Olive Garden on a Friday night

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As soon as the doors to Olive Garden open the smell of food and breadsticks hits you in the face.

A constant robotic question of “how many?” asks one hostess while another grabs the menus.

Waiters and waitresses run around trying to keep the customers happy, as the hostesses quickly try to seat each new customer. It’s Friday night and the restaurant is alive with people.

“5 o’clock is when it really starts to get busy, especially the Friday after a holiday because no one wants to cook,” one waiter said.

On a night like this the staff tries to get the customer in their seat,  quickly served food, and out the door as fast as possible. It’s no secret that more open tables means more business.

Tables are filled with all sorts of people: an elderly couple, parents and their two young boys, and a couple on a date.

Conversations about holidays and plans are heard at every table. The buzz of conversations mixing together fill each pause. Talk. Chew. Buzz. Repeat. 

Some people sit and talk long after their meal is finished and some leave as soon as the bill is set at their table. A waiter comes and asks a couple if he can get them something to drink, a sign to please leave after sitting there for a while after paying their bill. 

“Sorry, we have to go and catch a movie soon.” A couple of teenagers said squeezing in a quick dinner.

Most people are dressed casually, standing out against the formal wear of the staff. Some people do seem to have dressed up, whether they dressed up to go out and eat or for another reason is unclear.

“Please sit down and eat your mashed potatoes,” an angry mother said.

Crash. The sound of glass hitting the floor causes the volume of the room to drop. For a moment the song the restaurant is playing over the speakers can be heard, and it feels like an earlier, less busy time of day. The the disturbance is soon forgotten and the buzz of voices gets louder than before.

As time passes the customer turnover, people leaving and people coming, is too much to count.

“Are you thinking of getting dessert?” a waiter said. Almost time for someone new to be seated.

“No. Just the bill, thank you.”

By the time dinner is over, it is 7 PM. The lobby is still packed with people waiting to get a seat.

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