Olive Garden has some advice for consumers hoping to score one of its 22,000 Pasta Passes: make sure you have a fast internet connection.
Really fast. The company sold out of its Pasta Passes last year in one second, according to spokeswoman Jessica Dinon. The restaurant chain wouldn't estimate how quickly it expects to sell out of the pass this year, but Dinon thinks they'll sell out quickly.
The company is also offering 50 passes for $200 that include a one-week trip to Italy for two people. The trip will include airfare, hotel and three meals a day. None of those meals will be at an Olive Garden because the company doesn't operate any restaurants in the country. The winners and their guests will travel together from April 7-14 next year.
"We have a lot of cultural experiences planned, and one of things we have been talking about is a cooking class in Italy," Dinon said.
The appeal of the Pasta Pass resides in its economics: For $100, consumers can buy a card that gives them the right to unlimited servings of $9.99 pasta over an eight-week period. That might not pull in gourmands, but the offer clearly appeals to Olive Garden's core audience -- and possibly investors.
Shares of Darden (DRI), which owns Olive Garden, rose more than 3 percent on Wednesday, after the company announced the return of the promotion.
How can Olive Garden fans increase their chances of getting a pass? Beyond being ready to move quickly online, Dinon recommends having multiple devices open to click on the site.
"Start practicing your clicking skills," she said. "A lot of people will set multiple alarms, but the internet connection is definitely important."
If past years are anything like this year's sale, some of the Pasta Pass cards will pop up on auction sites like eBay for resale, although marked up at prices well above the initial $100 cost.
The passes go on sale at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14 at this website.