All the Olive Garden you can eat … for life!

For 2 years, I’ve been “punishing” Olive Garden for sleazy practice of adding $2 to my bill for the tablet computer that was on our table — even though we didn’t use it!

For the gory details (and a great read), see these prior posts:

I ended my personal boycott because I had the taste for Olive Garden bread sticks, not because the restaurant chain just announced a special promotion: the Olive Garden ““Lifetime Pasta Pass”.

The deal: Shell out $400 and you’re entitled to “a lifetime of unlimited servings of pastas, sauces, and toppings. Plus unlimited soup or salad and breadsticks.”

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Of course, there are some small print restrictions and and plenty of fodder for belly laughs …

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First, OG is only selling 50 of their Lifetime Pasta Passes nationwide (so that OG didn’t suffer the bank-busting fate as American Airline’’s “unlimited AAirpass for life”).

And, of course, they’re non-transferable so they don’t get passed around to friends and family.

No word on whether there’s a limit on the number of daily visits … or, a time limit on how long you can park for each visit.

And. the Pasta Pass expires when its owner  does.

Grub Street observes that the lifetime provision itself contains some of the risk of a promotional cost blow out:

“Olive Garden is probably banking on the fact that, should these 50 customers take full advantage of the deal and eat Olive Garden pasta every single day, a “lifetime” of never-ending pasta probably won’t last all that long.”

There may be other catches to the program…

Note that high margin alcohol isn’t on OG’s list of freebies.

Hmm.

As Grub Street observes the company’s PR release says “Plus unlimited soup or salad and breadsticks.”

Why “or” not “and” if you’re entitled to unlimited servings of everything?

Hmm, again.

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Risk & Reward

OK, so what’s OG’s potential downside?

Let’s pretend that a lifetime pasta passer eats at OG every day for a year.

With a $20 per day “cost”, that’s about $7,500 annually.

Note: Remember that food has a big mark up … so retail value is much higher than the cost of goods sold.  So, $20 is probably a high side estimate.

And, if we assume a 40 year life span (probably a high estimate  applying Grub Streets shortened life expectancy table), that’s about $300,000 for each lifetime passer …. or, about $15 million for the 50 lifetime passes being sold.

And, what does Olive Garden get in return?

First, a helluva lot of PR TV, radio, newspapers and conservative blog sites.

That alone is probably worth $15 million.

Second, it’s reasonable to expect that, rather than eat alone,  lifetime passers will drag friends and family to the restaurant.

The F&F diners will be paying full retail … and, may order lots of wine while they’re watching their ever larger buddy gorge himself.

Bottom line: Strikes me as a pretty clever program … save for the shots OG will take fron observers like Grub Street.

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