Appetizers

Is all-you-can-eat pasta for a year your thing? Olive Garden passes sold out in a flash

Those who purchased passes for the Never Ending Pasta Bowl at Olive Garden will be able to eat pasta and more pasta for an entire year.
Those who purchased passes for the Never Ending Pasta Bowl at Olive Garden will be able to eat pasta and more pasta for an entire year. Olive Garden

Imagine all the pasta you can devour for seven weeks for you alone ($100) or your entire family ($300).

If that’s something that appeals to you, you’re not alone. The 20th annual Olive Garden promotion known as the Never Ending Pasta Bowl has sold out in a hurry — as in one second. And who said the Atkins Diet and the Paleo lifestyle were relegating carbs to the nutritional dungeon?

That’s right, people signed on en masse, clicked “buy” and all at once the deal was sold out. And here in Sacramento, we thought that upscale, pricy Tower Bridge dinner was a tough get. Those tickets, at $175 a pop, were gobbled up online in a relatively lethargic 15 seconds.

Call it an incredible bargain. Or a recipe for rapid weight gain and related calamities. Either way, it’s great publicity for the Olive Garden.

While foodies and assorted food snobs like to lambast Olive Garden as a quasi-Italian, mass-market eatery serving mediocre food, this chain is wildly successful and knows its market. It has 800-plus restaurants, 96,000 employees and pulls in $3.6 billion in sales annually. It’s also much-admired by at least one restaurant critic.

Last year, Olive Garden made 1,000 Never Ending Pasta Bowl passes available to the public and they sold out in 45 minutes. This year, 2,000 were up for grabs and they were all sold in one second. Hungry pasta lovers are apparently getting more tech-savvy.

I’m telling you this now because this year’s passes, which sold out a few weeks ago, are now officially active. Holders of the family pass can bring up to three guests with them, which means pass-holders will have all kinds of friends dropping hints about wanting to hit the nearest Olive Garden.

In addition to the passes sold online, Olive Garden is making a select number of passes — one individual $100 pass and a $300 family pass — available for local Olive Garden general managers to give away to deserving customers. There are four locations in the Sacramento area. Olive Garden promises to connect us with some of those lucky winners, so stay tuned for a follow-up.

Editor’s note: This story was changed Oct. 6 to correct the length of time the Never Ending Pasta Bowl offer can be used. It’s valid for seven weeks.

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob

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