Olive Garden, the nation’s most successful Italian-style restaurant chain, will thank veterans with a free meal this Veterans Day, Sunday, November 11.
The Florida-based chain, which has nearly 900 locations, has not made an official announcement about its Veterans Day 2018 offer yet, but we expect it will continue its offer from recent years: one free meal from a special Veterans Day menu.
Olive Garden is among many restaurants celebrating Veterans Day with free or discounted meals for veterans and active duty military members who have sacrificed to guard our nation’s freedom.
Details About Olive Garden’s Deal for Veterans
If you’ve eaten at Olive Garden before, you already know what to expect: quality Italian food, professional table service, and a clean and attractive environment. Newer locations feature a Tuscan-style interior.
You also can expect lots of salad and lots of the restaurant’s signature breadsticks as part of your meal. We expect unlimited salad and breadsticks will come along with the free Veterans Day meal since that’s been the case for several years now.
After all, it wouldn’t be Olive Garden if you didn’t have to be careful not to eat too much bread before your actual dinner arrives.
About that Dinner: What’s on the Menu?
Olive Garden usually prints a special Veterans Day menu with a limited range of free options for veterans and active duty military members.
The special menu usually has five or six entree choices. It is more limited than the full restaurant’s menu, but it is representative of the restaurant’s offerings, and it helps staff make sure they have enough food to serve any veteran or active duty military member who wants a free meal.
We can’t guarantee the following choices will be included since Olive Garden hasn’t made an official announcement about this year’s deal. However, the following entrees have been included in the past couple years:
- Cheese Ravioli
- Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
- Lasagna Classico
- Chicken Parmigiana
- Chicken Piccata.
Each of these meals includes unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks but not drinks or gratuity.
What to Bring to Prove You’re a Vet
Before you can order your free meal, your local Olive Garden staff will want to see proof that you’re a veteran or a current member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Sure, it takes a minute, but it helps the restaurant make sure it has enough food to serve local veterans by making sure others don’t try to claim a free meal.
Some of the most common documents to prove your status include:
- Military ID Card
- Veterans ID Card
- DD 214
- State-issued ID Card or Drivers License with Veterans Stamp
- Veterans Service Organization Membership Card
- You may also be able to bring a citation or commendation that includes your name or a photograph of yourself in uniform.
If you are not sure whether your proof of service will work, it’s a good idea to call ahead before arriving. If you’re unsure where your closest Olive Garden is or would like contact info for your local restaurant, you can check all of their locations here.
Dates, Times, and Other Deal Details
Most years there’s hardly any confusion about when to arrive for a free meal on Veterans Day. Veterans Day is always on November 11, the same day Allied and German forces on the Western Front observed a ceasefire to end World War I in 1918.
This year, Veterans Day happens to fall on a Sunday which means the federal government will observe the holiday the following Monday, November 12.
This official observance of Veterans Day has no impact on Olive Garden’s plans.
Olive Garden will offer a free meal to veterans and active duty military members only on Veterans Day itself, Sunday, November 11.
Most Olive Garden restaurants open at 11 am and close at 10 pm, though it is possible your closest restaurant has other plans. Please be sure to call ahead or check online before arriving, especially since Sunday hours are among the most likely to vary from location to location.
Olive Garden’s Web site now includes wait times at its locations. This feature allows you to know before arriving about how long you’d wait to be seated.
If wait time will influence your decision about where to eat on Veterans Day, check the site before arriving. With so many deals and discounts available now, you can find a place that fits your time budget.
Limitations to the Veterans Day Meal
Most restaurants offering free meals to veterans and active duty military members on Veterans Day do not extend special offers to family members or friends of veterans.
That’s understandable. After all, few restaurants would be able to give away entire tables of food all day. Olive Garden, however, doesn’t exclude family members entirely from its Veterans Day promotion.
People in your party who have not served in the military can still get a 10 percent discount on their food.
The free Veterans Day deal does not include drinks or gratuity, so please be sure to plan ahead and bring some money to tip your server and to buy your beverage. It’s always a good idea to tip based on the full cost of the meal – remember, your waitstaff are working hard for you!
Olive Garden also restricts its Veterans Day promotion to dine-in customers. You won’t be able to order your free meal as takeout.
More About Olive Garden
Since its founding in the early 1980s, Olive Garden has grown into a mainstay of the casual dining industry.
Measured by the number of locations and amount of revenue, Olive Garden is the biggest and most successful Italian-themed restaurant in the United States. (Carraba’s is a distant second.)
Along with its annual Veterans Day promotion, Olive Garden, owned by the Darden Corp. of Orlando, Fla., seeks to give back to the community through special promotions for first responders on Labor Day.
The chain also encourages employees to help each other by contributing to an employee relief fund which can be tapped after natural disasters or medical emergencies.
If you’re in the mood for a hearty, Italian meal on Veterans Day, check the wait time at your local Olive Garden, bring your proof of military service and your family and friends, and gather around the table.
Your food will be free, and your non-military family and friends can get a 10 percent discount.
Enjoy Your Veterans Day Discounts
If you find yourself in the mood to explore museums and other attractions or events this Veterans Day, we’ve compiled a list of attractions offering discounted prices as well.
There’s truly something for everyone this Veterans Day as companies nationwide say, “thanks for your service!”