The paradox of Olive Garden

Following our series of blog posts about Applebee’s, there was a ton of community feedback not only about Applebee’s, but about many casual dining chains across the country. Given the tone of the Applebee’s posts, it is no surprise that many of the reader comments at the time were negative (the opposite seems to happen when I write about P.F. Chang’s, Disney, or other places that handle food allergies extremely well).

But beyond the reader comments on the blog itself were many on Facebook, some on Twitter, and even more on the message boards of other sites. In addition, I received a number of direct emails.

One email I received was from Michele (who requested I not use her last name). Michele is diligent about emailing restaurants regarding their allergen policies, specifically related to nuts and peanuts. She had just received a disappointing letter from Olive Garden that she wanted to share with me. I was initially hesitant to print this right on the back of the Applebee’s posts since I don’t want the AllergyEats Blog to become a mechanism of constant complaint and negativity. However, given that the content of this email is very significant for our community and is from Olive Garden itself, I decided to go ahead and post it now, in its entirety.

Dear Michele:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us at olivegarden.com

We recognize the challenges with dining out when an allergy must be considered. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide the information you requested regarding nuts or peanut oil as an ingredient at Olive Garden.

Identifying allergens is a complex process for restaurants as there may be minuscule amounts of ingredients our vendors may not list. As you know, peanuts have been hidden in pie crusts, gravies, chili, spaghetti, soups, and cheesecakes.

While none of our recipes include nuts or peanuts, we cannot say with complete accuracy that there are no nuts or possible cross introduction of nuts in our restaurants stemming from our vendors. Our current nutritional database does not include information to the level of detail required for your safety. We are unable to recommend any items with the confidence that we all need.

If Guest Relations can be of further assistance, please write us again through olivegarden.com or call us at 800-331-2729. We look forward to serving you with Hospitaliano at any of our Olive Garden restaurants.

[specific representative name removed]
Olive Garden Guest Relations

So many thoughts come into my mind as I read this – some from the letter itself and some from outside information.

1) Is it just me or does this read like a form letter trying to keep food allergic individuals out of the restaurant? For legal reasons?

2) Olive Garden is “unable to recommend any items with the confidence that we all need,” yet they offer a gluten-free menu. Again, it might just be me, but I think this is somewhat hypocritical. Either that or one of the following: a) they don’t consider gluten intolerance as significant as a food allergy, or b) as I said in point #1, they’d rather not serve individuals with special dietary needs, which might further suggest that the gluten-free menu is more of a “p.r. stunt,” for lack of a better phrase.

3) Credit Applebee’s for going through the rigorous process of finding out what the vendors were sending over. In my first live conversation with them, they told me it took a long time to put together the allergen list, primarily because the vendor ingredients were so difficult to guarantee.

4) Notwithstanding my credit to Applebee’s above, why do many other chains seem to be much more comfortable serving food-allergic guests? And as pointed out in the Applebee’s posts, this can’t be all talk because they are backed up by the AllergyEats allergy-friendliness ratings which are based on our entire community’s feedback.

5) While on the subject of the allergy-friendliness rating, Olive Garden has a decent 3.3. Not up there with the greats at 4.5+, but not at the horrendous levels of Applebee’s and some others at 2.5-. Given this feedback, I have to (for the third time, I know) wonder whether this letter is legalese for “We warned you! Don’t sue us if you get sick!”

Those of you who are regular readers of my posts know what comes now. I want to hear your feedback. While I’d like to know about your specific experiences with Olive Garden, I’d also like to know what you make of the paradoxes here. They can’t (or won’t) offer confidence in an email, but they encourage gluten-free individuals with a gf menu, all while maintaining an AllergyEats allergy-friendliness score that suggests mixed diner experiences.  Help me make sense of this all.

So yes, please click Comments or Reply below and share your thoughts. Feel free to criticize my thoughts as well. All’s fair in the name of helping our community!

