Darden Restaurants is America’s largest full service restaurant company, operating restaurants like Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse, and many more. Darden employs close to 200,000 Americans, and for the past two years I have had the privilege of working for Darden at an Olive Garden location. I am an hourly restaurant employee, and as such I am eligible to take part in Darden’s health insurance and benefits programs.

Darden does offer health insurance to all employees through the Day One medical plan. Potential employees should be aware, however, that the Darden Day One health insurance plan probably won’t offer the same level of coverage that most employees are used to. For example, the Day One medical plan offered by Darden to new employees generally maxes out at $3,000 or $4,000 per year–this is a much lower annual maximum than traditional health insurance plans.

The-Darden Day One medical plan also has restrictions on coverage that don’t necessarily apply with “normal” health insurance. For example, the Darden medical plan does not cover any sort of mental health care, which is something that most plans on the market today do cover. The Darden plan also offers only limited hospitalization coverage.

In terms of cost, the Darden Day One medical plan is rather pricey in terms of what coverage it offers. Most Darden employees will pay $100 or more in monthly premiums for insurance that maxes out at just a few thousand dollars per year. A similar premium payment could be used to purchase a health plan with much higher annual coverage limits. Once a Darden employee enrolls in health coverage, they are locked in for an entire year, as opposed to purchasing individual coverage where you are free to cancel at any time.

It is important to note that once an employee works for Darden full-time for two years, they are eligible for more traditional group health insurance plans with much higher levels of coverage. These comprehensive health plans are only available to seasoned employees, however, and are not available to employees who are just starting out. Overall, I would say that the Darden Day One health insurance is definitely better than having no insurance at all, although it is somewhat expensive for the coverage you do receive. New Darden employees would be well advised to research private health insurance plans offered to individuals by outside companies, as these plans may be a better value than Darden health insurance. More information about the Darden Day One medical plan can be found on the Darden employee website or by contacting the Darden Total Rewards department.