Restoring balance to its Italian restaurants the same way Nero saved Italy, local lasagna-trough Olive Garden has sought to reverse recent losses by just giving its food away. First, your dinner came accompanied by a free second dinner to take home with you, to get you through that restless night before Olive Garden opened again. This was then expanded into the Kafkaesque “Never Ending Pasta Pass,” in which existence became a twisting labyrinth of spaghetti, forever leading back to spaghetti, until you were never not eating spaghetti.
And throughout them all, of course, was the promise of unlimited breadsticks, those buttered tubes of entitlement that are the Olive Garden branch extended to customers who might otherwise eat somewhere else, at a place where the breadsticks are in chains. Now the Olive Garden has finally hit upon the idea of turning that vast renewable breadstick resource into sandwiches. Breadstick sandwiches that come with unlimited breadsticks, so that you may never know where sandwich ends and the breadstick begins. So that it will make unlimited bread with unlimited bread.
Beginning June 1, the Olive Garden will take its breadsticks and make them fatter by stuffing them with meatballs and chicken parmagiana, as it has long done for Olive Garden customers. And true, those customers may have already been using their breadsticks to fashion their own crude sandwiches out of plates that were not expressly zoned for that. But these breadsticks will be shorter and wider, and shaped specifically for the task. They will also come with a side of fries, and—“as with all other dishes”—another basket of endlessly replenishable breadsticks that you can use to make breadstick sandwich sandwiches. Breadsticks within breadsticks. Breadstickception.
But like breadsticks, it doesn’t have to end there. Yes, the Olive Garden will ride out this stormy sea of declining interest in chain restaurants on a golden raft made of breadsticks—but perhaps the Olive Garden is not the only one to trip the wheel of fortune with its greasy spoke, hmm? While you’re there and being family, maybe see what suddenly augurs a bright new future for yourself after you put some breadsticks around it. Your unfulfilling job. Your cold and distant wife. Your malignant tumor. All of these things could soon be hot, buttery, and somehow profitable if you just add more breadsticks. Improving things with breadsticks need stop only at the borders of imagination or the threshold of will.
Interestingly, Olive Garden’s own journey to the reaches of breadstick comes not without its own soul-searching, which new parent company Starboard already began serving up in unlimited baskets last year. At the time, Olive Garden was criticized for failing to be “disciplined” in its wanton breadstick distribution, and for allowing a slip in quality for these buttered truncheons, lobbed willy-nilly across its tables. And while the recipe reportedly hasn’t changed at all since they were compared to salty hot dog buns, well, at least now those breadsticks have a renewed sense of purpose as sandwiches, to be eaten in life’s increasingly few interims between breadsticks.