On November 23, Kip Hathaway visited Olive Garden for the very first time.
He had no idea his friend, Lauren Bowe, had masterminded a stunt that was about to be watched by over a million people, thanks to TikTok. It all hinged on the fact that Hathaway was unaware of what's basically a totem of American dining life: Olive Garden gives everyone unlimited breadsticks.
Bowe put a lot of planning into the bit in advance of their trip to the Roseville Olive Garden. "I was talking to Tom [the third person dining in the video] about how it's weird that Kip has never been to Olive Garden, we should go with him, but I'm gonna, like, play a joke on him or something. We've gotta tell him he doesn't get breadsticks or something. And then it just went from there."
������������(@laurenapolis) has created a short video on TikTok with music original sound. "Unlimited Sticks Pass" Prank at Olive Garden. Shoutout to our waiter Ross, for helping us pull it off. Check back for the reveal! @betl2184
A designer by trade, she didn't just rely on showing up early and making a deal with their server (though she did that, too). She designed passes for herself and their dining partner... but not Hathaway.
"I made one for me and for Tom—and I gave it to Tom beforehand. It had his name on it, it had our phone numbers, we signed them, I laminated them, I got really into it.[...] In a group chat before, I was like, 'Tom, don't forget to bring your card.' And Kip was, yunno, sad. And I was like, 'Don't worry, I'll just sneak you some breadsticks.'"
They'd also told him these passes cost $50 a year.
"I didn't suspect a thing." Hathaway said. Bowe has a habit of making videos, so that didn't tip him off, either.
"They arrived early to get the waiter in on it. He would bring them breadsticks and no breadsticks for me. He checked their passes when they ordered."
And as for how he could fall prey to a prank that runs counter to a deal that's been writ large from any number of media for what feels like decades now? It's not like he's been living under a rock. "I knew Olive Garden had unlimited breadsticks, I knew that was a draw of theirs, but I didn't know enough about it to know that it... wasn't that you needed a pass for it," he admits.
"I thought it was a promotional thing for a period where it's totally unlimited breadsticks for everyone, then they scaled back on it. That's a kind of common corporate tool, to generate customer bases then pull the good deals away."
Both Bowe and Hathaway admit it's their server, Ross, who really sold the thing. "He started bringing me one 'pity stick' at a time," says Hathaway.
It's always hard to say why anything goes viral, but the TikTok's mix of over-the-top farce and bleeding-heart compassion makes it... hilarious, and imminently rewatchable.
Since the video was uploaded after the group's Tuscan afternoon, the lunchtime prank has been viewed over 1.1 million times, accruing over a quarter-million likes.
For his part, since becoming (briefly) internet famous, Hathaway's life has only changed in small ways. He wryly notes that he "gained 30 extra Instagram followers" and "started a movement bringing back Gangster Spongebob shirts," in reference to the killer 'fit he's seen wearing in the video.
Bowe seems delighted by it all, though she admits to being perplexed about one thing: "I haven't gotten anything from Olive Garden. It's a pretty good free commercial for them, so I'm pretty disappointed."
Ball's in your court, Olive Garden. Maybe she'll even bring Hathaway, who'd surely like a second shot at enjoying their sticks—without the added air and flavor of desperation.