Speaking of which, please also take a moment to rate any recent restaurant experiences you’ve had at the core AllergyEats site. We’re building tremendous momentum lately (helped by some great media coverage, a handful of which is on the core site under “AllergyEats in the News”), which means we’re also building tremendous value for the benefit of our whole community. So please continue to contribute and spread the word.

Comments

    Author:
    Joann Pivotto
    Written:


    I am shocked at the response from Olive Garden. My daughter is peanut/tree nut allergic and has eaten there many times. When we asked the staff each time they indicated that what she ordered does not contain nuts and is safe. They better inform their staff if this is the stand they take. There is miscommunication going on somewhere.

    Author:
    Jayne
    Written:


    Perfect opportunity to share my negative experience with the Olive Garden. I recently took my daughters to Olive Garden for dinner. I ordered the Mixed Grill, which is basically grilled chicken and vegetables, from the gluten-free menu. When the food arrived, there were potatoes on my plate, and I recalled the gluten-free version replacing the potatoes with broccoli. I asked the waiter, who replied that it doesn’t come with broccoli, but potatoes. I still was wary about the meal, but in a lack of judgment, trusted the waiter’s word. After eating the meal, I checked out the gluten-free menu again, and lo and behold, the gluten-free version WAS listed with broccoli, not potatoes. I let the waiter know his mistake, and how sick some people can get from eating gluten. He apologized, but that was it. Thank goodness I am an asymptomatic celiac, or I would have gotten very sick. Lesson learned: trust your judgment and ask, ask, ask until you feel you have the right answers!

    Author:
    Lori CF
    Written:


    I think the reason it’s so hard for some restaurants to pin down their ingredients is because they’re so highly processed. The more pre-made, pre-processed ingredients there are, the less they are able to absolutely guarantee what is or is not in it.

    The more a restaurant makes food from scratch, the more easily they can say what is in their food. Go to a Good Earth here in the Twin Cities, Minnesota area, and they can tell you exactly what is in their food.

    Author:
    Scotty
    Written:


    Personally, I think its just a legal blow-off. Have you ever taken note of the parking lots at Olive Garden on a regular basis?? They are ALWAYS full. ALWAYS. Even in the off-hours, there is alot of business there. I personally know MANY people that consider Olive Garden their favorite place to eat. Anyone with that kind of business isn’t going to go out of their way to service those of us that will make their jobs harder and open them up to legal issues. They don’t have to. They simply want to protect what they already have. Just my opinion.

    Author:
    TommyG
    Written:


    I am neither for or against the Olive Garden, but wanted to point something out. In today’s extremely litigious society I think they are trying to be careful by not categorically stating their food is 100% free of nuts. Think about all the packaging we read. “Made in a facility that also processes nuts, milk, eggs, etc” and processed on a machine that processes nuts, milk, eggs, etc”. Where do their vendor’s products come from?

    How does anyone know what was fed to the animals we eat as meat and think they are safe? Will it impact the final product (i.e. growth hormones). The Olive Garden’s vendors may be two or three times removed from the actual source of an ingredient. There is way too much uncertainty for them to categorically state there is absolutely no allergens in their products. They could state that their recipes are not made with the allergen, but can they be certain their vendor’s vendor’s product did not contain trace amounts?

    Today’s food world is all about producing at a faster and cheaper rate. Cattle used to be raised on an open range eating grass. Now they are raised in densely populated pens with no grass. They are fed corn instead (see the movie Food, Inc.). Even if you grow your own vegetables, can you be 100% certain that they were not exposed to items in the soil or from the water supply?

    Both my children have multiple food allergies. We do not come with the expectation that every single restaurant must bow down to conform to our needs. When in doubt, we bring our own food for the kids.

