Erin Gosselin’s family life revolves around social occasions and good eating. Lucky for her, having fun with food has spilled over into her 32-year career at Olive Garden.
“Food is a big social event for my large family,” she said, “and it’s the same at Olive Garden, with its great food and the conversations that come from those meals.” Erin has been a bartender at the Olive Garden restaurant in Gainesville, FL, for 20 years.
“I joke to people that my Olive Garden job is temporary and that as soon as I decide what I want to be when I grow up, I’ll find something else, but the restaurant is in my blood.”
It was 1985 when she started as a server at an Olive Garden restaurant in Kissimmee, FL. She had left a hotel management job that required long hours because “I had no quality of life. The money was incredible at Olive Garden. I loved the fact that I worked half the hours I had worked at the hotel but made twice the pay!”
In 1998, she moved to the Gainesville location and switched to bartending. “People tell the bartender everything! Sometimes someone just needs a friend, and I’ll be that friend.” (Below, Erin shares a bit about herself in a short video.)
“What amazes me about Erin is her continued enthusiasm,” said General Manager Justin Flanders. “After 32 years, it would be easy to become complacent, but she has done the opposite."
She gets to know a fair number of cancer patients and their families because her restaurant is near the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital. “I’m excited for them when they go into remission and get to return home.” Although there is routine to her job, the guests make every day different. “You never know what cool person might come in.” When she worked in Kissimmee, she met baseball great Yogi Berra and Davy Jones of The Monkees.
She’s especially grateful for the friendships she has forged through her job. “I met my three best friends at Olive Garden, one of them 32 years ago! We’ve been there for each other through births of grandchildren and deaths of parents, through joy and loss. We would move heaven and earth for each other.”
Erin lives with her husband outside Williston in an area where foxes, rabbits, hawks and eagles abound. “My nearest neighbor is 40 acres away.” When she’s home, she likes to unwind by sitting under a big tree with a cup of coffee and a book.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking she spends all her time lounging in a chair, though. She’s adventurous — she learned to ride a motorcycle in her 50s and traveled around Europe by herself for three weeks when her husband decided not to go.
She’s happy with the good life she has built for herself with the help of her “temporary” job. “Why wouldn’t you love to work at Olive Garden? They offer a 401(k) retirement savings plan, health insurance including vision and dental care, paid vacations. That’s awesome. You’d be crazy to not want all those benefits, but there’s more to work than benefits. There’s the feeling that you’re important, and I feel important.”