Olive Garden is tweaking its attention-grabbing Never Ending Pasta Pass deal this year, with 50 customers who manage to secure one of the $100 multiweek passes for unlimited pasta getting an opportunity to extend the offer for their lifetimes by paying an additional $400 each.
If the promotion goes as planned, the casual Italian chain will generate more than $2.4 million online in a flash, excluding the value of the free publicity and social media attention that is usually fostered by the deal.
This year’s online sale will commence on a special website set up by the chain, PastaPass.com, on Thursday at 2 p.m. EDT, with participants invited to enter a “waiting room” starting at 1:55. Until last year, the regular $100 multiweek pasta passes sold out in seconds. In 2018, Olive Garden provided the twist of selling a second pass, good for a full year, for $300. Restaurant Business tried to buy one of each. We were shut out on the higher-priced deal, though we hit the “buy” button instantly, but were offered two of the lower-priced passes.
This year, Olive Garden tweaked the numbers again. The length of the $100 pass was extended to nine weeks, from the eight weeks covered by last year’s pass, and the number offered for sale was raised to 24,000, from the 22,000 that were offered in 2018.
But the big change is the addition of 50 lifetime passes, available only to those who first win one of the lower-priced tickets. The 50 who will be invited to pony up the additional $400 will be notified Friday, Olive Garden said.
What started as a publicity gimmick during a trying time for the Darden Restaurants brand has become a significant marketing event for the now high-flying chain. This year, the Italian operation posted a video on its website to explain the pass purchasing processes and provide tips on how to secure one or both.
The nontransferable pass entitles the bearer to unlimited servings of pasta, breadsticks and salad at any of Olive Garden’s 866 branches.
Darden is also the parent of LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52 and Eddie V’s.