Did Bringing Back The Olive Garden's Never-Ending Pasta Bowl Pay Off?

It's synonymous; when one thinks of Olive Garden, the word endless or 'never-ending' comes to mind. Whether it's all the breadsticks, salads, and (for a limited time) pasta one could eat — the never-ending promotion had Olive Garden standing in its league of deals at restaurant chains worldwide. Unfortunately for Olive Garden enthusiasts, the Never-Ending promotion took a back seat in 2020 and 2021 during COVID-19 (according to Nation's Restaurant News). When the pandemic closures hit the restaurant industry, shifts had to be made, including the suspension of Olive Garden's popular take on an all-you-can-eat concept.

Thankfully, on October 3, 2022, Olive Garden returned its promotion with a few changes. At a starting cost of $13.99 (as opposed to $10.99 in 2019), customers could order a Never-Ending Pasta Bowl while their promotion ran until November 20, 2022. While toppings added an extra $4.99 to the total order, it was still a great deal for customers who plan on eating more than one plate. While inflated food prices were 10.9% higher in October of 2022 than in October of 2021 (according to the United States Department of Agriculture) — the hike in food prices combined with the promo was geared to make this a great dining-out option for restaurant-goers.

Never-Ending Pasta Bowls, a popular restaurant-driver

After the evaluation on Olive Garden's November 27 earning call, the restaurant saw a 7.6% increase in traffic and same-store sales, according to Nation's Restaurant News. CEO and President of Darden (parent company to Olive Garden), Rick Cardenas, outlined three objectives the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl promo needed to meet: setting a competitive advantage, simplifying operations, and providing great value.

In contrast to the same conversation last year, Darden was hesitant to bring back the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl promotion, according to Insider. Initially, Cardenas wanted to reduce the dependency on Olive Garden promos and was unsure if the Never-Ending Pasta would grace the menu again. However, the price cost adjustment from 2019, along with the advantages of offering a great deal during an inflationary food period (via Restaurant Business), had Darden singing a different tune. While the promotion period has ended for 2022, we can all get excited about their unlimited breadsticks, salad, and soup option, which still remains on their menu (via Olive Garden).