Olive Garden's Waitstaff Gets All The Food Perks You Dream Of

As with any benefits, employee meal perks can vary widely from restaurant to restaurant. While generous employers may give their workers a free meal during each shift, others offer a 50% discount at best, while the cheapest of them all may even charge employees full price for anything they consume while at work. So when a TikTok from a former Olive Garden employee touting all the free food she was able to devour on shift went viral, many a food service worker no doubt considered putting their own applications in.

Although the video has since been taken down, Distractify was able to capture quite a few quotes from the former employee. "The employees get to eat soup, salad, and bread for free the whole shift, pretty much," Morgan Porter is reported to have said. 

But that's not all — she also described how she got to sample one of everything when she started working there. "The training process is so much fun. At my Olive Garden, we taste-tested every food on the menu so we could tell the customers what's good and what isn't."

Compared to many other chains, Olive Garden is pretty generous with many of its employee benefits. Still, this almost sounds too good to be true. As it turns out, the facts behind Olive Garden claims like this appear to vary from location to location.

Some Olive Gardens do offer freebies, others not so much

While some Olive Garden locations may offer their employees at least some kind of free food during their shifts, quite a few respondents on Glassdoor begged to differ, with at least one employee claiming that they would be lucky to get a couple of free breadsticks. Others said that they only received a 25% discount.

Some workers did agree that they got soup, salad, and breadsticks while on shift — although a couple claimed there was a nominal fee of $1. Another employee claimed their location offered free create-your-own pasta dishes and 50% off menu prices. The most common response was from workers who agreed that the 50% discount while on shift was the norm at their restaurants, while others noted that they were allowed to choose free food from a limited menu.

It's not that surprising to find such variation among Olive Garden locations. After all, many chains and franchises offer differing pay and benefits across restaurants and regions. So, if you're counting on free food when you apply, it might be wise to ask the location's employees what they actually get.

What about free food during training?

Many sit-down restaurants include tastings as a part of their menu training. There's a good reason why they do this, too. By allowing their wait staff to try each item, they'll be more apt to remember the exact ingredients. Servers will also be better equipped to recommend dishes if they've tried everything on the menu. Menu sampling can vary by restaurant, with some places allowing new employees to order a new entree on each of their training shifts. When a new restaurant opens, the staff often samples everything together — thus trying a few bites from each menu item instead of a whole dish. And when new menu items are added, employees will often sample those as well.

The practice is common enough that Olive Garden probably offers its menu as a part of its training program as well. Of course, as with most perks, this could depend on the location. Ultimately, management gets to decide, and they may not offer the same sampling opportunities to all positions, so again, it would be best to check if that's what you're going for.