Albany A consulting firm representing the Olive Garden family of restaurants has made inquiries about acquiring a hotel near the Albany Mall, but the owner of the property is downplaying assertions made by an Albany City Commissioner that “serious” negotiations are under way.
At a luncheon with the Albany Kiwanis Club, Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta said there were “serious” negotiations under way to put an Olive Garden restaurant at the present site of the Inn at the Albany Mall at the intersection of Dawson Road and Westover Boulevard.
Milan Patel, a representative of the investment group that owns the hotel, said there have been inquiries made, but to say that there have been serious negotiations was a stretch.
“To say that right now would be premature,” he said. “Companies like Darden Restaurants spend a lot of money and time doing their due diligence, and I think that’s what’s going on right now.
“We’re not razing a $3 million building on speculation.”
Marietta said he got his information about the Olive Garden from a recent Dougherty County Board of Health meeting in which Jim Pericaud, the head of Environmental Health, gave an update that included the fact that calls had been made on behalf of Darden Restaurants inquiring about site planning.
Carolyn Mashke, a spokesperson for the Southwest Public Health District, confirmed that Pericaud did speak to the board about a call from an Atlanta-based consulting firm but said no formal paperwork or other documentation had been received.
“Jim Pericaud did receive a call from the consulting firm representing the Olive Garden family of restaurants asking what would be needed if they were establishing a restaurant in the location of the present Inn at the Albany Mall,” Maschke said. “Calls like that, however, are fairly common, and it’s still very much unofficial. We haven’t received any follow-up documentation or paperwork.”
Olive Garden officials have had their sights on Albany for a while, but each time they look at a location, something has fallen through.
There are rumors that officials looked at a site off Nottingham Way and also looked at the former Hooters Restaurant on Old Dawson Road.
Still, when AlbanyHerald.com broke the story about Marietta’s comments early Wednesday afternoon, its Facebook page lit up with comments.
Polly Swilley Ball wrote, “Soup, salad, breadsticks! hooray!” after the story was posted.
Sonja Stidham posted, “Olive Garden is needed and appreciated. Would love 2 see it happen.”
Others were less optimistic about Albany’s ability to staff the facility.
“There is not enough qualified, dedicated people here to work to Olive Gardens standards,” Kyle Folds wrote. “Employees, not the restaurant, make the dining experience good or bad.”