Olive Garden is the nation’s most successful Italian-style restaurant chain, with nearly 900 locations.
We have reviewed their website and social media pages, and while they frequently offer promotions and accept coupons, they do not have a posted military discount policy.
That said, some locations may offer a discount if you ask nicely. Olive Garden has also previously supported the military community by offering free meals or discounts to current and former military members on Veterans Day.
This year, Olive Garden is offering veterans one free meal from a special Veterans Day menu, and in some cases, an additional 10% off the bill for the members dining with the veteran.
Here is a list of over 100 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.
Olive Garden’s Veterans Day Deal
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.
This year, Olive Garden is offering a free entrée from their special Veterans Day menu. Meals include freshly baked garlic breadsticks and your choice of homemade soup or Olive Garden’s famous house salad.
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.
In most years, the special menu for Veterans Day usually has four or five entrée 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.
In 2020, the Olive Garden Veterans Day menu includes the following entrées:
- Cheese Ravioli
- Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
- Lasagna Classico
- Chicken Parmigiana
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 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, 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.
In previous years, the Olive Garden Veterans Day promotion included a 10% discount on the check for those who were dining with the military member or veteran. We are not sure if that offer has been extended for 2020. So be sure to ask your waitstaff.
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!”