    Author:
    Heather
    Written:


    That email does not reassure the person, nor does it reassure other diners that their food will be safe if they have a food intolerance or allergy. I am severely allergic to peanuts, and have found slight reactions to some other nuts. I haven’t been there in a long time, but when I did go, they said they could not make a small salad that had no tomatoes. I didn’t eat the salad, and I love their salads. I don’t want to eat there now, because they cannot assure their ingredients, and they obviously cannot accomadate simple requests, as well as contradict their own menus.

    Author:
    Anna
    Written:


    This past summer we ate at Olive Garden after finding out it had a gluten free menu. Let’s just say it was NOT worth the hassle. Their waiters are not even educated about food intolerances. I ordered the pasta with marinara sauce and found out later from the manager that it was an frozen entree they just reheated. It tasted horrible! Seriously Olive Garden…get with the program!

    Author:
    Roxanne
    Written:


    First, of course it’s a form letter when it’s closed with : “We look forward to serving you with Hospitaliano at any of our Olive Garden restaurants.” The letter just told them they couldn’t serve them – a little contradictory to say the least! The other factor I wish these large chains would consider is that they should have some power with the vendors they buy from. We, as the consumers, have very little power to influence these vendors into using allergy-safe methods in the handling and distribution of food products. Allergies aside, shouldn’t any company who serves food to people care about holding their vendors accountable as to the ingredients of the food they provide?

    Author:
    Ryan
    Written:


    My wife and I had a horrible experience at Olive Garden in San Francisco. Their gluten-free menu is a joke. My wife ordered gluten free pasta with chicken, mushrooms and onions. The waitress was very snippy every time we asked a question and she had to go ask the kitchen a question. The waitress comes back and tells us it comes premixed with tomato sauce, my wife is allergic to tomatos, and she asks, “do you want it anyways?” Um, lets see, no. They can’t separate it so, we ask for grilled chicken, mushrooms, and onions in butter. They bring out a big bowl of onions and mushrooms and say the chicken will be out in a minute. 10 minutes later or more, here comes the chicken. Thanks Olive garden for such a wonderful meal, and dinning experience,we will not be back, thank you not very much.

    Author:
    Lora
    Written:


    Shame on Olive Garden! My son has a total of 200+ food/ingredient allergies/sensitivities. Fortunately, he doesn’t have celiac (does have IBS, GERD and EOSD), but food and prep are paramount to keep him safe. Olive Garden in my area has always reassured me that they are able to prepare is plain grilled chicken breast and plain pasta without a problem and bread stix without butter. He hasn’t had a reaction to this point, that we are aware of, however, after reading the aforementioned letter from them, I am very reluctant to return to their restaurant.
    Thank you for the info and awareness AllergyEats!

    Author:
    Kermie524
    Written:


    I had major problems the last time I visited one of our local Olive Garden Restaurants. Even though they do offer a gluten free menu, they definitely have not trained their wait staff or their managers about how to handle guests that cannot eat gluten. I, yoo, ordered from their gluten free menu, and specifically said I needed a seperate made salad with no croutons. When my salad was brought to the table, of course it contained croutons. I called our server over and explained that I could not eat that, and would she please make me a new one. As everybody at our table watched, she took that salad to the back salad prep room, took the croutons off with her hands, and brought it back out to me. When we asked for the manager, she got angry. When he finally showed up at the table, and we explained what had happened, he totally blew us off! Needless to say, I will never, ever go back to an Olive Garden. Plus, I will definitely tell anybody and everybody with food allergies about my experience there. There are too many other restaurants that bend over backwards to accomondate us that I will be happy to patronize.

    Author:
    Karen
    Written:


    My food allergy is to corn, which is not one of the top allergens and is not legally required to be noted on food labels. I’ve gotten a response similar to Olive Garden’s from a lot of restaurants and food companies. I think the complexity of trying to track down ingredients in processed food is a real problem, and the consequences of a food producer making a mistake and giving a restaurant wrong info or changing ingredients with out letting them know is huge. I’d rather have a company say they can’t tell me than have them give me incorrect or incomplete info. I appreciate the honest answer.

