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Olive Garden Hopes to Lure Millennials with New ‘Tapas’ Menu

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In their latest effort to appeal to millennials, Olive Garden is introducing small, portion-controlled plates to the menu. The new dishes will include deep fried risotto balls, chicken skewers, garlic hummus and Pizza Fritta Napoli, aka fried pizza dough topped with alfredo sauce (above photo).

Apparently, this is the right step for restaurants to be taking. Millennials are “looking for items they can share, sample, that allow them to graze,” explained Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic Inc.

According to Bloomberg, Olive Garden began testing the new lineup earlier this year in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Grand Rapids, Michigan and plans on using these dishes to gauge customer response before launching them nationwide. 

However, as the chain moves towards smaller, tapas-style plates aimed at 20 to 30-somethings, they may be in danger of alienating patrons who visit for large, family-sized dishes. While Olive Garden found success with their never-ending pasta bowl, as its boomer clientele ages, their sales have seen a significant decline in “five of the last eight quarters.” The key will be finding a menu that’s able to attract new customers, while still keeping long-time diners that made Olive Garden a family name.

Although Olive Garden hopes the shrunken portions will encourage mass “grazing,” other major chains have beat them to it. Applebee’s recently rolled out half-priced appetizer specials, while Cheesecake Factory offers their own petite plates including Ahi Tartare, Crispy Crab Bites, and Chicken Samosas. 

Personally, as a 20-something, I’m all for change. Just don’t get rid of the breadsticks, Olive Garden. If that happens, I’ll quit you.

H/T + PicThx Bloomberg

By Charisma Madarang

Charisma has an undying love for gritty literature and drinks coffee like water. She also hails from Toronto, Canada and is a die-hard Maple Leafs fan, sigh.

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