The $54 pass gives fans of the chain a chance to get a burger a day for just a dollar over the course of 54 days.
Though originally the brunt of jokes when it was first launched, Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Pass has proven to be one of the chain’s most successful promotions. Not only has the Italian eatery brought the $100 all-the-pasta-you-can-eat-for-eight-weeks passes back every year since, it’s ramped up the number of passes from 1,000 in 2014, to 22,000 this year—and yet they still sell out almost instantly (and garner enough press to help pay for themselves in free advertising). Apparently, Olive Garden has found the perfect balance of perceived value from its fan base and bottom line boost for the company. So it’s not surprising that other restaurant chains would consider a similar approach.
Smashburger—a decade-old burger chain with about 370 locations in 38 states and nine countries—hasn’t been afraid to try outside-of-the-box promotions (as a recent feud with beloved burger mainstay In-N-Out proved). So the brand has announced it’s launching a new “Holiday Smash Pass” for 2017. Here’s how it works: Customers pay $54 upfront, and the pass allows them to drop into any of Smashburger’s 190 company-owned locations from November 15 to January 9—except Thanksgiving and Christmas, so 54 days total—and buy a burger (or any entree) for just $1.
“We’ve never done it before,” said CEO Tom Ryan, who explained he was inspired by Olive Garden’s success. “We’re going to see how it works.” He later added, “I have no idea honestly whether or not the program is attractive.”
Since, unlike Olive Garden’s deal, the Smash Pass requires an additional $1 investment per visit, the numbers are a bit harder to crunch, but in theory, a pass holder could eat 54 burgers for $108. Smashburger says that with an average burger price of $6.70, that’s a $361.80 value. To break even on an investment in the pass, you would have to use it ten times, or a little more than once a week. It’s certainly not an unheard of commitment for regular customers.
If you’re interested in a Smash Pass, you have to sign up for the SmashClub rewards program, and then you can pay for the pass from there. The passes are only on sale until the promotion starts on November 15, but the company says there’s no limit to how many they’ll sell. Take that, Olive Garden!