Known for its unlimited offerings, Olive Garden is an extremely popular restaurant with New Yorkers. However, at the end of the day, the restaurant that offers unlimited foods like salad, soup, breadsticks, and pasta must be left with loads of uneaten food, right?

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With so much leftover uneaten food, what does the restaurant do with it? Does Olive Garden simply toss leftovers at the end of the day?

Contrary to what you might believe, Olive Garden actually takes pretty big steps to minimize food waste. Both former employees and the company itself reported to the Daily Meal that Olive Garden is committed to donating uneaten food and has been for a long time.

For over a decade, Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and the Capital Grille, has partnered with Feeding America, a non-profit organization. Through their partnership, unused food from Olive Garden locations is directed to local food banks, making sure that it reaches the mouths of those in need.

In addition to the partnership with Feeding America, Olive Garden also has its own Harvest food donation program, which has been going since 2003. This initiative specifically focuses on diverting unserved food to local non-profit organizations. Through each of these programs, Olive Garden is reducing waste and making a positive impact in the communities it serves.

Olive Garden is not alone in its commitment to fighting back against food waste. Several other restaurant chains have also taken steps to donate excess food. Panera Bread, for example, is well-known for donating its surplus bread to local food pantries and missions. In fact, they even aired a commercial highlighting their efforts earlier this year.

Pizza Hut, with its long-standing Food Donation Connection program which was launched in 1992, paved the way for major companies to address food waste. Chipotle not only donates food but also contributes extra kitchen equipment.

While food waste still remains a significant issue, it's encouraging to see these companies making efforts to combat the problem.

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Over the last 15 years or so, I have driven thousands of miles all around Upstate New York researchi8ng and exploring places for my 12 travel guides published for this area. Almost always, when it comes to dinner time, whether in Buffalo, Ithaca, or the Hudson Valley, I head to an Italian restaurant for a meal. And, yes, over these many years and miles I do have favorites. Here are a dozen of them!

Gallery Credit: Chuck D'Imperio

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Gallery Credit: Chuck D'Imperio

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