Free Pasta for the Gordons at Olive Garden
Nov 06, 2015 12:33PM ● Published by Bryan Scott
By Elizabeth Suggs
From Oct. 5 through Nov. 22, loyal Olive Garden customers Kim and Susan Gordon have won seven weeks of a free, unlimited pasta pass to homemade sauces, pasta toppings, soup or salad, breadsticks and soft drinks.
Olive Garden’s never-ending pasta pass sold out in less than an hour, with 2,000 passes sold in seconds. As part of a commitment to the community, every Olive Garden across the nation gives out a pasta pass and a family pass to anyone that particular Olive Garden thinks is worthy of the pass.
Because of their loyalty, Giovanni Arismendi, general manager of Olive Garden, thought the Gordons were prime candidates.
“They’re one of our regulars, and with their daughter in the hospital for cancer, they’re a big story,” Arismendi said. “That’s why we chose them.”
The Gordons have attended Olive Garden nearly every night for the past two years. When asked why, Kim said it was because of the people, not the food, that kept them coming back.
“I’ve worked here for only six months, and already it’s like they’re family,” Arismendi said. “They know me, they know my kids. They’re everyone’s family here.”
So close to the workers at Olive Garden, the Gordons have attended weddings, softball games and other events put together by the staff. According to Kim, other customers have asked whether the Gordons are owners of the corporation and are hard-pressed to believe otherwise.
“You end up talking to a lot of people there,” Kim said. “People just don’t understand why we’re so close to them.”
The relationship between the Gordons and the Olive Garden employees slowly happened because of two large events in the Gordons’ lives. One, according to Kim, was because of their house being flooded.
“Our water heater blew up,” Kim said. “The process took a couple weeks [to fix up].”
According to Kim, he and his wife would have to go through individual items frequently to check for water damage. At the end of the day, neither Kim nor Susan had the energy to cook.
The second event was the necessity of frequent hospital visits to a recovering family member. Kim and Susan would watch over the member in the morning so that the rest of the family could visit the hospital in the evening.
“We’d be on our way home,” Kim said, “and my wife would just look at me and say ‘Let’s go to the Olive Garden.’”
After that, it became a tradition. Before either event, the Gordons had only been a “couple times.” Now, the restaurant was a second home.
But Kim stressed he had never heard of the free pasta pass until he and his wife were given it.
“We were very surprised,” Kim said. “You can imagine us trying to come up with a schedule to use the pass on kids, friends and neighbors.”
The few times the Gordons haven’t been able to attend Olive Garden, it has raised concerns with the staff. According to Kim, even if the pair is later than their usual time, between 6-9 p.m., the staff will ask questions.
“They’ll ask us if everything is all right,” Kim said. And, in response to that, both he and Susan “worry about them like they’re our kids.