Are Small-Plate Menus for All Generations or Just Millennials?

Posted by Patrick Maness +

Many in the food industry view tapas as a food for Millennials. This Spanish cuisine served in small portions is a far cry from the hearty fare usually associated with American food, and people who were born before 1980 might not be too excited to try these bold, flavorful dishes.    

The question, then, for any restaurateur looking to join the small-plates trend is whether a tapas menu will exclude older people.


There are many reasons tapas appeal to the younger crowd. For one, younger people are more concerned with health issues, in particular obesity. This means diners no longer have the mentality that they should eat until they are stuffed. Much more emphasis is placed on flavors and ingredients, and enjoying the food is more important than getting filled up.

Secondly, Millennials tend to be a more gastronomically adventurous crowd. They seek out new foods and are willing to experiment. The prospect of baby squid in squid ink excites them. This isn’t always true for older diners.

Attracting all people

A smart way to attract a more diverse crowd of diners is to emphasize the experience of eating tapas.

Rather than highlight the menu, focus on the communal aspect that is part of a tapas meal. This experience is about getting together and sharing the small plates with each other. Why is this important? Think about how much modern life revolves around people looking into their phones, or consider how often people eat alone today. In many ways, we are becoming increasingly solitary creatures.

Eating has always been a way of getting together, and tapas epitomize the communal aspect of eating. It’s a way to get together, share and enjoy.

Offer traditional foods

Tapas don't need to be limited to exotic contraptions. In fact, as small plates have become more popular in the United States, we have seen an emergence of more traditional American offerings. Some examples could include baby-back rib bites, meatballs, mini fish tacos, shrimp and grits, and more. In the end, your chef can use their imagination to devise stylish small plates out of traditional American standards.

You can approach tapas as both an exciting and sometimes daring menu option, as well as a new take on traditional American fare. It’s a way for people to get together, try something new but also have their traditional favorites. 

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