Hot On the Heels of Taco Bell’s Success, Is Olive Garden Setting Itself Up For Failure?

In small, tapas-sized bites.

Olive Garden has a plan to turn around its lagging fortunes: the chain is bringing tapas to its menu in an effort to reach millennials. The OG (as I like to call it), which normally specializes in neverending meals is now betting that the exact opposite — small bites — will bring in the younger crowd and more profits. The company says its been testing the tapas in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Grand Rapids, MI and, so far, in three random places, they’ve been well-received.

The restaurant is normally the place for families and older diners. Olive Garden has run on tough times as more people opt for fast food because of the recession and competition from other chains like Applebee’s and Outback heats up. Those restaurants have been introducing low-priced menu options and alcohol-fueled parties to get the young diners in the door.

So of all things, one wonders why Olive Garden would go for small plates to remedy its problems. They say tapas make it easier for the youths to text and eat at the same time. Oh geez.

The Atlantic Wire notes that tapas are so very yesterday. No one’s doing tapas anymore! That’s because we’re all eating Doritos Locos Tacos.

Taco Bell is winning and winning some more with its snack chip meals, its Cantina menu, and its ambitious social media program. To reach young people, that company is going to social media sites where its target market is hanging out. And its menu appeals to a budget-conscious and very hungry public.

This whole screwy tapas scheme conveys a tone deafness that Olive Garden clearly has about its own brand and the group they’re trying to reach. Mixing up the menu is great. But it’s not the small plates, necessarily, that’s going to attract the younger crowd. It’s what’s on the plates. The only actual food mentioned in that Bloomberg Businessweek article is some sort of chickpea dish that no one liked and a chicken skewer plate that the restaurant actually made bigger because people complained there wasn’t enough to share.

The possibilities for family-style Italian meals seems endless, if one is to go by the myriad options and ideas you see every day on the Food Network. And it would’ve been in keeping with the Olive Garden brand. Sometimes, as with Taco Bell, sticking with what you know, but expanding and improving upon it is the way forward.