“Home is the nicest word there is.”
— Author Laura Ingalls Wilder
Breanne Hinnant, general manager of the Olive Garden restaurant in Frederick, MD, understands that few things can increase one’s happiness more than a feeling of belonging.
That keen perception has guided her career choices since she became an Olive Garden server at the Greenville, NC, location in 2011 while earning a degree in elementary education. She taught first-graders for a time as a substitute teacher, and then was offered a full-time teaching post AND a manager position with Olive Garden. Her choice was easy.
“Olive Garden was my home when I was in college, and it has helped me grow as a person for the last seven years,” she said. “My favorite thing about teaching is coaching and developing others and being able to brighten someone’s day with knowledge. I knew I could accomplish that in both jobs, but I realized my passion was with Olive Garden. It was the best of both worlds.”
Breanne has not looked back. After working as a manager at North Carolina locations in Wilson, Wilmington and Jacksonville, she was promoted to her current position in September 2017.
Her enthusiasm for the brand shines through when she is interviewing prospective team members. “The main thing I tell job candidates is that we don’t just say you’re family here, we mean it. You are 100 percent loved for who you are while you are here at Olive Garden.”
Her fiancée, Kate Wright, also works for Olive Garden, as a culinary manager at the Olive Garden restaurant in Westminster, MD. They met in 2015 when Kate worked as a server at another Olive Garden restaurant, and they will marry June 23.
“We are totally in love,” Breanne said, “but we still enjoy coming home and talking about work. We find ourselves challenging each other, picking each other’s brains and learning from each other.”
“You are 100 percent loved for who you are while you are here at Olive Garden.”
Breanne said she didn’t always feel comfortable in her own skin, which makes the sensation of acceptance even more satisfying. “I grew up in a small town where I couldn’t be myself, but I’ve learned that it’s okay with Olive Garden and Darden. It’s been nice to not have to hide anything if someone asks, ‘What does your husband do?’
“Olive Garden’s culture is so diverse. The restaurant I started with and every one I’ve worked at since has contained a multitude of cultures and people from all walks of life. I focus on that when I invite people into my family at the restaurant — that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done or who you’ve been in the past, or who you want to be, we can help you get there by being a server, bartender or dishwasher. You can be who you want to be while working in a wonderful job at Olive Garden.”