Imagine an online offer for a restaurant chain that is so tempting it sells out in one second. That actually happened with the return of the Olive Garden's Never Ending Pasta Pass.
The original Never Ending Pasta Pass in 2014 was so popular that it crashed Olive Garden's website, and the passes sold out within 45 minutes. In 2015, with improved website capabilities, the 2,000 passes sold out in one second after going on sale.
This year, Olive Garden will post a link on its site where you can purchase more than 21,000 passes at 1:30pm ET on Thursday — over ten times more passes than last year. The sale goes live at 2pm ET.
What makes this deal so popular? For one thing, it is a spectacular deal for regular patrons of the Olive Garden. In essence, it is the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl extended over multiple visits for a limited period of time — unlimited pasta bowls spread out over seven weeks.
There are two types of Never Ending Pasta Passes. For $100, the same price as previous years, the Individual Pass entitles the pass holder to unlimited bowls of pasta, salad or soup, and Coke-branded soft drinks over a seven-week period (October 3rd through November 20th). The average individual would only have to eat at the Olive Garden eight or nine times to get their money's worth. Other dining guests do not receive the offer and are rung up on separate tickets, but they do receive free soft drinks. Even gluten-free pasta is included in the deal. Drinks aside from Coke-branded soft drinks or unflavored iced tea are not included in the Never Ending Pasta Pass, nor are gratuities.
It seems that the Family Pass offered in previous years, which cost $300 and entitled the pass holder plus three guests to the same deal, will not be available in 2016. Another change in this year's deal is that you can only redeem your pass for dine-in meals. Last year, you were able to redeem your pass for take-out meals up to two times per day, and receive one pasta portion per person along with breadsticks, soup or salad, and a soft drink.
It's possible to dine multiple times a week and save hundreds of dollars over the course of seven weeks — although you may need to buy a new wardrobe after realizing that your clothes do not fit anymore — so it is no surprise that the passes are popular. It is also no surprise that the supply is limited. While you may have 21,000 chances at buying a pass, they will only be on sale for an hour — or until they sell out.
The lucky few who manage to purchase a pass will receive their pass in the mail as a personalized, non-transferable card to be presented upon ordering. As with any scarce and valuable item, Pasta Passes show up on eBay or Craigslist periodically. However, if you choose to buy one anywhere outside the Olive Garden website, you do so at your own risk. Olive Garden reserves the right to check identification. If you cannot produce ID, the restaurant may not allow you to redeem the pass.
If your mouse was not fast enough last year or you did not even know about the promotion until it was too late, this year you have another chance, so bookmark their promotional page on the Olive Garden website. Immediately following the sale, Olive Garden will auction an additional 21 Pasta Passes. All proceeds of the auction will go to Feeding America®, a hunger relief organization.
In the worst case, if you miss out on this year's Pasta Pass promotion, you can take solace in the fact that you can still eat at the Olive Garden as a periodic treat, and that your clothes still fit.