Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Bowl didn’t end before raking in big bucks for parent company Darden Restaurants..
“Sales trends improved as we moved into Never Ending Pasta Bowl with more comparable marketing spend,” CEO Gene Lee said on a call discussing earnings in the company's fiscal second quarter. “Olive Garden continues to focus on operational execution, convenience and everyday value. Delivering exceptional guest experiences remains a key priority for the restaurant.”
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Darden, which owns some other big names like Bahama Breeze and LongHorn Steakhouse, reported a total sales increase of 4 percent to $2 billion in the three months through November, driven partly by the addition of 37 new stores.
“The promotional pipeline continues to be strong,” Lee said. “This is an important time that we focus on running great restaurants.
In a tight labor market, "staffing is the most critical thing that we face," he added. "We win if we have the best people."
Companywide revenue climbed 4.2 percent to $2.06 billion, though charges from the end of a pension plan dragged net earnings down.
The Never Ending Pasta Pass sold out in one second at launch, according to MarketWatch, and the restaurant chain offered the first 50 buyers the option of upgrading to a $500 lifetime pasta pass in August.
It’s also running a dine-in deal where customers can take home an entrée for $5.
Darden's stock has climbed 10 percent in the past 12 months.