Birth of a Restaurant Industry Employee Advocate Part II

Olive Garden’s specially-written, handcrafted ode to birthday happiness is called ‘Buona Festa’. Despite how the Italians might pronounce such a song title, most of the staff at the OG gave it a redneck Spanish twist by saying it like ‘bwey-na fay-sta’, bastardizing it even further. I can still recite it verbatim from memory to this day.

‘Buona Festa, what a joyous day’

‘Life’s good fortune is sure to come your way’

‘Come on sit back and just relax and fill your plate the Italian way’

‘We’re so glad you came to celebrate with us today’

One day at work I had just gotten through singing the birthday ode to somebody else’s table and I went to the dish pit to break down some dishes I had prebussed. On the way to the pit the music they had playing in the BOH and the words to Buona Festa dry humped in my brain and out came the Slow and Soulful Version of Buona Festa.

Set to the music of an Eagles song, the Slow and Soulful Version was my little gift to the Olive Garden, and they seemed to enjoy it immensely. In fact, I would sing it solo to my tables and my coworkers would get me to sing it to theirs. One time management even asked me to sing it to an employee at an alley rally who had to work on their birthday shortly before they were due to leave the Garden for greener pastures. ‘Sorry we scheduled you on your birthday right before you are quitting here forever—Here’s this asshole to sing Buona Festa to you. Happy Birthday!’

In other words the Olive Garden management liked it. They approved of it when I put my creative mind to work. When I applied there under the ‘What special skills or training do you have that would help you be a better employee’ part of the application I of course listed my experience working as a comedian. I explained to them during the interview that having a finely-honed sense of humor can help out in a lot of different situations in a customer service setting, and it can. It can disarm the most irate customer. It can smooth over stressful employee interactions. A good sense of humor can be a real miracle worker sometimes.

Don’t think that I substituted an alleged sense of humor for a work ethic: I was a model employee in most respects. I came in to work on time and sober and I did my job a lot better than my younger, less responsible coworkers. Experience does count in some situations and restaurant skills are very transferable in many cases. So when a bar position came open they passed over several employees that had been working there longer to ask me to be a bartender.

But wait . . . there’s MORE!

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