At one point or another in our lives, we weren’t experts in our fields and we weren’t born that way either. We were the people who broke our backs to bring in money and grew up knowing what we didn’t want in our future and setting higher goals for ourselves. As a point of humility and openness, I happened to work at this particular Olive Garden I’m writing a review about a very long time ago before I even owned TurkReno Incorporated. I know that it may seem or sound bias to even go back to do a review of somewhere that I used to work, but the management and staff is 100% different now and my partner and I were hungry.
I am both gifted and plagued with a mind that never forgets – especially things that I was trained on or did repetitively on a daily basis. You may think that I am about to be overtly critical, but I can’t help to not remember the training and how I was taught to handle guests. I’m also, out of the remote chance of being libelous, omitting any names except for the General Manager at the end of the post. Here we go.
So what’s our beef with Olive Garden #1656 in Spanish Fort (located at 30500-D State Highway 181, Spanish Fort, AL 36527 – just in case somehow they manage to build two there’s a separation)? Let’s start from the top. We arrived at the restaurant at 6:45PM on a noticeably slow Thursday evening. A true “Hospitaliano” (Term registered to Olive Garden) experience starts off with you being greeted at the door with a warm welcome, not a blunt and unpleasant “How many?”. So we get seated in a booth. It takes approximately 6 minutes before our server even notices that we’re present only to be told their name and asked what we wanted to drink while they’re manning a completely empty section. The restaurant is NOT busy – at max, 20% capacity.
This isn’t being nit-picky, but I was taught to introduce yourself and give a presentation that includes offering a sample of wine, recommending an appetizer and an entree. Instead, we were thrown into the typical, apathetic “How can I help you?” that I could have gotten at McDonalds. So we give the server our drink order. They walk off before I can even get a word in edgewise to ask for an appetizer. The server comes back and I have to ask them what appetizer they would recommend to see if they’d possibly redeem themselves on the presentation. It took another 6 minutes to get our drinks, a simple un-sweet tea and water. 12 minutes to just start off == Fail.
We order the Calamari as a starter. The server then takes our order, which is really simple: one Spaghetti with Meatballs and one Stuffed Chicken Marsala with extra mushrooms (yes, I love mushrooms as you may know from our previous reviews). It took about 10 minutes to get our appetizer and our salad with breadsticks. Now we’re at around 22 minutes, just to get started on eating – and we’re both starving at this point. The Calamari is sloppy: the breading is falling off of the squid and it’s almost as if it’s a little wet. Edible, but just not good at all. It should have been an indicator of the next to come. One of the “secret tricks” of Olive Garden is they hope you gorge yourself on the Breadsticks, which are good, so that they can distract you from how long it takes to get your entree. About 7 minutes later, we’re served our food. Here’s where the disaster sets in. As I said before, I ordered a Stuffed Chicken Marsala with extra mushrooms. Instead, I get this charbroiled stack of chicken with no mushrooms at all that would be easily comparable to the KFC’s Double Down in color and crispiness. Nothing wrong with my assistant’s food except he says it tastes like “Chef Boyardee with a splash of Chianti”. I ask my server, “Shouldn’t this have mushrooms on it, extra mushrooms?”, and they reply, “Yes, let me go get you some more.” It gives me some time to eat at least the mashed potatoes that taste like a ready-mix water and milk mashed potatoes.
So, I instantly grab my iPhone and start the stopwatch and start using the “lap” feature to record just how long it takes to get this remedied. It takes the server around 3 minutes to go and get a dish of mushrooms in sauce. At this point, I’ve already mentally talked myself out of putting in my mouth this disgusting failure of food in front of me. I ask the server “Would you eat this?”, and they reply, “Probably not.” They then ask if they would like me to get a manager and I tell them “Yes”. During this time, the table adjacent to my assistant and myself actually get served the same dish I ordered and it looks EXACTLY the way I wanted it – puffy, white chicken breasts topped with tomatoes, mushrooms and sauce. A manager arrives almost exactly a minute later (not hard to do since they were all huddling in the lobby anyway) and asks me what the problem is. I introduce myself and that I explain that I was a former employee some years ago. I then ask them “Would you eat this?”, and they reply the same as the server did. They ask what I would like to be done and offer to have the meal re-cooked for me. I say sure, and also interject that I don’t understand why this would have been served to a Guest and that the Guest behind them right now was eating what I was expecting to pay for.
Here’s where the Double Down begins. Both the server AND the manager forget to take the food away from me. I’m sitting here, watching the clock and now I’m taking photos of this heat-lamp baked crisp chicken and tweeting it by nine minutes into lap 3 and I’m getting mad. Why? Because I know that it should only take 8-10 minutes to get a Chicken Marsala and everyone is huddling in the lobby including our server and the manager. I’ve had to sit here for right at 20 minutes and stare at this nasty food that I’m about to be re-served. 15 and a half minutes later, I finally get my meal at 7:33PM – 45 minutes after into coming to the restaurant on a dead Thursday night starving.
But it doesn’t stop there. The manager didn’t really seem to care nor did he comp the Chicken Marsala even after agreeing with me that it should have never left the kitchen. I get the ticket and it’s $40.58 for two people. I could have easily cooked myself three evenings from Wal-Mart the Macaroni Grill Chicken Marsala for that amount and fed two. I’m not exactly mad about the service because I tip the server $5.00, I’m disappointed that they didn’t fix it by taking this nasty dish I had to stare at for 20 minutes off my bill.
“It sounds like you know more about my job than I do.” – Olive Garden Manager
I conference call with a neutral party and call the restaurant today. The same manager that was there last night was there and another manager was present. Since I was peeved enough to call, I wanted to speak to a different manager since the General Manager, Scott Dumas, wasn’t present so that I could get as many people involved in this horrible experience as could be. It took the manager 10 minutes to get on the phone while we had to shout over this loud, ear-drum piercing, Italian knock-off muzak before the manager requested answers the phone. I gave a good overview of what happened, explained that why I was calling was because of how much things had changed and because I felt as if I should have been given the dish for free. That manager said that “It sounds like you know more about my job than I do.” What. The. F*#K. Then they tell me that since it’s a credit card purchase that it will be Monday before they can even reverse and correct the charge through “corporate”. We’ll update and see if they actually do. But know that this leaves such a bad taste in our mouths that we’re going to see this one through since we paid for it and had such a horrible experience. Never again.
Reviewer #1: 5/10
Reviewer #2: 2/10
Overall Score: 7/20
If you have a problem with the Olive Garden at 30500-D State Highway 181 in Spanish Fort, Alabama, 36527, I’d suggest you speak directly to Scott Dumas, the General Manager as of the time of this being posted, who can be reached at 251-625-1490 or call 1-800-331-2729 and speak to a Guest Relations Representative. You’re also more than welcome to leave a comment and we’ll approve it if it’s relevant to your experience at this restaurant.