Courtesy of Olive Garden

Apparently, the limit does exist.

Maria Yagoda
March 01, 2018

One of Olive Garden's most beloved features is the possibility to add unlimited, always-replenishing breadsticks and salad (or soup) to your meal. But what does "unlimited" truly mean? Could someone sit at a table, pounding breadsticks for 72 hours, invoking their right to a limit-free experience? When must the waitstaff intervene? 

According to a new AskReddit thread, "unlimited" is more of an idea—a feeling—than a hard-and-fast principle. That is, there have been select occasions where Olive Garden servers have felt compelled to cut customers off, at least according to the handful of anonymous stories posted to Reddit, none of which we can verify. But the restaurant chain is not alone in this: Many people shared stories of getting cut off at other restaurants, many of them buffets, for similarly branded "unlimited," "all-you-can-eat" specials.

Regardless of their veracity, we can at least find amusement in these tales, from Olive Garden and elsewhere, that so artfully capture the human impulse to test physical and emotional limits. 

1. "The only time the manager cut someone off was during the unlimited pasta event. He ate so much he couldn’t eat anymore, but he refused to leave because he wanted to wait until he could eat more."

2. "The manager told me I had reached my limit in unlimited pasta bowls. Apparently unlimited means nine pasta bowls."

3. "I was working a lunch shift and had a table of three come in, all mid-thirties women. I brought the initial bread basket out, turned around and they were gone. Okay, y’all were hungry, that’s normal. I brought a new basket out and it happened again. I kept bringing baskets of bread; it had to be 7 or 8. At this point we’re at about 30 breadsticks, and the food hasn’t even hit the table yet. I start watching and they are putting the bread in their purses. Just filling ‘em up. The manager asked them politely to stop, and that was that. They weren’t thrilled."

4. "It was 11:45 p.m. and we had closed at 11 p.m.. They showed up at 10:55 and complained that they felt rushed. Meal was comped, and they left no tip. I hated serving."

5. "I only got to cut one person off because she decided to complain long enough about the zuppa to get her whole meal comped, 'choked down' a bowl of gnocci and then tried to eat more zuppa. She then had the audacity to ask me to TAKE A BOWL HOME. Big ole nope. I was tipped with a Jesus pamphlet."

6. "My fellow server friend had a three-top in our merlot section (closer section and also the best section in the restaurant for seating.) The problem came to a head when after the tables had cashed out and were just sitting around. They would hassle my buddy for more breadsticks and salad. (They had all ordered the soup, salad and breadsticks meal). Now he was happy to give the first, second, third..... fourth bowl (mind you, this is after they have already had 2 to 3 bowls), but when they hit bowl number 8 of salad AFTER cashing out and their fifth breadstick basket, our manager had to politely ask them to leave so that he could get a new table. I felt awful for him since they didn’t tip either."

7. "I got cut off from Denny's unlimited pancakes after ten flap jacks. I was less than 120 lbs at the time; the cook was surprised when he came to cut me off."

8. "My skinny uncle once got the 'all you can eat' shrimp at a restaurant and was eventually told he couldn't have any more. The man had easily eaten over 100 shrimp. It was pretty funny."

9. "I heard about someone who got busted for going into a buffet for dinner, hiding/sleeping in the bathroom all night, and coming out for breakfast."

10. "I know a couple of all-you-can-eat chains have time limits of 2 1/2 hours. I think managers had enough."

11. "My mom got kicked out of an all-you-can-eat sushi place once; she was pretty mad. The manager somehow didn't think a small Filipino from Hawaii could eat that much... he has obviously never met anyone remotely Filipino."

11. "My brother and his high school football buddies were responsible for our local Olive Garden discontinuing the Neverending Pasta Bowl promo back in the day."

12. "When I worked at a bar, I had to cut someone off from our unlimited drinks. He drank eleven 425 ml glasses of OJ in about 2 hours. Basically around 4.6 liters of liquid in 2 hours. We were frankly worried for his safety due to water poisoning, not to mention the sugar. It turns out he also had diabetes and had to visit the hospital later in the night after feeling unwell."

13. "I saw a woman stealing the breadsticks, putting them in her big purse when I wasn't near, and she kept asking for more. Can't blame her. They're delicious."

14. "As a customer, I was once cut off after the third bowl. I told them they had the option to either keep bringing out the pasta, or I wouldnt pay for nay of it. They refused; I walked. It made me mad, but hey, three free bowls of pasta."

15. "My grandmother would go to Golden Corral with her big purse, which happened to be lined with a trash bag. She'd eat a bit off a plate then dump the plate in her purse. Rinse-repeat until both are full."

All posts have been edited for length and clarity.