Franchising Tapas

When I was a younger man with more vim and vigor, earning more than my mere Social Security income, I seriously considered opening a franchised restaurant in Sturgeon Bay (Door County), Wisconsin.

Not another burger bunker, taco take-out, chicken coop, or sandwich shack. We had plenty of those already …

Analyzing the market for what might make a successful enterprise, I believed that a Noodles and Company franchise – combining various pastas, sauces, and toppings in a mishmash of Italian, Thai, Chinese, American, and Vegetarian dishes – could be a winning recipe.

Fast food, savored slowly or gobbled quickly, at an affordable price!

We left Wisconsin for the European Union before nogging the noodles; but I remain convinced that an eatery like this could be quite profitable, catering to the consumers’ tastes.

Living in Spain and a Portugal border town, I now suspect that tapas may be the next big (little) global franchise for foodies.

Moreover, we could have umpteen variations on the theme: tapas españolas, tapas americanas, tapas francesas, tapas italianas, et al.

Tapas tend to be popular wherever they’re served and already are available in many places. My point here is that somewhere, some entrepreneur or fast food chain looking to expand, sometime soon, will recognize the commercial potential for franchising them … eliminating their unique tastes and variations on the theme by reducing them to their lowest common denominators.

Tapas aren’t particularly made for “take-out.” They’re more of a social experience in a sit-down together environment.

Tapas are:

Delicious. Satisfying every taste bud, tapas are smaller-sized versions of almost everything on the full-size menu. They typically come with a basket of bread (and/or breadsticks), olives, a side salad and/or chips (fries)

Healthy. Nutritionists and dieticians will attest that, not only are tapas a “balanced” meal, but their serving size portions are the amount we, ideally, should be eating at each sitting.

Social. Tapas are meant to be shared. Everyone around the table orders one or two, with enough to be shared around the table. Folks get to sample different dishes and discuss their observations over gossip and glad-handing.

Inexpensive. Away from the big cities, tapas typically range from €1.50 to €3.00 per serving (averaging about €2.50). And that includes all the extras: bread, small side salad and/or fries, olives, and other hors d’ouevres. With wine and beer costing less than water or soft drinks, add another euro or so for each beverage. Total bill for two tapas to share, two more tapas to be enjoyed independently, and two drinks per person: less than fifteen euros.

Diverse. Nearly everything on the complete menu is available as a tapa. Eat one or more of the same tapa – it’s also available in a double-size portion (“media ración”) or a full-size plate (ración) – or sample several goodies to delight.

Experiential. How often do we get to try something different, something we may find delicious (or not), by sampling it in a smaller size at a bottom-line price? From meats and poultry to fish and seafood, cheeses and wraps or soups and salads, tapa economics are as incalculable as their substance and variations!

And, since we all deserve a break today, tapas allow us to eat fresh, make it great, and have the food our way.

Now, that’s thinking outside the bun!

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

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2 thoughts on “Franchising Tapas

  1. In the old days, tapas (or “petisco” in Portuguese) were offered to those who would buy drinks at the bar. Men would go to taverns to drink wine or beer, where bite-sized portions of food were served along with the drinks, free of charge. I believe you can still find this “business model” in Italy and some places in Andalusia, but not in Portugal I’m afraid.

    • Excellent point, João! “Tapas” (per se) aren’t available everywhere throughout Spain. Right across the border from Portugal, in Spain’s Extremadura region, exactly what you describe is the norm. One orders a drink and some free “pinchos” are provided to accompany it. 🙂

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