The "Never Ending Pasta Pass" card from Olive Garden not only promised weeks of unlimited pasta, but a look into why the chain is fighting to hold onto customers.
The Italian-themed chain sold the $100 card last month that allowed 1,000 people to dine on endless pasta, breadsticks, soup and salad for 49 days. The passes sold out in less than an hour, with some turning up on eBay for hundreds of dollars.
It was a successful publicity stunt for Olive Garden's parent company, Darden Restaurants. But the company's troubles aren't over: It's fighting to hold onto customers, with sales at its flagship chain declining for each of the past three years. And a hedge fund last month sent shareholders a 294-page treatise criticizing Darden's management as part of a push to take control of the board at the company's annual meeting on Friday.