Courtesy of Red Robin

The success of Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Pass appears to be driving more chains to offer prepaid dining deals.

Mike Pomranz
November 27, 2017

Typically, dining at a restaurant goes something like this: You go for a meal; you pay for a meal; your commitment to that restaurant is over. But in the ongoing battle for brand loyalty and repeat business, a different kind of promotion appears to be growing in popularity: the dining pass. Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Pass is the most prominent example: For $100, pass holders can eat all the pasta they want with as many visits as they want for eight-weeks. The now-annual promotion has been so successful that the Italian chain offered up 22,000 passes this year and they still sold out immediately. Admittedly piggybacking off Olive Garden’s concept, the burger chain Smashburger unveiled its own take on a pass this month: the Holiday Smash Pass—which gives users the chance to buy a burger for just $1 for the 54 days leading up to the new year at an upfront cost of $54. (The deal does require a bit of math to wrap your head around.)

Now, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews is offering up its own take on a prepaid scheme with its “Year of Yummm” promotion. As far as brainpower required, it falls somewhere between Olive Garden’s and Smashburger’s deals. With the Year of Yummm, customers pay $99 upfront to get a $15 digital gift card emailed to them on the first of each month for all of 2018—a $180 value in total offering essentially a 45 percent discount. However, that discount assumes that you spend exactly $15 each month—an unlikely proposition. A different way to think of the offer is that you’re paying upfront to receive $6.75 off each month with a minimum $15 spend.

To help build hype around its promotion, Red Robin says it will only sell 10,000 Year of Yummm cards and they will only be available for one day, this Friday, December 1 starting at 12 a.m. EST. Interested deal seekers can try to grab a card at redrobin.com/YearOfYummm. Whether or not Red Robin’s deal will prove as successful as Olive Garden’s is obviously yet to be seen, but if customers continue to flock to these sorts of prepaid dining options, expect to see more and more chains jump on this bandwagon as the battle for customers in the extremely competitive casual dining and fast casual sectors continues unabated.