Exactly when did dinner start coming on small plates? No more than a few years ago – but it’s revolutionising the way people dine today.
Tapas, of course, has been popular in Spain for centuries, thanks to the way they allow groups to share a tasty variety of small dishes. It’s a sociable and informal way of eating that sits well with modern-day diners.
And while tapas restaurants are now popular all over the world, many other types of restaurant are also finding the benefits of serving up small plates – for instant, the smash hit Indian street food chain Dishoom in London and Edinburgh has a hugely popular menu that lets customers pick and choose. In fact, “tapas is capturing the zeitgeist,” according to The Caterer magazine.
Tapas-style service is not just great for customers, it’s good for operations, with smaller food plates creating lower food costs, good turnover of ingredients and generally a higher spend – the average is £65.
But with a huge menu and a real need for speed to keep customers happy, making a success of the small plate revolution needs some nifty technology. In any restaurant, it’s crucial to make the guest experience a good one, but tapas-style places have even more refined needs.
The Growing Expectations
Recent research carried out by Barclaycard showed that dining customers are becoming more impatient than ever – they now prioritise quick service (37%) over value (21%) and menu choice (33%).
A good electronic point of sale (EPoS) system provides the tools you need to deliver that swift and satisfying experience.
In particular, that includes tableside ordering using handheld devices ranging from dedicated technology to iPads, and kitchen automation technology that gets service underway immediately.
With EPoS, serving staff can send the order straight from the table to the kitchen, where it is displayed on screens so chefs can prepare it immediately, or to the bar so the drinks can be prepared.
That means dishes often start to arrive even while the guests are still debating about their last orders, which is always impressive.
With small plates, customers often decide they want more, and EPoS makes it easy to add new orders – or more drinks – to their order. All arrive quickly, because there’s no running back and forth to the kitchen with orders for the serving staff.
At the end of the meal, an EPoS system makes it simple for customers to pay. Bills can be easily split if required, and items are never missed off. Customers can pay at tableside using credit or debit cards, or even payment apps such as Zapper.
Luis De Souza, our CEO at NFS Technology and an industry expert, says the benefits are not all at tableside.
“Afterwards, the data captured enables restaurateurs to identify what’s selling and what’s not, improving their ordering and helping to keep stock levels under control,” he says.
“That’s highly important in today’s challenging operating environment.”
The word from the casual dining industry backs up what Luis is saying.
The Bar Iberico Story
I asked Jacque Ferreira, the Co-Founder and Executive Chef of Bar Iberico in Nottingham and Derby – one of the country’s top tapas restaurant chains – about how his company makes use of EPoS. Bar Iberico in Nottingham was recognised in the 2016 Michelin Guide with a Bib Gourmand, which celebrates restaurants offering good food at moderate prices.
Jacque says his restaurants simply could not serve the number of covers they do each day without their Aloha EPoS system.
He said: “We expect to serve more than 700 people in the Summer when our outside area is running at capacity. The order going straight from the handheld to the kitchen screen ensures a blistering speed of service. I spend a lot of time on the restaurant floor, and it is quite common to here customers exclaim ‘Wow – that was quick’, referring to the speed the food comes out of the kitchen. We’re looking for future locations to expand – and we’ll definitely be taking the system everywhere we go.”
Casual dining was expected to outgrow all other channels and achieve spend of well over £5 billion by the start of this year, finishing at 13.7% ahead of the casual dining spend recorded end of 2014, according to analysts NPD Group.
So far, despite 2017’s challenging environment of Brexit concerns, exchange rate fluctuations and rising prices, things are still going well for the growing tapas industry.
Do good things really come in little bundles? When it’s a combination of small plates and good technology, I’d certainly say so.