    I don’t eat out much or buy much processed food, but when I find a company who is able to keep track of their ingredients and is responsive to me I’m happy to give them my business.

    Author:
    Jennifer
    Written:


    My family has not been to Olive Garden in over 5 years. We used to frequent the restaurant until my daughter was born with food allergies. We tried on two different occasions to eat there with her, but when they couldn’t assure us that it was safe for her to eat anything at the restaurant, we left. What kind of place are they when they cannot accommodate at all? Places like Olive Garden and Applebees shouldn’t even be in business if they are not willing to accommodate customers. It is unfortunate that they have to come up with a legal opinion to cover themselves. I will continue to frequent mom and pop restaurants as opposed to big chains that cannot verify the ingredients in their products.

    Author:
    kathleen
    Written:


    I’d respond back that if their vendors are not supplying labels as required by FALPACA, then they are breaking the law. We avoid OG like the plague because our son is MEPT & sesame allergic and the thought of the flying cheese doesn’t make me comfortable. Your best bet is to go to the restaurants that openly welcome people with special dietary needs, and as a PP said, where they make it from scratch. Always ask to speak with the chef–you’ll get a feel for their practices from the vibes you get from the chef. if they are enthusiastic and want to help you, you’ll know. If you get the eyerolling, run for the hills!

    Author:
    AiXeLsyD13
    Written:


    Unfortunately, I agree with TommyG‘s assessment above. It’s probably more of a CYA than any other motivation.

    I have eaten at Olive Garden but usually shellfish isn’t a hidden ingredient in Italian cooking. (Asian cooking however scares me to death.) I have been able to talk to servers and managers, always make the server aware of my allergy, and have always received pretty good feedback from them on my end. The again, my “safe” foods are pretty much the pizza or fettuccine Alfredo as far as anything that’s not hitting the same cooking surface as death-fish.

    I’m curious to see if they’d have the same response or a different response to someone with a different allergy?

    Author:
    Jeni
    Written:


    I received this same response from them a couple years back when I contacted them. I figured they just didn’t want to be bothered and would point back to this email if there were any issues. If they have given themselves this “out” in case of a reaction, why would they even try at all to be sure my daughter was safe?

    Author:
    Carly
    Written:


    I just wanted to share my experience with our local Olive Garden, and note that a lot of our dining out experiences depend on how well trained/ willing the staff are on accomodating people with allergies.

    We recently had a new Olive Garden open up near my house. I am severely allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. When I shared this with the waiter, he went and got the manager. The manager came back, and asked me what I was thinking of ordering. He went and looked up EVERY ingredient (including tickening agents, and spices) and let me know what I could/could not eat. He then periodically came to check on me, to make sure that I was okay. I truly appreciated his thouroughness, and expressed my gratitude to him at the end of the meal. He informed me that his daughter is allergic to milk, and he understands how careful we need to be. I wish there were more people in the food service industires who understand what food allergies are all about!

    While I understand this experience was different because of the manager, I consider my Olive Garden to be one of my few “worry free” restaurants!

    Author:
    Kel
    Written:


    I have a dairy allergy, so I knew Olive Garden was a long shot. However, I emailed them and got pretty much the same response. Again, I know OG is a long shot with a dairy allergy, but so many other places have at least a plain chicken breast, I figured it was worth a try.

    I haven’t eaten at OG since I was diagnosed with the allergy and can’t believe how shoddy things seem to be there. I’d heard about frozen entrees being heated up, but hadn’t quite believed it. I’ve heard this about Applebee’s, too, and that makes me wonder why peopple bother to eat there. It’s sad how consumers seem to want only something fast and no thought put into it. I’d rather eat a homemade place than a chain most times.

