Chain Restaurants 27

Olive Garden: An Inside Look

igj | May 22, 2001 06:59 PM

This could be called confessions of a former chain restaurant waiter...

while waiting for my career to catch fire, I waited tables at both The Olive Garden and Chili's (both in California). Since I was struggling and since both places gave discounts for staff to eat there, I did quite a lot of it. Chili's for the most part was far preferable as a place for me to eat (a vegetarian). But both places were pretty miserable.

The Olive Garden employed waiters that lied to customers repeatedly-about the age of our desserts (often desiccated from days in the fridge), about the suitability of items for vegetarians (the minestrone soup most often), about the wine, etc. Of course, our customers for lunch were often people who came in to bulk up on the soup and salad lunch which included unlimited bread stick and salad refills. Dinner was unruly family central. The food often came out of cans--almost all sauces were shipped from a corporate-sanctioned supplier. The cooks (most of whom were underpaid Mexicans and most of whom admitted to being baffled by the popularity of pasta) didn't know al dente from Al Lewis. Blah - all around.

Chili's popularity was always a shock to me. Why in California would you go to Chili's to have fajitas or anything tex-mex? Just get real mexican food for less money. At least at the branch where I worked though, the kitchen staff took more care while handling the ingredients and with hygiene than at the Olive Garden. If you are ever stuck eating at such chains, Chili's isn't too awful. The curly fries, while admittedly frozen, are well seasoned and the caesar dressing isn't as obtrusively heavy as at some chains.

Of course, this has naught to do with Manhattan and so any follow-ups should probably be in the General Topics board.

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