Tapas-Style Dining Revolution

| Leo Neves | Team Articles

“What would you like to eat?” 

If you have a big indecisive family like mine, that question creates the most anxiety during what should be a fun night out. All of sudden, the pressure is on and you have one chance to order the right dish. Do I want chicken or steak? But the fish looks good. Do I be adventurous and try the duck? Do I want to be “that guy” and be the one to ask if I can substitute broccoli for mashed potatoes? 

After the decision is made, you place your order and your meal arrives. Then you get that sinking feeling when the meal of the person next to you looks better than yours.  This is followed by a worse feeling when the small bite they share with you confirms that all the time and effort you took deciding was wasted. Maybe next time you will win the lottery of ordering the proper dish.

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Decision fatigue, lack of value perception, and limited variety are all realities of the traditional dining experience where guests simply order their entree.  Fortunately for diners, many restaurants have evolved and shifted away from this more traditional model. Over the last decade more and more small plate concepts have emerged as guest preferences have changed (small plate concepts have increased by 281% in the last 5 years). A Tampamaid.com article states that 74% of millennials alone are likely to order small plates and appetizers when dining out.

Tapas restaurants can be creative and innovative as they encourage guests to explore and try things they have never tried before.

These small plate concepts reduce decision fatigue allowing guests to create their own tasting  menu, exploring new dishes and trying things for the first time. The value allows people to order 2-3 small plates instead of 1 large meal. Guests feel better about paying for three $10 plates, even if one of them was not “great”, than the potential disappointment about not hitting on a $30 dish.  While 44% of Millenials spend their food dollars on eating out, the pain of paying is not there because they feel like they are getting a lot more for better value.  All of this while having the opportunity are to explore more, and potentially new, flavors. They are willing to pay for the experience!

This shift is also beneficial for restaurateurs.  

Guests that before would not order food because of the price or time commitment may now be more willing to try a new plate that they believe will come out faster. Guests that are eating stay in an establishment 52 minutes longer than those who are not!

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If you ask anyone that has worked in a restaurant, they will tell you that the most stressful time of a dining experience is waiting for food to arrive at the table.  It’s a helpless feeling for service team members to look at a table waiting for food with seemingly no way to expedite the process.

In the kitchen, the pressure to make everything perfect is compounded by having to time it with the tickets from other stations.  Everything for each ticket has to come up together.  It’s a beautiful symphony when everything is in sync.  However, one small mistake can (and will) have a domino effect that can negatively impact the entire service.  Nobody wants to serve or eat food that’s been sitting under a heating lamp.  The stress of working expo and coordinating this cannot be understated.

Tapas-style menus allow plates to be delivered when ready and enjoyed at their best form.  This is a huge relief to the stress of operations and frees up an important leader from expo.  Mistakes are easier to overcome and nobody has to watch food “die” in the window waiting for a ticket to be completed.  Servers and cooks rejoice!  

Guests and service team members don’t have to waste energy worrying about when the food is coming.  Everyone in the process can focus more energy on connecting and enjoy themselves.

The most memorable part of your meal should not be the price, wait, or regret.  Dining is about sharing an experience with people you care about, much like sitting around the table at your home home where  you break bread with friends and family.  The best meals are those which create moments that earn memories. The taste of a delicious BBQ Pork Belly Bao will eventually fade, but the smiles and unique experiences shared will have us craving the opportunity to return for more.



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