    Author:
    michabu
    Written:


    This sounds like the response we would get 15+ years ago when the restaurant did not want us to eat in their facility. I think it is a self protection measure and if any one restaurant can provide a safe environment for food allergic individuals, than all restaurants are able to do the same. Now the difference appears not whether they are capable of doing it, it is rather they want to do it. We all know we can safely eat out so why is there so much variation? I believe there is a national training video that can be accessed by restaurants, I think the National Restaurant Assoc. was a part of making it.
    Having said all that, it is still not safe to take the risk if their attitude is reflective of what was indicated in the letter.
    Sites like this one will hopefully move this issue along…
    Thanks Paul
    Michele

    Author:
    Kristen
    Written:


    I, too, recently received this exact letter in response to my inquiry about allergens in their restaruants. My daughter is allergic to peanuts/tree nuts and loves to eat there. We always thought we were ok as we were reassured by staff until recently. THe manager took the time to talk to us and told us he could not guarantee anything and that even the croutons in the salad had some kind of nuts in them. We had been there before and they read the label on the croutons and told us they were fine. I am just so disappointed my daughter can’t even go there anymore just for a bowl of spaghetti! I would think such a large chain would do a little bit of a better job for those with food allergies.

    Author:
    valerie
    Written:


    our local olive garden says that they have items on the menu that are inherently gluten free such as grilled chicken, but they only recommend gluten free customers to get the gluten free spagetti. it comes in a package they can boil and cut open the package and therefore does not come in contact with the rest of the kitchen. it makes it easy for them to avoid cross contamination. and while it’s great that they have a gluten free pasta, i want something more interesting than spagetti when i go to an italian restuarant (but perhaps that’s just my problem after all i’m still mentally rebelling with the food restrictions of this diet and haven’t found breads and pastas that are nearly as good as “the real deal”).

    Author:
    Jan
    Written:


    I agree with Tommy G. My two cents is…
    I would rather have the Olive Garden tell me they can not confidently gaurentee their food is without allergens than to tell me its fine and my child have a reaction. I do not expect every place we dine to be able to accomidate our needs – it is not the responsibility of anyone else to keep my child safe – its my responsibilty. I did not take the letter offensive. I do however, expect a curteous response and thoughtful response and I think Olive Garden did that – whatever there reasoning – legallity or otherwise.

    My thoughts on the quality of food at the Olive Garden are a whole other story :)

    Author:
    AEPaul
    Written:


    I’ve got to say that I’ve loved the comments on here! Great points on each side, with some very interesting real-life experiences and a little humor too.

    I appreciate all this great feedback and I hope others are enjoying reading these responses as well.

    And please don’t take this comment as the end of the thread. Keep those opinions coming!

    Author:
    BENutt
    Written:


    My 11-year-old son is allergic to tree nuts, peanuts and milk and dining out is a challenge. As much as I was disappointed to see OG’s response I understand that it was most likely their lawyers that prevented them from providing the information. It saddens me that our society is so sue-happy that individuals and corporations make bottom line affecting decisions that are driven by fear and not customer satisfaction. Our family has experienced similar responses from Dunkin’ Donuts and Rave Motion Picture Theater (our local movie theater). I’ve made several inquiries to both regarding menu item ingredients and never received any response. I’m new to Allergyeats.com and I’m liking what I see – it’s through this discussion and information share that progress will be made. THANKS!

    Author:
    MotherMacri
    Written:


    I worked at Olive Garden for almost 5 years while I was in college and grad school. Shortly after I left I was diagnosed with Celiacs, which explained my awful stomach pain after eating a bread stick with a nice bowl of Pasta Fagioli. I was thinking about the kitchen and food preparation and realized that I could never eat there. They don’t have a dedicated fryer, the chicken that they grill for chicken alfredo is in a marinade with wheat in it so the grill is contaminated, the salad bowls and tongs always have residue from croutons from previous served salads all over them after going through the dishwasher, etc. So not only can people with nut allergies not eat there because OG can’t guarantee that there food is safe but Celiac’s and those with wheat/gluten issues can’t either.

