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The Never Ending Pasta Bowl may in fact, be ending

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pasta with meatballs and sauce

Photo: Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post (Getty Images)

Remember Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Bowl? The one where you could get unlimited soup, salad, and pasta to your heart’s content—or stomach’s capacity? Turns out, Darden’s (Olive Garden’s parent company) newly minted CEO, Ricardo Cardenas, isn’t a fan of it, and has hinted it might not come back in the future, reports Insider.

Boo! Why do you have to take good things away from us? Actually now that I think about it, Olive Garden’s pasta isn’t very good. It’s just that idea of bounty that’s always been attractive. But the thing is, giving you a bounty is exactly what’s not attractive for a big corporation, whose sole existence is to take your money.

Cardenas said, “We don’t know if or when we’ll bring it back,” as Darden reported positive Q2 earnings for all of its brands. Olive Garden’s sales were up 5.2% over the same period in 2019 (pre-pandemic), and 29% over 2020’s. Olive Garden has been doing well recently, thanks to its push towards to-go orders. Because there’s nothing more delicious than congealed pasta sitting in a takeout container with a mound of sauce on top.

When fielding questions from financial analysts, Cardenas didn’t want to go into details, but said, “we know it was a negative impact.” While the Never Ending Pasta promotion was good at bringing people through the front door, it cut into profit margins.

In 2019, a single Never Ending Pasta order cost $10.99. Then there was that Never Ending Pasta Pass that went for $100 in a separate promotion, which allowed customers to order Never Ending Pasta for a few weeks, as much as they wanted. No extra charge was involved, aside from add-ons like meat. Previous promotions like Never Ending Pasta existed to boost lagging sales, but now that digital orders have been successful for the brand, Cardenas seems to believe there’s no reason to keep them around.

Plus, how many bowls of pasta can you eat in one sitting, anyway? Like, I enjoy a nice dinner of rigatoni now and then, but having an unlimited amount seems like flying too close to the sun. Since there was no definitive announcement that it’s gone, we won’t know for sure until later, but it sounds like we won’t be seeing an infinite strand of pasta for a long time.

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