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Olive Garden's "Buy one - take one" promotion

The dishes offered are cheap pastas and don't include salad/breadsticks for the takeaway so not a massive expense for the restaurant. And considering that I'd be taking half my plate home anyway, I'd have plenty of flabby pasta to nosh on for a couple of days.

I've gotten a dish or dessert (oh yeah!) to take home from restaurants many times but I can't figure out why this particular promotion seems weird to me. (Not to say I wouldn't take advantage of it, mind you.


Edited to add/clarify: Does this promo just seem a little weird to anyone else, or just me? What does it say about us as consumers?

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  1. I'll gladly pass, thank you, although leaving off their soup / salad / breadsticks is obviously a good start.

    Wouldn't it be easier / better / cheaper to simply cook a dry pasta at home using most any jarred sauce? Then again, if you don't want to wash the two pots, wouldn't most any frozen TV dinner also be better / cheaper (and most likely be equal-to-better quality)?

    Or do you simply prefer the Olive Garden ambiance?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Clams047

      I probably wasn't clear in my OP. I was wondering if anyone else thought the promo was just kinda strange. I'll edit, thanks for the heads-up.

      As for: "...cook a dry pasta at home...", although I do plenty of this, sometimes, takeaway is the best choice for us. This IS a Chains board. Olive Garden is not the worst of the chains.

      Ambiance? Not really something I was addressing.

      1. re: DuchessNukem

        OG is one of my least favorite chains. The promo is sort of classless.

    2. Here in Tampa, Maggiano's, a Chicago-originated chain, has been running such a special for years. You buy any one of their designated pasta dishes, and can pick the same or a different one to take home. The one you take home has been refrigerated and not previously cooked (I don't think--it's hard to tell, not being in the kitchen), but any, when you heat it up, it does not seem overcooked or previously cooked.

      It's a good deal, too. Depending on which pasta you choose to eat at the restaurant, you can get two dinners for $12-$20 or so. (I can't remember the exact prices.) Anyway, it is essentially a two-for-one of some delicious pasta dishes.

      While I eat at Olive Garden, I think that Maggiano's is a much better chain. So the quality of the pasta dishes is higher, too.

      3 Replies
      1. re: gfr1111

        Maggiano's is miles better than Olive Garden in every way.

        1. re: Boston_Otter

          I agree, much fresher and tastier. And they have a better menu. OG is pasta with cheese, with alfredo sauce etc.... over and over. Maggiano's has great seafood dishes, veal, and better bread.

        2. re: gfr1111

          The Maggiano's here in Richmond, VA does it too.

        3. I don't think I've ever seen a promo like this before, so I guess in that sense, it may be a little "weird." What this says to me about consumers is that a lot of them like a lot of food for not a lot of money. No surprise there.

          If I found myself dining in an Olive Garden, I would consider ordering this promo, although I will say that none of the pasta dishes available for this promo would be my first choice to order normally. And the salad and breadsticks are still definitely the best thing about Olive Garden, but you'd still be able to have your share while dining in on your first pasta dish.

          1. I know many elderly folks that love take home items, especially ones they can microwave. I have an elderly client that eats in three different restaurants per week, yet has enough food for the entire week of dinners. I would think it might appeal to elderly, disabled, single people, non cooks ( maybe those are folks that like chains like OG the most anyway).

            1. As an attention-getter, this is a good promotion. A bit disappointed with the "fine print" of the actually selections. If I saw two that I liked, this would have me making dinner plans there. In theory, it allows or encourages me/customers to try something new without being forced to choose just one of them. I love OG lasagne (great taste, no need to find freezer space for most of a 9 x 13 pan and far less work), but that's not on the special.

              1. The only time I remember eating at Olive Garden was in College. Ate the bread sticks and salad and brought most of the pasta back to the dorm for later. I would have liked this promo back then because our Commons didn't really serve pasta and it was a PITA to cook in the dorms. Easier to just heat up left overs in the microwave.

                I can see it possibly being worth it for the elderly, parents who want to bring their children/babysitters home dinner (I used to steal my parents left overs and the couple times I babysat I asked for dessert not cash), students, etc.

                But for the average diner, with no mobility issues or lack of kitchen, it does seem pretty odd and gluttonous.

                1. The thought disgusts me but I don't know why.

                  1. Because the only thing better than a bad meal is 2 bad meals?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ferret

                      It's the old joke, two elderly women sitting around the pool at a resort. The first one says: "The food here is terrible." and the second lady replies: "I know, and such small portions!"

                    2. It does seem odd.

                      But I could see an O.G. fan who didn't want to cook using the promo as a way to justify a night out - "But honey, it's really almost like to two dinners out!".

                      It could be a handy way to have an easy lunch for work the next day too.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: meatn3

                        This is the thing I realized about Maggiano's and this Olive Garden deal: they want you to believe that you are buying one meal and getting one free. really, you are buying two frozen dinners and having one served to you as a dinner.

                        1. re: Kalivs

                          They also get free advertising with their name easily readable on the doggie bags. At least that was the case the only time I had one of these specials at Maggianos.

                      2. New ad campaign;

                        What is better than one crappy meal?

                        Two crappy meals for the price of one!!!!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jrvedivici

                          Frankly it feels like a gimmick to manipulate sales figures.. if you monatize the value of the meals you are giving away you can make your same store sales look better.

                        2. I'm guessing they aren't trying to appeal to CHs. But the grad student in me who would with a roommate stuff our selves silly on salad breadsticks, and take 80% of our entree home, I get the marketing. I was busy, on a budget, and didn't really care about cooking at the time. (we didn't share meals cause we had very different schedules/tastes when we cooked in) So there is a part of me that realizes for 20 bucks (drink and tip included or so for the breadstick and salad gorging) I could have a weeks worth of dinners, I'm in.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: autumm

                            I don't get why this is even a question? How is this different that taking home leftovers? Hasn't anyone heard of having a meal and having something extra to bring home to have the next day? Or had anything Buy one get one free? Didn't you ever get shoes or clothes BOGO? Its like that.. You wear one and the wear the other another day..

                          2. I think the idea is "hey, I don't have to cook tonight AND I don't have to buy or pack a lunch for tomorrow!"

                            They're also double selling and hoping that you'll at least like one of their dishes. Instead of selling a single entree special for $8.99, they are selling you two for $12.99.

                            1. I'm embarrassed to say that at one time of my life I actually did occasionally eat there, and what struck me about the leftovers was that any sauce they had would instantly break upon reheating. It would literally become pools of grease upon glops of curdled cheese upon heaps of the most tasteless, mushy pasta. It was disgusting. I can't imagine someone actually wanting a whole separate meal "to go."