What You Need To Know About Olive Garden's Never-Ending Pasta Bowl Portions

Spaghetti and meatballs
Spaghetti and meatballs - Grandriver/Getty Images

Every so often, Olive Garden introduces a pasta-focused promotion. The Never Ending Pasta Bowl allows customers to create their ideal dish by choosing from a variety of different pasta shapes, sauces, and toppings, and receive unlimited servings.

At first glance, the promotion may not seem like it would benefit the restaurant from a business standpoint. Customers participating in the program can enjoy seemingly endless servings of soup, salad, breadsticks, and pasta starting at just $14. While this may be a great way to draw in customers, it makes sense that the restaurant chain would be losing money by offering the deeply discounted servings.

As it turns out, the restaurant has a method to ensure it stays profitable. The first serving of pasta is quite a bit larger than the average order, making it difficult for most diners to order seconds or thirds. If you do grab an extra serving, you may find that your additional food is a bit smaller than that original entrée.

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What Goes Into The Pasta Bowls?

Olive Garden restaurant sign
Olive Garden restaurant sign - Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

The method is fairly straightforward and could serve as a way to prevent diners from consistently sending servers back to the kitchen. The larger serving size — which you get after eating your salad, soup, and warm, garlic butter breadsticks — will more than likely fill you up. Then, if you still have room for any extra servings, your server will bring out a smaller portioned meal. That way, less food will go to waste if you aren't able to finish the whole dish.

Customers start their orders by choosing their preferred pasta shape. If you like a longer noodle in your dish, you can choose from fettuccine, spaghetti, or angel hair pasta. You can also opt for some rigatoni, which could trap a little bit of extra sauce in every noodle. When it comes to the sauce, there are five different options: Creamy mushroom, meat sauce, alfredo, marinara, and five-cheese marinara.

For an additional $5, customers can also opt to add some extra protein on top of the dish in the form of meatballs, Italian sausage, or crispy chicken fritta.

Is The Promo Price Worth It?

Rigatoni with Bolognese sauce in bowl
Rigatoni with Bolognese sauce in bowl - Kivoart/Getty Images

Though the promotion is a great deal if you're dining in with a big appetite, the unlimited aspect unfortunately doesn't extend to any take-home portions. If your server is feeling generous, they will let you box up your leftovers if you have an unfinished plate, or you could wind up with some extra breadsticks. Just be sure to tip them accordingly — some Olive Garden servers have expressed their dislike of the unlimited food promos, due to the extra work required that can result in smaller tips.

So, is the deal worth it? The promotion starts at around $14 per diner without the added protein cost, but prices could vary based on location. If you're only planning to eat one full plate of pasta, Olive Garden's regular pasta menu already offers a build-your-own option for $13. However, this doesn't include alfredo as a sauce option. If you want to order fettuccine alfredo, the dish will cost you around $16.29. So while some options could save you a little bit of money, others will cost more than they would otherwise.

At the end of the day, if you're planning to take advantage of Olive Garden's Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion, make sure you go in with an empty stomach so you can make it through that initial, large serving to get your money's worth.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.