Olive Garden’s “Never Ending Pasta” promotion broke its website.
The chain announced plans early Monday to offer a 1,000 passes for $US100 that would buy seven straight weeks of unlimited pasta, breadsticks, salad and Coca-Cola beverages. Customers had to sign onto the company’s website at 3 p.m. to purchase them.
But before the passes even went on sale, the site crashed.
At 3 p.m. the site began functioning again but many customers complained that it crashed a second time right as they were checking out.
Olive Garden spokeswoman Tara Grey called the response “overwhelming.”
“We received half a million visitors within the first half hour,” she said.
Several people vented their frustration on social media.
“This 1,000 available is a load of garbage,” Facebook user Jarrett Case wrote on the page. “Due to that limitation your site got flooded and the page crashed before they were even on sale. …Garbage. Figures, it is Olive Garden after all. Can’t even run a promotion properly.”
Facebook user Amy Girard wrote, “I was able to get one into my shopping cart but of course the site crashed as I was checking out. Complete scam.”
“Complete SCAM,” added Jason Roberts. “Switch and bait.”
Here’s a sampling of the reactions on Facebook:
Grey said the passes sold out within 45 minutes.
“For those still looking for a Pasta Pass, our social media team will be doing giveaways over the next couple weeks,” she said.
Some were so angry that they called for a boycott against Olive Garden.
Around 3:30 p.m., the website was working and announced that the promotion had sold out.
At least a few people appear to have been successful in purchasing the passes.
Just spent $US100 on Olive Garden’s unlimited pasta promotion. What have you done with your Monday?
— Liz Raftery (@LizRaftery_TVG) September 8, 2014
Olive Garden was hoping the promotion would give the chain some much-needed attention.
“It’s sure to provoke a reaction.” Jay Spenchian, Olive Garden’s executive vice president of marketing, told USA Today.
The chain’s same-store sales dropped 1.3% in the most recent quarter and traffic has been falling for years.
Olive Garden is victim, in part, to an overall decline in traffic in the casual dining sector as consumers increasingly show preference for fast casual chains, such as Chipotle.
As part of its comeback plan, Olive Garden recently released a new logo and started redesigning its stores.
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