It's not exactly controversial to say that Americans love food, and one of the biggest restaurant chains in the United States is Olive Garden. It typically ranks number one or number two in yearly gross sales, depending on the source. And why wouldn't it? Americans absolutely love absurd amounts of pasta at an affordable price, which is why the chain's never-ending pasta pass sells out instantly. Maybe its dishes aren't authentic -- its breadsticks don't look like anything you'd find in Italy -- but Americans don't seem too concerned.
But with all that food comes the question of waste; if Olive Garden has so much food on hand, how much of it winds up in landfills? Does the restaurant just throw tons and tons of food away? It turns out, it doesn't: according to both former employees and the company itself, it's actually pretty good about donating uneaten food -- and has been for decades.
Olive Garden Has Partnerships To Reduce Food Waste
It's no secret that America has a food waste problem; about 40% of food produced, processed, and transported in America ultimately winds up in landfills. That means 119 billion pounds of food for a total value of around $408 billion -- those are not small numbers. And while much of that comes from grocery stores or American homes, some, inevitably, comes from restaurants. Those restaurants need to make money, so donating food seems like it would incur extra costs for them.
But Olive Garden locations actually do take care not to simply let all their uneaten food go to waste. Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and the Capital Grille, has partnered with a non-profit organization called Feeding America for over a decade to make sure their unused food gets to local food banks. Darden also has had their own Harvest food donation program since 2003, which gets unserved food to local non-profits.
Other Chains Also Donate Excess Food
Obviously, food waste is still a problem; Olive Garden can't exactly donate a half-eaten plate of pasta that a customer didn't want to take home. But they're doing their best to donate food whenever possible. And they're not the only restaurants working to eliminate food waste.
Panera Bread is well-known for donating its excess bread to local food pantries and missions, and even aired a commercial about it earlier this year. Pizza Hut actually has the longest history of any major company when it comes to combating food waste: the Food Donation Connection program, which now services numerous restaurants, started out with only Pizza Hut in 1992. Chipotle donates not just food but excess kitchen equipment as well.
Other chains that make it a point to try to donate food include Starbucks, Pret a Manger, Longhorn Steakhouse, and the Cheesecake Factory. Though food waste is still a big issue, it's good that these companies are making an effort to combat this problem.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.