Olive Garden, known for its bottomless breadsticks and pasta bowls, has struck a chord with consumers as America's leading Italian chain. However, a TikToker, who claims to have worked at one of the chain's locations for over ten years, casts a dark cloud over what goes on in the kitchen. You may never look at your soda the same way again.
The TikToker @spookyshanny shared several unsavory details about unsanitary conditions. For example, the TikToker claimed that the chain's bottomless salads attracted all kinds of creepy crawlies, including spiders and caterpillars. This Olive Garden, in particular, seemed to have a problem with insects and other small creatures, as they also revealed that they constantly battled slugs when getting diners' drinks. They said, "We actually had to knock slugs off before we filled up sodas, and our managers just said there was nothing we could really do about it." (via Newsweek)
The situation doesn't seem to be an isolated incident. In 2015, a Thought Catalog writer recounted discovering, to their horror, several cockroaches in the drink machine at a restaurant in New York. It makes a certain amount of sense. Sodas are high in sugar, which can attract insects, but is it a sign of an industry-wide problem?
Are Soda Machines Unhygenic?
Olive Garden may not be the only restaurant with allegedly unsanitary soda machines. There have been several studies into the restaurant industry's cleanliness when it comes to drink machines. A 2010 study by the International Journal of Food Microbiology (via CNN) found that nearly half of 90 drink machines tested in Virginia contained coliform bacteria. Coliform bacteria is a sign of possible contamination with fecal matter.
Things hardly improved several years later. A 2023 study published in Water Supply found that 41% of drink machines that were swabbed contained coliform bacteria. This seems to be an issue in the restaurant industry that's not going away. So why do restaurants struggle to keep their drink machines clean? It could come down to understaffing. Many restaurants have protocols in place for cleaning the drink machine at the end of the evening, but owners may take it in good faith that this is getting done.
Katie Heil, a food and content manager, tells Delish, "At understaffed restaurants, tasks like cleaning soda fountains are less likely to be completed than tasks that contribute to the visible cleanliness of the facility." Proper cleaning of both the inside and the outside of the drink machine is crucial for hygiene, but the complicated nature of the task could be one of the reasons it's neglected.
Signs Of A Bad Restaurant
If you're on the fence about whether or not you can trust the cleanliness of a restaurant, there are several tell-tale signs that you're at a dirty restaurant. For one, you want to consider the overall appearance of the restaurant. If the outside or interior appears dirty, that is a worrisome sign that cleanliness may not be at the top of the list of priorities for staff. Likewise, you learn a lot about a restaurant by taking a look at the state of its bathroom. For chain restaurants like Olive Garden, it's important to remember that things like cleanliness and service vary from location to location.
If it's a self-serve drink machine, you can also check for unusual colors with a napkin. If the napkin for a clear liquid like Sprite is orange or pink, that's an indicator that the drink machine isn't being cleaned as regularly as it should. You should probably steer clear in that case. Finally, always consider the overall health inspection rating of the restaurant you want to visit as well as reviews from other customers. They can give you a clearer picture of the overall cleanliness of a restaurant.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.