    Author:
    Evie
    Written:


    they are just afraid of getting sued..u know there menu says they can not garuntee the gluten count in any of their products? I kind of understand in away but as a year old celiac suffering its frustrating to hafta to wonder if its safe…if u can’t garunty it then u shouldn’t off it!

    Author:
    Donna
    Written:


    We don’t bother going to Olive Garden since they don’t list allergens and my daughter is allergic to dairy and eggs so I doubt there’s much she could eat there. I took her to Applebees once and all she could eat was a burger on a plate with no bun and apple sauce. They do have an allergen list (or they did then) but the waiter didn’t believe me when I told him their fries had milk in them and the buns had eggs until he asked the chef.

    Author:
    Julie
    Written:


    While calling Olive Garden before a visit, the person on the phone, the “manager”, told me he couldn’t answer my questions about peanut products in their foods- when I asked to speak to a chef (it was 2 PM- off hours) I was told “he wouldn’t know what’s in the food” so I couldn’t speak to him…really??? A chef doesn’t know what he/she puts in their dishes? I wrote to Olive Garden, received the same reply as in the post with the additional offering of a gift card for my troubles…like I could use it??? We ended up using it at Red Lobster- though I don’t eat seafood, they have a comprehensive allergy menu that includes all major allergens, so we could order for my daughter with confidence. Funny how those 2 restaurants are from the same parent company…

    Author:
    Cynthia H
    Written:


    I received the same reply from OG:

    We appreciate your desire to know which items on our menu are free of Capsicum Peppers, Soy, Fish, Shellfish, Peanut, Oat, Rye, Barley, Legumes, Chicken, Tuna, Apple, Cantaloupe, Green Pea, Almond, Coconut, Sesame Seeds, Tomato, Mushrooms, and Berries. Given the amount of allergens, our concern for your health and safety, and the fact that soy is widely used in almost all of our menu items, we can not make any recommendations with the confidence we both would like.

    Our sauces, seasonings, and marinades contain soy and we cannot say at this time which menu items are free of soy. Additionally, fish, shellfish, chicken, tomatoes, mushrooms, and berries are also used in a number of our recipes. As your safety is our first concern, we are sorry we are unable to offer a recommendation at this time.

    Olive Garden Guest Relations

    I didn’t expect a miracle from them, but I would be grateful to get a plain steak, cooked in a safe pan, with pasta in Alfredo Sauce, and a salad.

    Author:
    Lisa
    Written:


    We had a great expecience at Champaign, IL Olive Garden today, when I asked “if they had an allergen friendly menu yet” (after I reviewed this site). A manager came out and provided the typical grid like allergen menu listing the most common allergens and she assisted in finding safe options for our child with severe egg, milk, peanut allergy. The waiter even brought out safe breadsticks, with no butter, without us asking!! It seems maybe they have changed their stance on serving allergen concerned patrons, at least in that restaurant. The allergy menu was dated 8/15/2011.

    Author:
    Rayna
    Written:


    I have experienced a lot of the similar reaction from several restaurants that I have emailed and called regarding my son that has a soy allergy. It is almost impossible to go out to eat. Almost everyone uses vegetable oil, which is really just soy.

    Author:
    Nutternomore
    Written:


    Hi all,
    The response is not surprising if you’re familiar with the context/history for Olive Garden. Over the past decade, there have been 2 (I believe) deaths of patrons who ate at Olive Garden due to cross contamination.

    In 2003, a man with a shellfish allergy died at Olive Garden after being served mishandled food at an Olive Garden. If you go to this link and scroll down, you can read a copy of the article as it appeared in the New Jersey Ledger.

    Title: Man’s death underscores food allergy concerns; Widow suspects
    shrimp may have been added to his restaurant meal.(NEW JERSEY)
    http://www.peanutallergy.com/boards/man-dies-from-shell-fish-allergy-at-olive-garden

    This, plus other mishaps more recently made it clear NEVER to trust this restaurant chain. They just don’t get it.

