HONOLULU (KHON2) — In a year filled with devastating news about the restaurant industry, here’s a bright spot: Olive Garden’s first Hawaii location will open on Thursday, Oct. 29, at Ala Moana Center.
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Hundreds of people are expected to be there, and management says that all the necessary precautions against COVID will be taken.
It is one of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings in a long time. Management says that Olive Garden hired more than 120 people who have been training to make sure they are ready to serve their first meal to the general public on Oct. 29.
For the past few days, friends and family of the staff have been playing the role of customers as the crew fine-tuned their service and cooking skills. The general manager says that the excitement is building and they are expecting a big crowd when the doors open at 5 p.m.
“I’m gonna bank on 200-300, but we’ll see. I know there’s a lot of people. We have a lot of phone calls every day, a lot of people trying to come in right now even though we’re working on stuff,” said Olive Garden General Manager Mark Taylor.
He says that physical distancing guidelines will still be strictly followed, and everyone will have to wear masks unless they are eating or drinking.
The restaurant is where Bubba Gump Shrimp Company used to be located. At 8,000 square feet, it is supposed to seat nearly 300 people, but that won’t be the case under current restrictions.
“We had to, because of social distancing, take some tables and chairs out. So we’re down to about 160, and so that is our capacity now,” said Taylor.
To those who have dined at Olive Garden on the mainland, Taylor says that everything on the menu there will be served here. He and other team members went to Phoenix for an intensive training program to make sure the recipes are followed. This also means that all-you-can-eat soup and salad will be served.
And yes, that goes for the breadsticks also.
“I have never had them before until I went to Phoenix for training and they’re so delicious that you keep eating them even though you’re full,” said Taylor.
For now, reservations are not being taken. Takeout is also not available but Taylor says that it will be a big part of their operation further down the road. There are plans to open a bar next door where the Mai Tai Bar used to be, but not until COVID restrictions are lifted on bars.
A second restaurant is scheduled to open at Ka Makana Alii in Kapolei in May.
For more information, visit their website.