Olive Garden considering ending ‘Never-Ending’ pasta promotion

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Rick Cardenas, the soon-to-be CEO of the restaurant group that owns Olive Garden, said he doesn’t know when or if the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl promotion will return to restaurants. (Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Olive Garden may have a different definition of “never-ending” than the rest of us.

Rick Cardenas, the president and COO of Darden Restaurants, said in a recent earnings call that Olive Garden is considering ending its Never-Ending Pasta Bowl promotion, which previously allowed customers to partake in unlimited servings of pasta for a fixed price.

The promotion itself, however, had not been offered at Olive Garden restaurants since 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cardenas, speaking in an earnings call earlier this month, said the promotion’s two-year absence did not have a negative impact on sales and that it was no longer needed to draw customers.

“So we decided to reduce the dependency on the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl this year because we didn’t need to drive volume into our restaurants,” said Cardenas, who will also be replacing current Darden CEO Gene Lee in May 2022.

“As we think about why we had a better performance … it was productivity,” Cardenas added. “We just got better at serving the guests when they came in the restaurant. Our to-go business stayed strong, which is a very productive business for us.

“But as we look forward, we don’t know if we’ll bring and when we’ll bring Never-Ending Pasta Bowl back because we have a never-ending abundance every day with our never-ending first course,” Cardenas said, referring to the restaurants’ never-ending soup, salad and breadsticks.

Among other highlights from the call, executives confirmed that Darden restaurants will increase their minimum hourly wage to $12 per hour in January 2022, a full year ahead of the January 2023 timeline that the company originally projected.

Darden, the parent company of Olive Garden, also owns Longhorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, and The Capital Grille, among several other brands.

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