    Author:
    Q
    Written:


    I have an allergy to canola oil. Any time I’ve eaten at the Olive Garden I’ve gotten very sick. The first time we thought it was food poisoning, after that we knew it had to be the oil allergy. I asked a waitress once to see an ingredients list and was told if it was an allergy that needed to be addressed just let her know and she would tell me what was safe to eat. I told her I had a canola oil allergy and got a snarky response of “We are an italian restaurant, we cook with olive oil”. I was rushed to the hospital later that night because guess why?… ding ding ding! They use CANOLA OIL. Not only was I not allowed to see an ingredients list, but I was lied to by the staff. I no longer eat there out of fear of being killed.

    Author:
    Elissa Burda
    Written:


    Just ate at the Olive Garden last night when traveling in Utah. Hadn’t eaten there for over a year because of a poor experience in Las Vegas. Hoping that the staff may be more informed somewhere else, we tried again. Their allergy checklist is not at all helpful. Doesn’t have a full listing. They obviously don’t cook anything from scratch there or they would have an actual ingredient list. My son also is allergic to milk, corn, sesame, peanut and tree nuts and I am vegan. I was told by the staff (and have been told in the past) that there is no dairy in the minestrone soup. The waiter later brought out an allergy checklist that showed there is dairy in the soup, and the capellini pomodoro, which I was always told was vegan. There allergy list also said that every restaurant is different so the ingredients may change. I find that hard to believe. I think they have become a slow food version of a fast food restaurant where everything is made off site somewhere and they don’t really know what is in the food they are serving.

    Author:
    C G
    Written:


    Olive Garden is not the best but pretty good I’ve worked with the company for 6 years now and most items are cooked from scratch. But even looking at small things like butter or margarine/ vegetable oil which all are pretty much used for all items. When looking at the ingredient list it does not contain nuts but has warnings that it may be processed in the same vicinity. Having a few friends that have nut allergies this is consistant with many products at any grocery store. So unless you are going to a restaurant that churns their own butter they can not say with 100% certainty for any allergy. And with regards to peanuts that is why olive garnden deleted some dishes containing pinenuts around 2008. I’ve been many other places that were less concerned and lied to the staff about ingredients to make a sale.

    Author:
    C G
    Written:


    ps please make sure your server understands food allergies with over 700 restaurants there are people who fall through the cracks and just don’t care I have many family members with different allergies so it is a concern like OG doesn’t use canola oil but liquid margarine in some dishes and one of the ingredients is canola oil

    Author:
    kearns craig
    Written:


    The olive garden is the only restaurant I get sick at every time u eat there. Upset stomach along with diarrhea. Even not eating there for year and trying it again never fails I get sick. I don’t have any gluten allergies or tree nut allergies. My guess is there food is loaded with preservatives. I’ll never eat there again its not worth the trouble of getting sick.

    Author:
    Cherie Roe
    Written:


    I used to work at Olive Garden so I will give you the inside scoop. NOTHING is homemade. The breadsticks are made by Schwebels, desserts are made from some huge dessert company, even pasta and salad is pre done. This is why they can’t answer your questions. The only thing that is fresh is meat and veggies. They work with too many vendors so they honestly don’t know. This is the problem with chain restaurants and why I won’t eat at them. Why pay $20 for practically chef boyar dee! Only fine dining can handle allergies appropriately because food is made fresh and to order.

    Author:
    Loeny
    Written:


    My dad worked as a chef in Olive Garden and he told me pretty much everything is frozen, once it’s taken out it’s either grilled or put in the microwave, usually the latter. I was searching for people’s opinions of the gluten free menu and I found this website. OG’s probably not worth my time…

    Author:
    Monica
    Written:


