Olive Garden Gets Its Super Size Me Moment With ‘Never Ending Pasta Pass’

It's time to end the "all-you-can-eat" special.

olive garden pasta passPeople got so excited about the Olive Garden “Never Ending Pasta Pass” that they sold out in 45 minutes back in September. Yay! So much pasta! But we all knew this wasn’t going to end well right? Right.

A Business Insider staffer got his hands on one — $100, 49 days, all the pasta you can eat with breadsticks, salad and Coke beverages — and went to work. Well, he went to Olive Garden. And started to get sick after the first 20 days.

Word to the wise: Any restaurant, food or beverage company that’s thinking of doing an all-you-can eat special should probably think twice.

“I ate there, I think, 20 of the first 25 days, but stopped for a week because I started to get horrible canker sores from all the salt in the pasta,” said Business Insider Intelligence research analyst John Greenough.

After backing off a bit following a week’s vacation, he tried the take out and says the service was horrible.

All told, the one plus of his pass was the estimated $500 he saved. But if you’re getting canker sores and driving your sodium level through the roof, you’ll probably end up spending that money on the medical treatment you’re going to need.

The US has a well-reported and widely known issue with obesity, which is tied to an increase in diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. So unless you’re selling fruits or veggies, you probably want to lay off telling people they can stuff their faces nonstop for over a month. Yes, people like to eat, and they do like to eat foods that aren’t necessarily good for them. But encouraging bad behaviors is reckless and makes the company you’re working with look like it’s either out of touch or doesn’t care about its customers.

Second, if your food isn’t really healthy, be prepared for the news of how ill people started to feel after eating it literally ad nauseam. Morgan Spurlock made a name on this with Super Size Me and there are tons of others who are waiting for the chance to tell the same story with other food companies and restaurants. In the end, it damages the reputation of the all-you-can-eat provider by putting what’s really in the food into sharp relief.

The appeal of all-you-can-eat is almost singularly about the cost savings. So if that’s what you want to do — drive customers and have them talking about the great deal they got — then the strategy needs to change. How about deals that include the healthier items on the menu? Perhaps for every veggie or low-cal menu item purchased, you offer a free second entree? Or offer a free dessert to diners who order exclusively from the Meatless Monday menu? If people feel both good and full after eating at your restaurant, they’ll gladly eat all they can.