We've never done this before!
Let's go to a restaurant on opening day!
We've been watching the Olive Garden being built from the ground up (pretty quickly, actually) and, since we drive by there regularly, we'd seen the opening day sign and talked about how it would be fun to have a meal there that day.
I worked today, so lunch was out of the question. I planned to be home early, but...well, you know how that goes sometimes (and riding home on a bike takes a wee bit longer than a speedy car). So, we finally got everyone loaded in the minivan at 6:00 p.m. and drove down the street to our brand-spanking-new Olive Garden. Erik dropped me off to put our names in while he searched the crowded parking lot for an available space.
One hour wait? No problem! Erik and the kids can run an errand at the across-the-parking-lot Costco while I pick up a few things at the grocery store and take them home. Hungry toddler? Just ask for a breadstick while you wait. But then there were the three different servers (which one do we ask for?), the wait after looooooong wait for everything from glasses of water to placing our order to the arrival of food to the check (I mean three checks - the first two that were left on our table were for different tables). And then there were the hot salad plates. Awesome. BUT, the manager swiftly brought out ice cold replacements (and then forgot to refill the salad bowl while the plates got not-so-icy.) Double awesome.
The food (other than the warm lettuce) was good - typical Olive Garden fare. We tried a special and it was decent. A little salty for me, but I'm no food critic.
The manager visited our table and said that, with a completely new staff, they were still working out the kinks. New staff? I asked why they didn't have any experienced transfers and he explained that they didn't want any "bad habits" following an employee from one location to another. Seems like a huge chain like Olive Garden could figure out an evaluation system to help prevent that kind of thing from happening, but I'm no businesswoman.
Claire and I folded the chocolate mint wrappers into little origami cranes while we waited (and waited) for the correct check to make it to our table. You'd think after bringing the wrong check TWICE, the server would wait for our payment, but she disappeared again. We finally found the right amount of cash to cover our bill and tip, and just left it on the table.
From start to finish it was a THREE HOUR TOUR of Italy, and one we probably won't repeat for another three months.
We laughed a LOT tonight, had more than our share of breadsticks, and now we get to say that "we were THERE on opening day!"
And boy, were we there.
UPDATE: I do want to mention that every single member of the host/wait staff was super nice and accommodating. Very friendly, very gracious - just inexperienced. This post was intended to highlight the follies of an opening day with a corporate policy of starting a restaurant with an entirely new crew of employees, NOT to put down any of the hard-working men and women who served us. With their great attitudes, that restaurant should be a well-oiled machine in a few months (or maybe even a few days, but we just don't have time to risk it!)