A screenshot of someone putting something into a bag. Next to it is an Olive Garden sign. In the bottom right corner is text that says 'Main Character of the Week' in the Daily Dot newsletter web_crawlr font.

@alexxvonn6/TikTok (Fair Use) JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock (Licesned)

Main Character of the Week: Olive Garden ziosk heist

Ziosks are particularly emblematic of America’s foundational cracks.


Ramon Ramirez


Posted on Dec 16, 2023   Updated on Dec 18, 2023, 7:12 am CST

Main Character of the Week is a weekly column that tells you the most prominent “main character” online (good or bad). It runs on Fridays in the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.

The internet is a stage, and someone unwillingly stumbles onto it weekly. This makes them the “main character” online. Sometimes their story is heartwarming, like the wild customer who blew up 25-cent wing night; usually it’s a gaffe. In any case, that main character energy flows through the news cycle and turbo-charges debate for several business days.

Here’s the Trending team’s main character of the week.

It’s the Olive Garden customers who stole the ziosk after their (presumably because it’s the best meal deal) Tour of Italy.

Ziosks are those electronic tablets that casual dine-in chains across America have used for the past decade to close-out tabs and entertain children. Eventually, viral pranksters were going to snatch themselves a ziosk

This happened recently when user @alexxvonn6 posted a TikTok, which has produced 1.9 million views as of this writing, of the ziosk heist. It shows Alex filming a ziosk that is stuffed into a to-go Olive Garden bag, hidden in a to-go entree container. It’s unclear if Alex actually made it out of the restaurant before being apprehended by authorities, or if Alex even went through with this five-finger discount since the video was filmed at the Olive Garden table.

But we loved the gag anyway because bored and funny young people across America’s strip malls should make an effort to stir the pot. Teens in particular love to steal. 

As a teen, I stole a vintage coaches’ polo from a display case at my high school, a giant walkway mat from a rival high school, soccer gear from a rival high school that was more affluent, a handful of traffic cones, music from Napster, a life-size cardboard cutout of Kevin Garnett from the school cafeteria, and JC Penney-style family portraits from my friend Gabriel’s house that I hung up in my parents house until someone noticed a year later.

Sure, a stolen ziosk may ultimately just cause logistical problems for this area Olive Garden’s personnel but it is important to disrupt society by targeting soulless corporations, thereby sticking it to the man. (This particular Olive Garden’s manager, probably.)

And ziosks are particularly emblematic of America’s foundational cracks. As we reported this week:

“Since these electronic screens were introduced to Olive Garden restaurants back in 2015, they’ve stirred up issues… [S]ervers complained that the little machine, which can be used for customers to pay their bill at the end of their meal, was shorting staff on tips by miscalculating them, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.”

Personally, I find ziosks impersonal and imposing, prone to killing whatever good vibes are left at places like Applebee’s and Texas Roadhouse. Have you been to an Olive Garden lately for dine-in? They can be best described as “elevated food court at the mall.”

On Monday, my uncle, visiting from Mexico City, wanted Italian for his birthday and requested the Olive Garden. In Mexico City, the minimum wage is about $11 USD per day in a country where 43% of the population lives in poverty. To do the Olive Garden in Mexico City is a fancy night out few can afford. 

Stateside, the Olive Garden is less of a status symbol. I love its accessible, populist nature. (We went to a different Italian place after being told it’d be an hour-long wait; I had to draw the line somewhere.) I don’t love its ziosks.

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*First Published: Dec 16, 2023, 6:00 am CST