THE OLIVE GARDEN   √√√√


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OLIVE GARDEN  √√√√

Largo Mall
10500 Ulmerton Rd     Largo, FL 33771   (727) 584-8066

Sun-Thy 11:00AM-10:00PM   Fri-Sat 11:00AM-11:00PM

Surprise, the food was good, timely, reasonably priced and service was excellent for a chain though they were busy. I will tell you though, the answer is pro-management.  Management while we were dining was floating all the time, going from room to room checking on and watching things. This takes a "moderate priced chain" dealing in Italian Food, cooked to order, to a higher level than most of the others. 

On a food binge we (four severely intent eaters) went to the pasta promotion they had and I made four plates with different sauces, Marinara, Alfredo , Clam and Fra` Diablo with breadsticks and salad and wasn’t hungry for 24 hours. 

One guy did five. I was jealous, It again, for a chain was good and well worth the promotion under ten dollars.

Olive Garden is a smart casual American restaurant chain specializing in Italian-American cuisine. The company is owned by Darden Restaurants and is based in Orlando, Florida.   

The first Olive Garden was opened by General Mills on December 13, 1982, in Orlando, Florida. By 1989, General Mills had opened 145 restaurants, making it one of the fastest-growing units in the company's restaurant holdings. 

The company eventually became the largest chain of Italian-themed full-service restaurants in the U.S. along with sister ships, Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, and LongHorn Steakhouse. In many large mall areas you will see them almost side by side.

As of 28 October 2009, there are 700 restaurants. As I said for a specialty chain, they had many novelty dishes, all looked good and the restaurant was clean and the staff very attentive. Rarely do I ever give a large chain a four star but the one at Largo Mall in Seminole seems to be well managed. 

SPECIALS
I eat there, for convenience since I'm only a mile away. It's a busy place indicating people are happy and a lot of repeat business. They run daily lunch specials with several different (made on site) soups, breadsticks and fresh salad for $6.99 to 8.99, about the price of a plastic burger, pre-cooked fries and a sugar rich Coke product. The Pasta Fagioli soup had more meat in it than a "Steak Burger"  from you know where and the salad was a good mix with a moderate Italian dressing, not too tart.
 

GOOD CHANGE   (IS IT A RUMOR)
Once or twice a month, I drop in and for me its good casual dining. I had noticed in one of the trade magazines a rumor they are going to simplify their menus by putting them back into English. 

Now thats a good move,  since my pure Italian friends had no idea what half the stuff was on the menu. Larry M. commented Don Corleone didn’t know what half the stuff was either and if you remember the hit movie and sequels of the “ Godfather” when they weren't stealing, conspiring or shooting someone they were eating.  

And Menus can get out of hand… Which is bad in this business because the server help has to explain everything, people take longer to choose and you kill turnover.   In the future, I would imagine “ Avvocato Basted Coglione en Potoburro” will simply be “ My useless lawyers balls in butter”.  If you prefer low-fat margarine it would be “ vvocato Basted Coglione Margarina al Sapore di Burro". And he settled for ten years, with parole.


RED FLAG - A PROCESS IN THEIR GREETING AND PRESENTATION
The only minor complaint I have heard from others, is their Wine Presentation greeting process which involves the obvious "stepping or increasing your bill by wine sales" which are higher profit items than food usually is.   Many don't drink any alcoholic beverages.  I suspect thats where the noise comes from, the Anti-winers, Church Ladies, and Coke Cola addicts.

The labor factor is minimal, pour two maybe six ounces of wine each into a glass and the ticket increases ten to twelve dollars or more.  Simple math indicates each 100 tickets is 1000-1200  dollars. Though I eat there fairly often, they don't press the issue and most of the time I drink water.  

It's an allergy thing.  Red wines and some dry white wines for some reason give me a severe headache.  The white wine I enjoy is  a semi-sweet Chenin Blanc, Reserve from Biltmore Estates in Asheville.  I found it on a wine tasting trip to the estate.  At olive Garden I stick with water, their water is excellent, chilled to perfection, brisk, clear iced,  and obviously filtered.  I believe a Chateau Le Fountain 1993, but it could be a '94.

Hey, it's nothing personal, just business.  As Sonny said: the present process is to sell you their wine.  The food and the commercials exist to get you into the restaurant, the next step is the greeting, A shot glass sample of the wine of the day, and an offer to sell you wine.  The chairs are there so you have a place to sit and a clear view of the bar, or tables and displays of wine.  Very carefully planned and thought out, not too obvious.  The air-conditioner vent is right over the wine so the wine doesn't get hot and go bad.  


BOTTOM LINE
Sometimes things are over the top and too much.  I like the place for a franchise operation, The food is generally fresh, hot and tasty for a chain, generic and not too spiced for the average consumer.  I bring my own hot peppers.  A definite step above more casual low end dinning and their prices are reasonable with the “ Specials".  

All in all good value, but knowing or hearing, a canned presentation or pitch annoys me, however subtle it might be.  But I also understand the bottom line is what keeps them open where others have failed.  In the realm of things they are good value for the dollar.

 


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