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Can anyone explain why my kid's will only eat at Olive Garden??

We live within ten miles of some of the best restaurants in America and any special occasion has to be the Olive Garden,which is terrible.We have eaten in a two hundred mile radius from Italian to seafood to tradional American to prime steakhouses to Wendy's.What is with this crap at Olive Garden?What is the draw?Why is there a two hour wait?

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  1. Probably because they see commercials on TV all of the time... you can tell what the food actually tastes like on tv, but it does look like people are having fun. I think that's why I liked Chef Boyardee better than homemade spaghetti when I was a kid.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ewallace001

      Its funny,I could never aquire a taste for Chef Boyardee and that remains to this day.Being raised in an Italian American household,there was always authenic Italian fare served at our table,along with anything from soup to nuts.God bless Rose Germoni.

    2. Have you asked your kids why they will only eat at Olive Garden? If not, give it a try. It could be the start of a beautiful relationship.... :-)

      Maybe they like it that no matter what you order, it all comes out from the kitchen looking the same. Maybe it's the unlimited under-baked breadsticks. Maybe they like their food wildly over-salted. Maybe they, like a surprisingly large segment of the population, prefer to ignore numerous, terrific mom-and-pop Italian restaurants in the neighborhood willing to seat you immediately in order to wait for all of those aforementioned delights at O.G.

      4 Replies
      1. re: ecustard

        I do have a great relationship with my kids.They range from thirteen to twenty seven.We have had a very open relationship.I have asked many questions as to why.One daughter is a vegetarian.She will only eat the salad from Olive Garden.Three times a week She drives her boyfriend crazy.She has no explanation.Another daughter loves any of their chicken dishes.It is the same chicken I sold in fast food restaurants for 1/3 of the price(frozen,thin,overcooked,tough and fatty).My son will only eat the breadsticks,and two bites of pasta.Only thirteen,but I cant get an answer from him.My other son will eat anything,and he says he does so to go with the flow.My wife wants to make the kids happy,and I tag along to make her happy.

        1. re: raf945

          Well, i can answer part of your question - I can't say much for the chicken dish question, but the salad and the breadsticks at Olive Garden are actually really good.

          1. re: raf945

            Tell your daughter that (at least in Florida) you can buy a jug of their house salad dressing to have at home!

            1. re: crosby_p

              I think you can buy it anywhere. I know my grandmother used to buy it at least once a month.

        2. My 13 yr old likes to go here, for the bread sticks and then orders a side of fettuccine sauce to dip in. She likes their shells and cheese pasta from the kids menu. Thats all she orders, pretty simple. If we indulge her and go, its only for lunch, just so we can eat salad and bread as our meal.

          1. went today with a girlfriend, actually. Cheap and filling. Got the soup, salad and breadsticks. Salad was great for being mostly light lettuce, breadsticks actually nice and brown with a side of alfredo, both got the pasta e fagiole...ehhh. Switched to the milky one with sausage and kale, also ehhh. But for 6 bucks I had a ton of salad and some decent breadsticks.

            1. Most people do not care about their food, which is why there is a two hour wait! People on this site are at the highest eschelon of food appreciation and cannot understand why people do not care about food. Olive Garden advertises nationally and has developed a "taste" that people associate with enjoyment. It's lowest common denominator food for a reason.

              The core reason kids like Olive Garden is that adults like Olive Garden. I would guess that your kids have a strong emotional attachment to the OG which may overpower their taste buds. It may also be that their exposure to really good Italian food is very limited or that (even worse) they do not appreciate good food. Maybe you could try an upgrade program Olive Garden => Macaroni Grill => Il Fornaio or some other local place.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                Sacto, did I just see you say that Macaroni Grill was an upgrade from the Olive Garden? You have GOT to be kidding me. I can hardly tell the difference between the two places, except that MG is just more expensive.

                I think you're overthinking the whole Olive Garden thing. The OP's children primarily seem to like the salad and the breadsticks, which are two items that even Olive Garden detractors can agree are not too bad. Many children/teens go through phases where their tastes change; some boys will eat everything that doesn't eat them first, whiile the girls refuse to eat at all until forced. I certainly can't speak for all teenagers in the world, but I've not known many that were focused enough on food to enjoy seeking out unique culinary experiences - they're far too worried about other things to think too much about what does or doesn't go in their mouth.

                1. re: Suzy Q

                  Yes. Macaroni Grill is an upgrade from Olive Garden.

                  The breadsticks *used* to be good at OG, but now they are very bland with no garlic or butter flavor. The soups and salad are OK, but again not as good as the past.

