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Olive Garden to open Thursday at Ala Moana Center

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA/CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Mark Taylor is general manager at the new Olive Garden at Ala Moana Center.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA/CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Mark Taylor is general manager at the new Olive Garden at Ala Moana Center.

  • DAVE REARDON / DREARDON@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Renovations at the Olive Garden at Ala Moana Center have been underway for months. The restaurant is set to open Thursday. The Mai Tai Bar next door is being prepared for reopening when the city enters Tier 4.

    DAVE REARDON / DREARDON@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Renovations at the Olive Garden at Ala Moana Center have been underway for months. The restaurant is set to open Thursday. The Mai Tai Bar next door is being prepared for reopening when the city enters Tier 4.

Hawaii’s first Olive Garden is scheduled to open Thursday, just as plans for a second location in Kapolei have been announced.

A new staff of 99 has been trained and the restaurant space — the former Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Ala Moana Center — has been completely renovated, General Manager Mark Taylor said.

A preview dinner Tuesday night uncovered a few “bugs,” Taylor said, but he is confident they will be worked out. More run-throughs are set for tonight and lunchtime Thursday, leading to a public opening at 5 p.m.

“Hopefully, tomorrow at 5 will be the beginning of the Olive Garden in Hawaii,” Taylor said.

The local franchisee, Union Mak Corp., is already planning a second location, in the Ka Makana Ali‘i mall in Kapolei. The restaurant is going into an existing space in the mall, Taylor said, and should open in May.

Union Mak also owns the Mai Tai Bar next door at Ala Moana, he added, and plans to reopen it with the same name and concept as soon as the city moves to Tier 4 in its reopening plan.

The old Bubba Gump space, built in 1999, had to be gutted, Taylor said, and has been transformed to match the chain’s Tuscan-style decor. The menu is an exact duplicate of what diners have found in Olive Garden’s more than 850 restaurants.

The 8,000-square-foot space could seat 299, but now has space for 160 with social distancing in place, Taylor said. The lanai has been expanded and now holds 10 tables.

No reservations are being taken for opening day.

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