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Olive Garden Puts a Fan Favorite Choice Back on the Menu

Olive Garden fans will be happy (and maybe a little angry) as something has come back that hasn't been offered since before the pandemic.

Olive Garden runs a lot of fairly ridiculous (some would say bold) promotions. The chain has its giant stuffed pasta, which it touts in ads that imply you're getting some really big ravioli, but never make it clear how big. In addition, the Italian chain has made claims about its cooking school in Italy (it's a real thing), and brags about just how much Alfredo it offers on its menu.

And, while some would argue that there may be such as thing as "too much Alfredo," that's not an idea the Darden Restaurants (DRI) - Get Free Report owned chain seems to have considered. At the core of its offering, Olive Garden really wants to give customers a lot of food.

That starts with its famous unlimited soup or salad and breadsticks offer. If you order an entree (which aren't small to begin with), you can have one salad or one bowl of soup or dozens along with as many breadsticks as you can possibly stomach.   

But, for some customers, unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks simply aren't enough. They wanted unlimited pasta and that's something the chain used to offer as a very special promotion. That hasn't happened since the pandemic, but now, the chain has brought it back although there is a bit of a catch. 

Olive Garden Making a Menu Comeback 

Olive Garden like many other restaurants faced numerous challenges to survival during 2020-2021. A lot of restaurants had to completely shut down for long periods of time, while certain chains such as HomeTown Buffet closed down and never reopened.

Because of the risks of covid exposure, many restaurants that remained open needed to switch to carry-out service or outdoor dining during the pandemic in order to keep their doors open. Staff also needed to be reduced during the pandemic as restaurants reduced or eliminated table service.  

Olive Garden used this opportunity of having reduced staff and customers to do some work on the restaurant chain. Some things that Olive Garden did to help weather the storm was to streamline its menu, which meant pulling the plug on a lot of menu items that were time intensive or not very profitable.

Before the pandemic, Olive Garden had a little more competition, unfortunately some restaurants did not survive the pandemic. Businesses that had the best capacity to survive had a team focused on sustainability and it didn't hurt that the chain had access to more capital than that of competitors. 

The restaurant chain is in a strong position now to meet its customers' needs as it works toward getting back to pre-pandemic operations.

Before the pandemic hit, Olive Garden, which has roughly 900 restaurants around the world, offered the popular Never-Ending Pasta Bowl on its menu as a recurring limited-time offer. But the company removed it from the menu during the pandemic and because CEO Rick Cardenas has stated that the chain was over-reliant on the promotion, which gets a lot of attention, but wasn't a money maker.

Never-Ending Pasta Is Back

Olive Garden customers will be excited to see that, in addition to never-ending soup, salad, and breadsticks that have been a long-standing tradition at the restaurant, the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl is making a return. After a two-year hiatus, the fan favorite is set to make a comeback on Oct. 3, as this promotion comeback also celebrates the quarter-century anniversary of the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl. 

“The high demand for Never Ending Pasta Bowl, coupled with the fact that folks are finally returning to pre-pandemic dining habits, makes this the right time to bring back Limited Time Offers like this one, which focus on our competitive advantages of never-ending, abundant, craveable Italian food, and get our loyal guests excited about visiting our restaurants,” Olive Garden SVP of marketing Jamie Bunker told The Takeout.

This menu item provides hungry customers a choice between a noodle type consisting of fettuccini, spaghetti, rigatoni, and angel hair and a choice of sauce, such as creamy mushroom, marinara, five-cheese marinara, meat sauce, and alfredo. For an additional charge customers can add meatballs, Italian sausage, or chicken fritta.

Some fans won't like, however, that the price of the all-you-can-eat deal has jumped from $10.99 to $13.99. And, those toppings will cost an extra $4.99 (for your whole order, not per bowl).

All good things must come to an end, however, as the never-ending past bowl will make its exit on Nov. 20 just in time for Thanksgiving.