Food Olive Garden plans to expand its menu with tapas options. It will be something similar to the the BBQ shrimp tapas plate (pictured here) at The Standard. Juice file photo.

Olive Garden plans to expand its menu with tapas options. It will be something similar to the the BBQ shrimp tapas plate (pictured here) at The Standard. Juice file photo.

Olive Garden tries to lure young people with (what else?) tapas

Published on September 25th, 2013 | by Josh Hafner

Remember that time you and all your 20something friends just wanted to nom on some Tuscan-inspired dishes in a family-friendly setting but the Never Ending Pasta Bowls were so huge that you couldn’t eat them and text your friends across the table at the same time?

Olive Garden does. Take it away, Bloomberg News:

In an effort to attract millennials and boost flagging sales, Darden Restaurants Inc.’s Italian restaurant chain is introducing small plates, including Parmesan asparagus and grilled-chicken tapas. This amounts to a 180 degree turn for a chain that has long sold big portions to eaters who like a deal.

 ”… it’s easier for the younger crowd to text and check their phones while munching hand-held bites.”

The challenge for Olive Garden will be encouraging diners in their 20s and 30s, many of whom shun chain restaurants, to drop by for nibbles without alienating loyal customers who convene for regular family feasts.

Reporter Leslie Patton quotes a  research firm V.P. who posits that millennials don’t like larger meals together. We’re grazers. The best part of the story by far comes from Alex Aragon, an Olive Garden manager in Irving, Texas who says the tapas attempt is working:

The tapas are “closing the gap between lunch and dinner,” said Aragon, who noted that it’s easier for the younger crowd to text and check their phones while munching hand-held bites.

Olive Garden plans to introduce the tapas menus to all sites, including restaurants in West Des Moines and Ankeny, this December.

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About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at jhafner@registermedia.com or on Twitter via @joshhafner.



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