When people think of Olive Garden, they think of pasta and unlimited breadsticks. But it’s more than that. This restaurant is a ritual for some families to eat dinner on a weeknight or a place to celebrate special occasions like birthdays or graduations. But we bet there are some interesting facts about this chain restaurant that you didn’t know before.
Olive Garden was created with the intention of being a major chain, unlike other chain restaurants that grew organically over the years from being independently owned.
This Italian restaurant reached success almost immediately after the first Olive Garden opened in Orlando, Florida. As popularity grew, its sales soon matched those of Red Lobster.
Olive Garden is under a company called Darden Restaurants, which was named after Bill Darden, the founder of Red Lobster. Darden is also well-known for other brands such as LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, The Capital Grille and more. The company used to be a part of General Mills’ brand-expansion experiment until 1995.
If the rustic stone façade of the restaurants reminds you of Tuscany, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. Restaurants are modeled after a farmhouse in the town of Castellina in Chianti, Tuscany.
When Olive Garden launched, its main attraction was unlimited salad; so much so that the original slogan was “Good Times, Great Salad, Olive Garden.” Once soups and breadsticks were added to the mix, it was changed to “When you’re here, you’re family.” Since 2013, its primary motto has been “We’re all family here.”
When the chain retired “When you’re here, you’re family,” Darden executive Dave George legally signed over the rights to the phrase while on air with talk show host Jimmy Fallon, who eventually passed it on to musician Post Malone.
There’s an expansive catering menu of family-style classics, such as those hard-to-resist breadsticks and delicious pasta that you can pick up.
If you include your birth date when you sign up for Olive Garden’s eClub, you’ll receive an email with a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert a few days before your birthday every year.
Fan of Olive Garden’s Italian dressing? Just ask for a bottle to take home the next time you’re there and your server will sell one to you. Or you can find a bottle at your nearest grocery store.
Olive Garden is involved with different charities such as Feeding America, a nonprofit hunger-relief organization, and the Harvest Program, which allows the restaurant to donate high-quality surplus food items to local food banks. You can also submit a donation request to the general manager of your local Olive Garden if you are a part of an organization working for a charitable cause.
While those chocolate mint candies you receive after your meal might look and taste similar to the popular Andes mints, they’re actually not the same candies you can buy at the store. These candies are actually two layers — one mint and one chocolate — while the traditional Andes have three. When The Daily Meal reached out to an Olive Garden representative for more details, she confirmed that the company behind Andes mints custom-makes the two-layer version for the chain.
If you are a cult-follower of Olive Garden, we’re sure you’ve heard of its annual Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion, which allows guests to gorge themselves on unlimited pasta, sauce and toppings as well as breadsticks and soup or salad for nine weeks. However, good luck on trying to get one because this pass sells out in the blink of an eye. In 2019, the Never Ending Pasta Pass sold out in less than one second.
If you thought you couldn’t get your hands on a Never Ending Pasta Pass, Olive Garden’s Lifetime Never Ending Pasta Pass is even harder. In 2019, when the pass was first announced, only 50 people were granted the honor of this deal. This pass offers cardholders the same perks of unlimited pasta, sauce and toppings including breadsticks and soup or salad, but instead of nine weeks, this deal lasts for the rest of your life.
Olive Garden has locations in Mexico, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. There are also six outposts in Puerto Rico and one in Panama. Thankfully, Olive Garden is not one of those regional chain restaurants we wish were national.
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