Some people grow tired of pasta, but I could eat it year long. So, on a random Thursday I “waited in line” virtually for one of these Never ending pasta passes. There’s an Olive Garden within 5 minutes from my work and another within 10 minutes from home, and I knew I’d be able to at least get my $100 investment back. Never did I think I’d get as much value as I did!
This card could not have come at a better time for us. I was in the middle of rehabbing one of our new rental properties and that left me zero time to meal prep. It also left my wife alone with our two kids for longer than usual making dinner a bit more difficult as well.
Number of visits
From Sept 23rd to Nov 24th I visited Olive Garden 36 times. The average bill was $15. The discounted total was over $540 in savings. If you factor in taxes the total was easily over $600. Each visit I’d tip $3, so my out of pocket costs were about $108. That brings my total spend on the pass to about $208.
How I maximized the pass
The whole premise of the pass was built around the unlimited pasta bowl. You could only use the pass for that specialized menu. It included 7 kinds of pasta, 5 sauces, and 6 different toppings. Once you finished the first round, you could order any new combination.
Each meal came with breadsticks and a choice of salad or soup. As you may know, the first dish served is huge! It’s almost a meal for two people by itself. Early on I set up a system that allowed me to get 4 meals out of each visit.
Get the salad to go
Instead of eating the salad, I would ask for it to go. My wife and I would then eat this for a dinner appetizer or we’d give it my mother-in-law would eat it for lunch the following day. I just asked for breadsticks to snack on while waiting for the pasta.
Ask for a refill early on
About a quarter way through my first dish, I would ask for my unlimited refill. Most of the time I would just get the same pasta refill to keep things simple. The server never had an issue with this because the kitchens times usually lined up as if I were to finish that first dish anyway.
Do not finish more than 1/2 the first serving
As I said above, the first serving is huge! I would always aim to eat about half of the first serving and that was more than enough for lunch. By the time I was finished eating half of it, my refill would arrive.
Get the rest to go
Now you have a full salad, 1/2 your first serving, and a refill. Ask for a to-go box and some extra breadsticks to go with it. You’re walking out with another 2-3 meals at this point.
Now, I can’t disagree with you when you tell me something like: “I’d never eat out that many times” because we don’t either. I’d never go out and spend $600 at Oliver Garden over a two-month timeframe. What I did compare is our actual grocery savings, for the two months, to what we usually spend. That’s where the $600 figure comes into play.
Our grocery budget almost disappeared for two months due to the pass. If you count each of the visits as 2-4 meals and an average meal out costs about $8 our total savings would be somewhere in the ballpark of $800-1000. If you take what I actually spent and compared it to a per-meal cost it would look something like this:
Cost out of pocket: $108 for card + $110 in tips = $218
# of meals: 36 visits X 3 meals per visit = 96 meals
Price per meal: 96 Meals / $218 = $0.45 PER MEAL
Where else can you pay under $0.50 per meal for 2 months straight and include proteins like chicken and shrimp?!
I’ll be sure to watch for this deal in 2020 and I hope you do too!