An Amazing Olive Garden Experience

If you read my blog posts and think that I am a little too negative, I am sorry. As I looked back at some of my past work I definitely noticed I wrote more negative posts than positive ones. I am definitely a positive person by nature and I want my posts to reflect that more. I will make a better effort to do so (case in point, this post).
I am not an Olive Garden fan. I think it is the most overrated, hyped up restaurant in the United States. Maybe it is because I live in Missoula where there is no Olive Garden and everyone here hails it as God’s gift to the world. Maybe it is because I dated a girl who worked at the Olive Garden. Or maybe it is just because the food is not very good and the breadsticks are bland as hell. I actually think it is all three of those reasons why I detest it so much. I would take Johnny Carino’s over Olive Garden any day in a heartbeat. Stay with me, I do promise this post will turn positive.
Last week when cheer camp ended, we headed off to the Coeur d’Alene Olive Garden for lunch before we set back to Missoula. Of course most of the team was psyched for pasta and unlimited salad and breadsticks…my excitement was more for the fact that the meal was free. Little did I know that we were going to have one of the best servers I had ever had at a restaurant.
We rolled up to the Olive Garden with a party of 31. If a group of 31 people in the 18-24 age demographic does not piss off waiters/waitresses to begin with, you know you have a special crew working at your restaurant. We tried to make it easy for the restaurant by saying that we did not need to be seated together. Thus, we were seated in groups of around five or six in pretty close proximity to each other.
At my table we  had my two mascots and then two cheerleaders plus myself. Although we were a very well behaved table with good manners, there was really no reason why our server (wish I would have made note of her name) had to treat us like absolute gods and goddesses…but she did. Despite already having the 18% gratuity locked down with no chance to receive less of a tip or more of a tip, she served us as if we had the power to leave her with a million dollars. I always feel awful, and I can always kind of sense the frustration of the server, when he/she comes over to take your order and someone asks for a couple more minutes to order. We definitely did that and she just smiled and said of course. She then came back over for the second time and after the third person in our party had ordered, she realized that everyone was ordering pasta so she took the initiative to show us on one of the hidden menus that the restaurant was currently offering their famous “never ending bowl of pasta.” Well, obviously all of us wanted to order that and this of course made it so that she had to scratch our initial orders and once again give us more time to decide on what combination of pasta/sauce we wanted. Not only did it delay the chances of her putting our order in once again, she also now knew that we were all getting something on the menu that was cheap and that would involve a lot of additional work for her (going back and forth getting more pasta for us).
When we finally put in our order and had asked a thousand different questions on the shape/type/texture of the various pastas, she still had her same positive attitude and said “I will bring out your bread and salad/soup as soon as possible so we can get you caught up with the rest of your group.” We had been the last five to get seated so we were behind the rest of our party in the order we were getting our food. This effort by our server impressed me. Our two mascots were drinking their raspberry lemonades like they were going out of style but never once were they without the red stuff for more than one minute as our server was busting her ass back and forth to make sure they had their refills. Our bread and soup/salad was delivered promptly to us and I am not kidding when I say the breadsticks, for once in my life at Olive Garden, were amazing. Our food came at the perfect time, right when we finished with our salad/soup. Upon presenting our food to us, taking special care to make sure no one touched a hot plate, she ran back to the kitchen and brought us out more breadsticks.
Now usually not too many people who get the never ending bowl of pasta end up getting a second plate just because you really do get stuffed after the first one, no matter how noble your intentions were going in. Well, we all pretty much felt this way but one of my mascots had the idea of asking the waitress if he could order a second plate just to be boxed up so he could take it home with him. I told him it defeated the whole purpose of the deal, that it was a cheap move, and that she would probably say it was against the restaurant’s policy. But then I told him the answer is always NO unless you ask so he might as well give it a shot. He asked our waitress if she could do this for him and she thought about it for a second and said “I am really not supposed to do that but if I bring out a plate for you, you can take one bite out of it to show that you had intent to eat it and then I will box it up for you.” She then asked everyone else at the table if we wanted to do the same thing as well! Amazing.
Our server brought out my mascot his plate and then boxed it up right on the spot for him, even allowing him to bypass the whole “take one bite to make it official” ordeal. She then went on to ask us if we would like any soft drinks/lemonade in to-go cups for us to take on our trip back to Missoula. Our two cheerleaders both got Diet Cokes. I had never seen a server go so out of her way to make it so that a group of kids who could be of no benefit to her had the dining experience fit for five star restaurant customers.
As we were getting ready to go, she talked to us about the camp and how we did. She showed genuine interest. She then offered us the famous Olive Garden mints that come with the bill even though we did not have a bill. Lastly, she wished us a safe trip and thanked us for coming in. No, thank you!!
For that one day, I was an Olive Garden fan. There are people out there who do their job to the best of their ability no matter what the circumstances are, who is watching them, or how they can benefit. Our radio play-by-play man here at the University signs off with the slogan “be at your best when your best is needed.” This lady who served us at the Olive Garden on Friday is one of those people who is always at their best, no matter if it is needed or not. We all need to be more like that. Don’t Blink.