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Darden is Weighed Down By Olive Garden

Timeshare Von

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Olive Garden used to be a fave of ours, but we swore them off probably 2-3 years ago. Their slippage wasn't just this past year!
 

gnorth16

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I have no idea how they make money from the "all you can eat" soup, salad and breadsticks for $6.95 ???:shrug:

That's the only reason we go there...Otherwise there are so many great little Italian eateries in every city. Trip advisor helps us find the good ones!
 

Tia

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Our Olive Garden has a full parking lot day and night.
 

Elan

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Our Olive Garden has a full parking lot day and night.

Ours too. I haven't eaten there in over 10 years for that reason. I'm not going to wait to be seated for very mediocre food.
 

rickandcindy23

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We were excited to have an Olive Garden open within three miles of our house, literally an easy bike ride, although uphill there, downhill home. :D

Anyway, the food has always been so-so. Pretty disappointing, but Rick is good with their spaghetti with meat sauce. I love their salad, but Rick makes much better Zuppa Toscana at home with a knock-off recipe.

They do have a chicken breast with veggies, and I can eat that meal with salad on my low-carb diet. So we go.

My favorite Italian is Dino's on West Colfax, in Lakewood, CO. But I mostly go for the homemade sausage sandwich without the bread, add a salad. I love their pizza, too, but cannot eat it anymore. Been going to that place for 50 years, since I was a little girl.
 

dioxide45

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We do enjoy dining at Olive Garden. We usually visit one on just about every vacation and visit locally every couple months or so. We had noticed that our few local restaurants have had the same chairs with arms on rollers for many years. We have been to newer and remodeled restaurants that have since moved to more comfortable ones chairs. We actually prefer to dine in the bar area at lunch because we have found the service to be better than the dining room.

They handle complaints very well. We went at lunch from work one day and no one came to the table for 20 minutes after we were seated. We just got up and left. When we got home we sent an e-mail and were sent a gift card back in the mail along with a personalized response. So it seems they want to keep their customers.

We love the soup, salad and breadsticks lunch. Also their endless pasta bowl they run every August/September. We did notice though that the quality was much lower this year on the endless pasta bowl.

I have pretty much perfected a copy cat recipe for their Chicken Gnocchi soup. That soup is the best. As far as Olive Garden's soups are concerned, their are pretty good. We have found most of the chain restaurant soups are just fair. Max and Erma's has by far the best soups, but we don't bother to visit there because they don't offer any promotions that provide enough value compared to other places.
 

Timeshare Von

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They handle complaints very well.

They should have plenty of practice at fielding them, hence their ability to handle them very well :)
 

Talent312

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They should have plenty of practice at fielding them, hence their ability to handle them very well.

We we there two weeks ago with a large group.
The wait staff were asked not to bring entres until we finished the salad.
Consequently, there was a mix-up and we waited for an hour.
I asked for more marsala sauce, which took them another 20 minutes...
First they had to heat some up and then the waiter spilled it.

The comp: Free desserts for the entire table.
 
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Mosca

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I'm in NEPA, where we have Italian restaurants that rival those in NYC. It just kills me that on a Saturday night you have a choice to either wait an hour at Olive Garden, or walk in and sit down at Arcaro & Genell's.
 

DebBrown

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Our Olive Garden has a full parking lot day and night.

I don't get it at all. There's one by us that is always packed. Is it that cheap? Maybe that's the answer. We live in the Chicago area and there are so many fantastic Italian restaurants. I really can't figure out what the draw is.

Deb
 

dioxide45

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I'm in NEPA, where we have Italian restaurants that rival those in NYC. It just kills me that on a Saturday night you have a choice to either wait an hour at Olive Garden, or walk in and sit down at Arcaro & Genell's.

My guess it that it has to do with price. While I don't know the prices at your local Arcaro & Genelli's, I would hazard to guess that they are pricier. If not, the perception could be that they are, and perception is everything. Olive Garden and all the other big chains do a very good job in marketing and advertising as well as supply chain management. They are able to keep prices down and fairly consistent across the brand. Something that many local places can't compete with.
 

Timeshare Von

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I'm in NEPA, where we have Italian restaurants that rival those in NYC. It just kills me that on a Saturday night you have a choice to either wait an hour at Olive Garden, or walk in and sit down at Arcaro & Genell's.

Sorta like the "Best of Milwaukee" surveys here. Somehow Red Lobster ALWAYS wins for best seafood. REALLY?? Red Lobster???
 

Timeshare Von

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Olive Garden and all the other big chains do a very good job in marketing and advertising as well as supply chain management. They are able to keep prices down and fairly consistent across the brand. Something that many local places can't compete with.

This is a very good point. Their buying power is there, and yes, so is the consistency of what you get (mediocracy).

Applebees is another such chain that has that same problem.
 

dioxide45

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I think a lot of people are hooked on chains.

Jeff

I think people like chains because of the consistency. You pretty much know how your experience will be when you walk in, and in most cases it is the same time and time again. Of course there are one offs. It is hard for some smaller independents to compete, consistency may not exist at all and you could have a very different experience from one time to the next simply because a different chef is working that day. Chains also have the money behind them to do the flashy advertising.
 

Timeshare Von

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I think a lot of people are hooked on chains.

Jeff

Yes that is true . . . and one of the few that I have found to always be good, high quality with good/outstanding service, is Outback Steakhouse. So it is possible to train consistency in the brand that is more than fair to average.

Any other chains that others have found be exceed the norm in regards to being mediocre?
 

dioxide45

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We went to Olive Garden last night. There was a 30-40 minute wait. Of course every restaurant around town would be just as bad because of everyone out doing their Christmas shopping.

The food was just okay, exactly what you would expect. My wife and MIL had the Gnocchi soup, which is always great. I opted for a salad, wish I had gotten the soup as the salad wasn't great. My stuffed marsala was good though.

We much prefer Carrabba's instead which is in the same restaurant group as Outback Steakhouse. Another place that we love. Can't ever get enough of their Bloomin Onion. Make sure you sign up for their MyOutbackRewards program if you go there often.
 

Ken555

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I enjoyed Olive Garden in college, but since then forget it. Whenever I have to go there (meeting friends who selected it for location convenience) the food is always bad. Not good, not mediocre, but bad. I'm amazed they've stayed in business as long as they have.
 

Mosca

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The prices at local restaurants are comparable to Olive Garden; nothing's really expensive on these menus.

People like chains when traveling, but when you're eating locally I just don't understand it. And even when you're traveling, you can always check sites like Roadfood first, or check many of the apps available for your phone that do the same thing, direct you to local places.
 
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