    Just want to throw my experience with Olive Garden into the mix. While traveling over the 2014 holiday season, we stopped at the Louisville, KY OG. I asked to see a list of ingredients. They handed me the “fat/calorie” listing, saying that’s all they had. I emailed OG.com, asking for a list of ingredients. They emailed back saying they don’t provide that info and “were there certain ingredients that I was looking for?”. I replied back saying yes, but that I’d rather not say which ingredients, thinking they might not be truthful. The rep again emaield saying that I HAD to say what I was looking for, he would “send it to research” and get back to me. So, I complied. Week by week, nothing…. I emailed again. Rep apologized, said he would look into it and would send me a gift card for my trouble. Week goes by. Nothing. No email. No gift card. I wrote yet again asking him if I started a whole new complaint if it would get to him again, or a new rep. Probably thinking I was going to complain about him, he finally found the answer. (Note: he didn’t answer ALL the questions I had originally requested). I did find out that there is Partially Hydrogenated Oil in the Chicken Marsala. Was that so hard? Over a month to get that answer! They are obviously trying to hide how hugely processed their food must really be!

    Author:
    Shannon
    Written:


    My family recently ate at Olive Garden for my birthday dinner and had a FABULOUS experience. We went to the one in Athens, Georgia. The general manager came out to personally see to my son’s food allergies, which are Non IgE but still very severe, and I had brought along supplemental ingredients that I wasn’t willing to risk ordering. They boiled him spaghetti in a clean pot with just water, no oil or anything, used clean utensils to plate it, and the manager delivered it out himself. Also, for salad, they brought a bowl of just the lettuce mix to prevent any issues there. I had homemade dressing and safe spaghetti sauce for him to use. It was the first time he was ever able to order his entire meal from the menu other than at Chick-fil-A and Mellow Mushroom where he can only have a few things.

    Olive Garden was spectacular with us, and I have a severe gluten intolerance and ate with no issues as well. It is impossible for my entire family to all eat at the same restaurant unless it is Chick-fil-A, Mellow Mushroom, or now, Olive Garden.

    People need to realize that catering to food allergies isn’t mandatory, and that the chain restaurant cannot be held accountable for what they are allowed and not allowed to do. People with food allergies and intolerances need to also realize that they are going to be limited in where and what they can eat. I learned this quickly when my son was born and quickly exhibited allergies to 17 foods and he can be allergic to ANYTHING he hasn’t ever had before. You must learn to adapt, always pack food when going somewhere, and quit blaming a restaurant because their recipies or policies don’t align with your dietary restrictions.

    It is fantastic when a place will work with you, and we should promote those places, but it’s not fair to the other restaurants to be looked down upon just because their vendors, menus, or owners are not allergy friendly. If that was the case then I could rate all Asian restaurants poorly because my son has a soy allergy that is so severe I won’t even take him into the places. Should I rant and scream that they aren’t tending to my son’s needs to have rice? NO! I just don’t take him to those places and when I want to eat from one, I do it when I’m on my lunch break at work. Now, quit dissing on restaurants just because their foods contain items you can’t have.

    Author:
    SPL
    Written:


    Shannon, I appreciate your post for this line: People need to realize that catering to food allergies isn’t mandatory. There are so many responses here of people primarily upset that the restaurant can not confirm 100% that there is no cross contamination anywhere. Sounds like that is smart on their part. You eat at your own risk and they have no responsible to accommodate you. You can eat somewhere else. I have a son with allergies and while I wish I had more options that I knew were 100% safe, I don’t expect business to bend to my will because my son happens to have allergies. I have the choice to dine at any particular place.

    Author:
    deloris Henderson
    Written:


    To whom this concerns
    With the upcoming nice weather I’ve been doing research on what restaurants will be safe for my grandson who has severe food allergies. I’m very disappointed to see that olive garden doesn’t take this issue seriously… he loves trying new food items but because he’s had terrible attacks with his allergies we must be extremely vigilant. I hope in the very near future this will be of importance to your organization…allergies to peanuts,dairy, eggs,cheese,. Please make your menu allergy friendly….where the whole family can enjoy without exclusion to food allergies and anxiety from it.
    Thanks !
    A very concerned grandparent

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