Olive Garden sells 1,000 unlimited pasta passes in just two hours amid pressure from investors

Shareholder Starboard has spent months lobbying for major change

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The Independent Online

Pasta fans were quick off the mark on Monday, as Olive Garden sold out of its exclusive unlimited dining passes in less than two hours.

The US restaurant chain offered 1,000 customers the chance to snap up a $100 pass that will allow them to eat as much as they like between 22 September and 9 November, for its never ending pasta bowl promotion.

From 3pm ET on Monday hungry diners logged onto the Italian-American eatery’s website in the hopes of securing a pass.

But before the clock struck 5pm ET, Olive Garden announced on social media that the publicity campaign had been such a roaring success that the passes had sold out.

 

The promotion comes at a time of upheaval for the under-performing Darden Restaurants-owned chain. And despite the seeming good value of the passes, restaurant-goers will have to eat at Olive Garden 10 times to benefit – a similar one-off never ending pasta bowl can be purchased for $9.99.

Earlier this month, Darden revised its director nominations for its 12-member board, in a bid to placate one of its largest shareholders, Starboard Value LP.

Starboard has spent months lobbying the company for major change. In July chief executive and chairman Clarence Otis stepped down amid pressure from the activist investor, and the new nominations include four open spots for Starboard choices.

However, analysts were divided on whether the move would be enough to satisfy Starboard.

“We continue to believe the activists are likely to gain a majority of board seats, which if it happens, should be a meaningful catalyst for change," Janney Capital Markets analyst Mark Kalinowski said in a note to client, according to Reuters.

Starboard's nominees are said to be its chief executive Jeffrey Smith and Brad Blum, who is credited with reviving Darden's flagship Olive Garden chain during his stint as president of that brand from 1994 to 2002.

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