Four Tips to Tap into the Tapas Trend

The history of tapas is confusing. There are many, many tales of how tapas come about. The two most popular are that a Spanish king named King Alfonso had once been stricken with a serious illness which only allowed him to take in small portions of food with small amounts of wine.  Another popular tale is that long ago bar patrons used a slice of meat or bread to place on top of their drink to keep bugs from flying in.

Whichever tale you choose to believe, the tradition spread across the country.  In fact, according to Espana, Spain’s official tourism website, soon after the birth of the tapa, national laws were made stating that it was mandatory for a tavern to serve a small snack with every drink ordered.

Today, tapas in Spain are small bites of food that are fairly inexpensive or sometimes even free. You typically receive a savory snack like a small plate of olives, slice of bread, a few pieces of cheese, or a small bite of a house specialty for the intention of a patron to have a few light snacks to graze on while out having a drink.  It is very common in the Spanish culture to move from bar to bar and have a drink along with a bite or two then move on to the next place.

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Bars and restaurants with bars in them can benefit from the popularity of tapas well; because serving a salty snack makes patrons drink faster, yet they don’t get drunk as quickly. Over the year’s tapas have become a popular craze in the United States as well.  In fact, you can find tapas restaurants in just about every major city across the country.

But how can restaurant and bar operators cash in on this trend without completely turning their business model upside-down? if you already have an establishment but are curious to try a tapas menu to see if you can boost sales or attract new customers, below are a few tips to get started.

Start Small.  Each restaurant will have varied results depending on the concept and the demographic.  Operators can determine what works best for their individual business by testing out either tapas menu during popular times such as happy hour.  Rather than recreating your menu to include short-lived menu items – which can be pricey – promote seasonal items on table tents and special boards.

Choose low cost items that are easy to prep.  While traditional tapas are often olives or cheeses, it would be wiser for a traditional full-service establishment to serve tastes of regular menu items.  This is a great way to save money by not prepping specialty items and can lead to guests ordering the full meal or returning at another time to have it.

Offer wine or cocktail pairings.  Adding a few high-margin specialty drinks to pair with tapas will create an enhanced customer experience and boost your bottom line.  Reminding diners that these selections are available for a “limited time only” may encourage people to try the new items.

Measure your results.  After testing out a tapas menu, examine your Recipe Analysis and Menu Costing to determine if serving tapas is profitable for you.  This report allows you to compare the performance of menu items against each other using the gross profit and the popularity of the item, therefore, determining which menu items work best for your patrons and your bottom line.

It is important to compare select items in specific time periods to truly understand the test menu’s performance.  It is possible that a tapas menu works for you only on holidays but not on weeknights.  Or perhaps a tasting menu is popular for weeknight happy hour but not during a weekend brunch.  With this data, you can make more data-backed decisions about your restaurant.  The great thing about data is, nobody can argue with it! Find out how Compeat can give you the actionable data you need to succeed.

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