Foodie Friday and the subject is tapas.
Most of you are probably familiar with them although you might not know from where the term derives. A “tapa” is a cover, and tapas originated as pieces of bread to cover glasses of sherry in between sips to keep the flies out. At some point the bread began to be topped with other food; bread became plates and what we know as a tapa came to be.
The original tapas were very salty meats and, as with bars that serve salted nuts as free snacks, the salty food encouraged more alcohol sales. Obviously the Spanish bar owners weren’t the only ones to figure this out. The Italians have cicchetti, the Brazilians tira-gostos, and other cultures have their own versions as well. Even if you’re not a bar owner, there are things you can learn from tapas that are applicable to your business.
Free food is customer-friendly, especially if it’s exceptionally good. Does the fact that the free food is designed to sell more high-margin drinks detract from that customer-centric point of view? I don’t think so, and even those customer who recognize that fact will probably acknowledge that they are getting quite a bit of value in the exchange.
Tapas are small plates, generally no more than two or three bites of food on each. They always leave me wanting more but I also appreciate the fact that I haven’t really “committed” to a dish when I’m eating tapas. I can graze, figure out which dishes I like the most, and have a much broader dining experience than if I simply orders an appetizer and an entrée. As businesses we need to think that way. There is a tendency once we have their attention to overwhelm our customers or prospects. Less really is more. Let them graze our information and product offerings until they feel as if they’re ready to commit. That’s the nature of conversational marketing.
Tapas are just one expression of a tasting menu, something most high-end chefs offer. Small plates have become a dining norm in a number of restaurants as well. I suspect that while the cost per dish is lower customers order more of them and they lead to bigger profits per meal served. All that while being incredibly customer friendly. Isn’t that what business is supposed to be about?