16 Facts You May Not Know About Olive Garden

Olive Garden Restaurant

You may adore Olive Garden with its endless supply of tasty salad and mouth-watering breadsticks. Conversely, you may turn up your nose and shun the restaurant in favor of more authentic Italian fare. Either way, the Olive Garden does a brisk business with 866 restaurants in North America alone. Here’s a peek at 16 facts you may not know about this popular Italian-style restaurant.

Olive Garden Was Born in Orlando

With a Tuscany theme, you may be surprised to learn that Orlando, Florida is the birthplace of the Olive Garden. In 1982, General Mills opened the first Olive Garden restaurant in this locale. Today, Olive Garden is a part of the Darden family of restaurants created by General Mills.

Olive Garden Feeds the Hungry

Feeding Hungry

In addition to satisfying the orders of hungry patrons, the Olive Garden gives back to the community and helps fill the bellies of those in need. The Olive Garden has donated more than 38 million pounds of food to community food banks through its Olive Garden Harvest Program.

Olive Garden Supports Worthy Causes

The Olive Garden not only supports local communities through feeding the hungry, but it also contributes to worthwhile causes. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society reports that for over 20 years, the Olive Garden has supported classroom fundraising efforts to raise money to cure blood cancers. Olive Garden’s Pasta for Pennies Program partners with schools to award classrooms with pasta parties for fundraising achievements.

There are Breadstick Rules


Sure, Olive Garden provides a seemingly endless supply of breadsticks. However, there are guidelines in place. Your server will typically provide your table with one breadstick per person, plus an extra. Your second breadbasket will generally not appear until after you have placed your order. At that time, you will probably receive one breadstick per person. Don’t be afraid to ask for more breadsticks later in the meal. They are perfect for sopping up tasty sauces.

There is a Rewards App

Rewards App

You can save money on your meal by utilizing the Olive Garden Rewards App at participating locations. Signing up for the rewards program entitles you to a free, five-dollar reward after your first visit. Then, you can accrue one point for every dollar spent in the restaurant, online, through catering, or from ToGo orders. Points can be redeemed for free appetizers, entrees, or desserts.

You Can Get Freebies at Other Darden Restaurants

Get Freebies

Once you sign up for the rewards program or download the app, you can use your rewards certificates at other Darden restaurants. These restaurants may include Longhorn Steakhouse, Yard House, Seasons 52 Grill, Cheddar’s, and Bahama Breeze Island Grille.

The App Comes in Handy

The Olive Garden Mobile App comes in handy for finding the nearest Olive Garden location and placing ToGo orders. Additionally, the Olive Garden app allows you to check the current wait time at your Olive Garden and add your name to the waitlist, if necessary. You can also keep track of gift cards in this app to have them on hand when you need them.

Olive Garden Shares Recipes

Shares Recipes

Dining out offers a welcome respite from cooking, but you can also make tasty Olive Garden dishes at home. The Olive Garden posts recipes on its website for tasty Italian-style dishes you whip up in your own kitchen. Check out this recipe for Olive Garden’s Chicken Parmigiana. Coating chicken breasts in breadcrumbs and serving them up with a cheese-topped marinara will make you feel like you are out on the town.

Split the Bill to Save

Split The Bill

In many cases, you can save money by asking your server to split your bill. This way, you can use more than one coupon to cover the cost of your meal. Dining out with a  friend just became more affordable.

Dinner Duos Mean Extra Savings

On Monday through Thursday, you can beat the dinner rush and save some bucks by enjoying the Olive Garden’s Dinner Duos. This special is available between 3:00 and 5:00 pm. For $8.99, many locations provide unlimited soup or salad, breadsticks, and a tasty entrée. Choices may include spaghetti with meat sauce, fettuccine alfredo, eggplant parmigiana, filled pastas, or one-breast chicken options.

Olive Garden Chefs Don’t Salt the Pasta Water

Olive Garden Chefs

According to Business Insider, the chefs at Olive Garden refrain from salting the pasta water in order to prolong the life of their cooking pots. Salting the water may be the first step toward boiling a flavorful batch of pasta. However, you may want to forgive the restaurant if you are satisfied with the final product on your plate.

Not All Menu Items are Authentic

Menu Authentic

You may not be surprised to learn that not all items on the Olive Garden menu are authentic, traditional Italian fare. However, if you are looking for a true taste of Italy, you are probably not going to head to a chain restaurant. The good news is that each restaurant makes a fresh batch of their tasty Italian soups each morning.

Some Restaurants Allow You to Bring Your Own Bottle

At some Olive Garden restaurants, you are able to bring your own bottle of wine. Then, for a corkage fee, you will be able to enjoy your favorite wine from home. While we are on the subject of wine, most restaurants will allow you free wine tastings. You may be able to sample three wines before you spring for a bottle from their menu.

There Are Secret Menu Items

Craving an Italian soda? You can order a club soda mixed with one of Olive Garden’s signature latte syrups to satisfy that desire. Furthermore, SecretMenus reports you can make your own Italian sampler by mixing and matching the menu choices. The Krazy Koupon Lady asserts you can even ask for a “half and half” soup if you can’t decide between two options.

Gluten-Free Pasta

Gluten Free

An Italian restaurant can be a challenging place to dine if you are sensitive to gluten. However, the Olive Garden serves a variety of gluten-sensitive items.  These items are specially handled to avoid contamination with gluten. The company website reports that gluten-free pastas are cooked in separate, sanitized kettles rather than the pasta cookers used for the traditional noodles.

You Can Buy the Salad Dressing

The ever-popular Olive Garden Signature Italian Salad Dressing is readily available on many grocery store shelves. This means you can enjoy the zesty flavor any time in the comfort of your own home. For a copycat salad, toss the dressing with iceberg lettuce, black olives, sliced red onion, pepperoncini peppers tomato, and croutons.