OG, and he saw my base pay of 2.35 he understood. Now he over tips, especially the Sonic carhops (10 bucks for a drink!?). He loves doing it because he knows it really does make a difference. That’s rent money yo.
So when you go out to eat, no matter what your financial situation, there really is no excuse for not tipping. Please don’t try to justify it by saying the food took too long ect. A good rule of thumb: if there IS an issue and you have to get a manager involved, THEN you can reduce your tip to 10%. That waiter still dedicated time to you, greeted you, and got your food. They worked for you, pay them!!!
And if you’re using a coupon and end up getting the meal really cheap, it’s still polite to tip for the 20% of the original amount. And don’t use your coupons on the day they expire, because everyone else is too and it makes checkout really hectic.

This Ain’t Yo Mama’s House

The bussers work hard too. Debatably harder than the servers. Servers rely on them so much to do things like clear our sections, restock things like straws, napkins, cups, lids, and make the tea. And they don’t make direct tips, they get paid from a tip share. If you see a busser working extra hard, or they helped you and you want to ensure that they get a good tip, give it to them directly. It’s the only way they get to keep it. Also, try not to be overly messy. Like table full of 2 year olds messy. The bigger the mess the harder the busser works. And that means the server waits longer to get more guests, which is bad for the wallet. I always stack my plates and place my silverware on top. It’s seriously the nicest thing you can do in my opinion.

Free?

This is an OG exclusive thing. THE SALAD IS NOT FREE! It is included in the cost of your entree. If you go planning to drink water and eat salad that other party members order, you technically should be charged. However, if your waiter is super cool and gives you free salad anyway, try and throw them a buck. They get in big trouble for that stuff depending on the manager. Just go in prepared to pay for what you eat an everything will be fine.

Hopefully this was more informative than it was a rant page. I could go on all day about how good the food is, and how awesome it was to get it half priced when you work there. But my dirty dishes are calling me, alas I have to go. If you’ve worked in food service, comment below about your experiences waiting tables! I’d love to hear em.

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