Q. How long have you worked for Darden and Olive Garden?
A. I’ve been a server for Darden 31 years. I started at a Red Lobster restaurant in Orlando, FL, and worked there for about eight years. I transferred to the Olive Garden restaurant in Myrtle Beach, SC, because I needed to move there for family reasons. I’ve mostly been here at the Lake Buena Vista Olive Garden in Orlando, FL, during my 23 years with Olive Garden, but I transferred several times to the restaurants in Lancaster, PA, Atlantic City, NJ, and Everett, WA, to be near family and take care of relatives who were sick. It’s been wonderful to be able to easily move to other restaurants for personal reasons and not lose my job or my benefits. It enhanced my personal life. The continuity across the brand is nice, too — you can walk into another Olive Garden in a different state and you immediately know what you’re doing.
Q. What are the top three reasons you have dedicated your career to Olive Garden?
A. First, the flexible schedules. My managers at all the Olive Garden restaurants I’ve worked at have been so accommodating, especially in Washington state when I was caring for my mother who had many doctor appointments. Second, the benefits, especially the medical coverage and the 401(k) retirement plan with its company match, are tremendous. And last but not least, the people. I’ve got friends here on the team whom I’ve known for 15 to 20 years, and I’ve become good friends with several regular guests, too. They’re like my family. Those relationships enhance my feelings of happiness.
Q. What is the atmosphere like at your restaurant?
A. Professional but relaxed, and when we’re really busy, we all work together like a well-oiled machine. Our restaurant is in a tourist area not far from Disney World, so we tend to get late-night rushes. Going out to dinner is special, and I love to see our guests happy with their meals and having a good time. Our menu, with its broad spectrum of tastes, accommodates so many people. Kids love us, too. You can’t imagine how many families come in for their child’s birthdays because the kids said they wanted to celebrate at Olive Garden
Q. Is there one Olive Garden dish you can’t resist?
A. I like the Chicken Parmigiana best.
Q. What do you like to do on your days off?
A. I’m a homebody. I bought a house two years ago, and I live there with my son, a granddaughter, two parrots, two dogs and a cat. I love to cook, and my best dish is spaghetti and meatballs with a sauce made from scratch that simmers on the stove for hours.