                  Do not discount the "emotional" factor in food. Many children value eating out at restaurants as a highly positive event and will tie specific feelings to the restaurant. Conversely, I have a cousin who hated restaurants since she never had a pleasant family experience eating out.

                  Teenagers are not just pizza and spaghetti.

                  1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                    Blech. Gonna have to disagree with you on Macaroni Grill.

                    I agree teenagers are not just pizza and spaghetti. But I also don't think that we should expect them all to be "little adults", and especially not little Chowhounds. Sometimes kids just like what they like, and it's not the fault of the parents or anyone else.

                    1. re: Suzy Q

                      The OP's kids are, it sounds like, at least teenagers and some of them adults.

                      It's a preference thing, no making sense of all of it.

              2. Ummm why?

                Because you let them.

                You can decide that the family is eating elsewhere. That's a parental prerogative.

                I'm not saying every time... but you do also get your choice on occasion. If they don't find something to eat, they don't have to eat. I'm sure they will not die. They may even broaden their horizons.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Jennalynn

                  Finally! A voice of reason. Thanks, Jennalynn. Obviously you are a parent. We have 6 children, and they each get a turn to choose where we dine (within reasonable limits), but they also eat when my wife & I choose the location - which we do every other time we go out with the kids.

                  1. re: goodeatsinadive

                    Actually... right now I'm just mothering a 9 lb mutt ; )

                    But I had fair and fun parents. Good role models.

                    1. re: goodeatsinadive

                      I completely agree with encouraging children to have a healthy and diversified diet, but I do think that in families where everyone young and old loves such fabulous food, it's easy to assume it's a matter of character and upbringing rather than biology and genetics - some kids might just favor blander foods because that's what their bodies want. In this particular example, I do think that marketing plays a huge role. OG becomes a lifestyle choice.

                      1. re: MiriamWoodstock

                        Yes, but that's not what I meant.

                        I meant ALWAYS going to Olive Garden isn't fair or good for the family. It doesn't help the kids to say "I don't like anything else" and have the folks always concede.

                        On the other hand NEVER going to Olive Garden isn't fair or good for the family either. It doesn't show the kids that their likes or dislikes are taken into consideration.

                  2. My children have never and I mean never eaten at a chain restaurant with me. The best way to curb the appeal is to introduce them from the beginning to good quality.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gryphonskeeper

                      I don't think that's true. My parents never took me to chain restaurants but as soon as I had spending money and transportation of my own that was all I wanted to go. I lived in NY and had eaten in plenty of good Italian restaurants but as soon as I had my own money and transportation I ran off to Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill even Pizza Hut. Had my first McDonalds and BK. Similarly with Mexican food and El Torito or Chinese food and PF Changs. My parents couldnt understand it but they also couldn't really stop it. So never exposing your kids to that type of restaurant does not mean theyll never want to go.

                    2. Come on, people - taking your child to a chain restaurant isn't child abuse. Is it so implausible that either some kids don't care that much about food, or that maybe they want to go to the places where "everybody else goes" once a while?

                      Kids and parents have enough pressure on both of them these days - let's not make anyone's choice of restaurants a testament to good/bad parenting.

                        1. Let's see..teenagers are brand conscious..nike..prada.( if they are lucky I guess) .name brand clothes..olive garden. Good chance their freinds go there. It's a name brand. Little mom and pop stores are not name brands to them. In their world it may be a status symbol to go to Olive Garden. Teens/kids probably crave consistancy in their meals as well. Teens do not care for the special of the day/daily specials.They seem to seek out the tried and true.
                          No fusses about what to order. Safe food. Also, many teen girls ( I know the OP has boys as well) it is possible they believe the Olive Garden to be healthy fare. ie..eat the salad. Eating "healthy" fits into their priorities. As for boys, they just like food, a lot of it.
                          I see the Olive Garden as a primarily female restaraunt. (is that possible ?), a date restaraunt. Again, female gets to eat "healthy" safe food (salad and maybe pasta). It has a 'faux" Italian romaticism to it. Maybe my views are skewed because everytime my wife meets friends for lunch it is at Olive Garden. "Local BBQ ladies?, huh ? huh ? sigh."
                          I profess to like the soup/salad lunch. But, 8 beans for pasta and poor marinara ? Plus, it seems, all the new dishes advertised seem to always have alfredo sauce. I'm not a big alfredo sauce person, but it seems to be a huge favorite all the time for some people. And McDonalds gets heat for unhealthy fare. At least not every special is "alfredo" something.
                          PS, rule breaker to being a "female" rest IMO. I coach college football, the players love to go there on game week Thurs night if they have all you can eat pasta. It is their fav place. Fill up for 9 bucks.