Olive Garden’s Second Pasta Pass Promo Exceeds First’s WOM

Ted MarzilliCEO YouGov Direct
September 25, 2015, 2:00 PM GMT+0

Olive Garden’s second annual “Never Ending Pasta Pass” promotion has brought the chain to its highest consumer perception levels since March 2013.

Two major differences so far versus last year’s promotion: Olive Garden took a larger leap in consumer perception and word of mouth metrics this time, and so far, it seems those scores are having longer “legs” too.

Olive Garden hit its highest word of mouth mark in at least two and a half years, although this was in part driven by vocal social media complaints and conspiracy theories about the passes selling out far too quickly.

Earlier this month, the 1,000 $100 passes for unlimited pasta for several weeks, as well as the new $300 family passes, were snapped up in reportedly less than one second versus 45 minutes last year, heightening the conspiracy theories posted on Olive Garden’s Facebook page.

The stunt coincides with Olive Garden’s annual “Never Ending Pasta Bowl” campaign.

Back in March 2013, the last time Olive Garden hit this perception high, two public events most likely prompted it. Firstly the receipt of a man’s family receiving a complimentary dinner after his young daughter explained that her grandfather’s house burned down was posted on Reddit and went viral and secondly octogenarian Grand Forks Herald (North Dakota) food critic Marilyn Hagerty posted a follow-up review on her local Olive Garden, which also hit social media.

YouGov BrandIndex measured Olive Garden with two metrics: its Buzz score, which asks respondents: "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?" and Word Of Mouth, which asks: “Which of the following brands have you talked about with family and friends in the past two weeks?”

A Buzz score can range of -100 to 100 with a zero score equaling a neutral position.

In the past two weeks, Olive Garden’s Buzz score jumped from 50 to 73 among its current customers – those respondents who have purchased food or drink at the restaurant in the last 30 days -- one full week after the passes were claimed on September 17. Last year, the increase was much smaller 6% from 58 to 62 over the three days leading up to the September 8th purchase date, and back down to a 57 Buzz score four days later.

Currently, 76% of all Olive Garden customers who are 18 and over have talked about Olive Garden with family and friends over the past two weeks, compared to 57% on September 10th.

Buzz: Olive Garden

WOM: Olive Garden