Olive Garden’s “Never Ending Pasta Pass” was introduced on Monday and gives the holder the right to consume all the pasta, salad, breadsticks and s0da they want for seven weeks.
However, if you want one of the limited passes, you’ll have to act fast. USA Today reports that only 1,000 of the passes will be sold online via the Olive Garden website. The sale starts Monday at 3 pm ET.
The PR stunt piggybacks with Olive Garden’s annual “Never Ending Pasta Bowl” promo, which goes from September 22 through November 9. The promo lets customers eat all the pasta they want for $9.99.
Jay Spenchian, executive vice president of marketing, explained of Olive Garden’s pasta pass stunt, “What we’re trying to do is get some attention. It’s sure to provoke a reaction.”
Spenchian added that the restaurant chain served 13 million bowls of pasta during last year’s promotion. The 800-store chain hopes to attract more attention to the already-popular promotion by taking on the new Never Ending Pasta Pass.
The all-you-can eat pasta promotion is one of several in the causal dining industry. TGIFridays launched a $10 “Endless Appetizers” deal in July, and Red Lobster is offering its annual “Endless Shrimp” promotion for $15,99, notes MSN Money.
Robyn Flipse, a registered dietitian and author of the book Fighting the Freshman Fifteen, warned that any promotion that stresses all-you-can eat works contrary to one of the most important aspects of dining — watching what you eat.
Flipse explained, “If the primary object is to get your money’s worth, it has nothing to do with good nutrition.” Instead of going out to eat, she recommends preparing pasta at home.
Spenchian countered that the Olive Garden pasta promotion isn’t about gorging on as much pasta as you can fit in your stomach. He explained, “We’re trying to make our fans feel like VIPs.” He noted that this is one reason up to seven guests who eat with the pass-holder will receive complimentary soda with their meals.
There are some limits to the promotion. For example, pass-holders aren’t supposed to share their food with others at the table. Spenchian commented, “Of course, if someone shares we do understand — we’re not policing the tables.”
He also noted that the restaurant chain would be happy to see pass-holders eat there every day of their seven-week stint. Spenchian notes, “I’d love to see that. Especially if they bring four or five guests along.”
And if you can’t eat it all, doggie bags are still okay with Olive Garden’s endless pasta pass.