Sold out online in less than one second, Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Passes promotion for 2015 beat last year’s turnaround of 45 minutes flat. The campaign, which started at 2 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2015, was an attempt to recreate last year’s success.
According to Business Insider, the passes cover seven weeks straight of unlimited pastas, breadsticks, salad, and Coca-Cola beverages. The pasta passes were so popular when offered for the first time last year that the Olive Garden website crashed before they even went on sale.
Widely known as an Italian-American restaurant chain across the United States, Olive Garden has been in business for 33 years. On December 13, 1982, it started as a single restaurant in Orlando, under the wing of General Mills Incorporated.
Olive Garden now exists as a subsidiary of General Mills’ spin-off Darden Restaurants Incorporated headquartered in Orange County, Florida. According to Statista, the number of outlets has bloomed to 846 Olive Garden restaurants operating in North America.
Despite all the attention grabbed by the Pasta Pass program since its inception in 2013, an improvement of the restaurant chain’s profitability picture is still much in the works. Parent company Darden crunches numbers with its board, taken over by investor Starboard Value.
Jose Duenas, executive vice president of marketing at Olive Garden, indicated that this year’s promotion celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the chain’s Never Ending Pasta Bowl, priced at $9.99, allowing people to gorge on as much pasta as they can in a single visit. Duenas made the following remark to New York Post.
“We see it as a manifestation of Italian generosity.”
Consumerist tracked feedback from Olive Garden customers participating in the event. One customer reportedly counted down to zero but gave up when he “immediately” received a sold out notification. Another customer who claimed he instantly saw the sold out page was still able to buy not one but two passes. The trick, he said, was that when the page counted down to the sold out message, he returned to the original page and re-clicked the link to buy, thus getting the checkout screen.
Fortune unearthed an exchange between a disgruntled customer and Olive Garden on Twitter. The customer tweeted the following.
“What a scam! As soon as the count down hit zero the next screen I got a second later said passes all sold out. What a joke.”
In response, Olive Garden tweeted back a reassurance.
“No scam, just high demand! Don’t worry, there’s still a chance to win a #PastaPass…” followed by a link to the promo.
[Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images]