The Case for Small Plates
Today's diners are trending small. Think sliders instead of burgers, slim yakitori instead of gonzo kebabs, mini muffins or the mini pizzas that Italians call pizzette. Small plates are big news in every type of dining venue from quick service to high end.
Why? Because diners love options, especially when the choices are low risk. An entrée is a big (and often expensive) commitment, but small plates encourage diners to dabble. A little of this, a little of that. More experience for less money.
Surveys show that consumers appreciate small plates for a variety of reasons. Let's take a closer look at what they say about small plates because it may persuade you to ramp up your efforts.
"I'm more likely to try something I haven't tried before." 1
Offering less-familiar foods in a small-plate format may convince customers to give them a try. Snails with almond-parsley butter... duck liver pâté with toasted almonds... broccoli rabe with almonds and currants. Make the leap into the unknown less scary with tapas-sized portions.
"My friends and I share a lot of small plates. It feels more communal, more social." 1
Draw younger diners, and keep them, with a small-plates menu that works for groups and encourages them to mix it up.
"Sometimes I'd prefer to have two or three small dishes rather than one large entrée." 1
Ditch the notion of the meat-centered main course. Your customers have. They like the flexibility of assembling a less-structured meal—maybe a little ceviche, some French fries and a salad. Small plates make this mix-and-match eating possible.
"My kids are more willing to experiment when the portions are small." 1
Makes sense, doesn't it? Small plates help you create a more kid-friendly venue that insures the parents' experience is more enjoyable, too.
"I enjoy bold and spicy flavors…but in small doses." 1
Allow your customers to feel adventuresome by offering highly seasoned ethnic dishes in small portions. A fiery chicken and almond curry may be more tempting if diners know they can balance it with milder dishes.
"I can try more dishes but spend less money." 1
Of course no operator wants a guest to spend less, but a menu of small plates is enticing. Guests may spend less per dish but they tend to order more. Chances are, your check average will go up, not down.
"I'd hang out more at that bar if it just had some interesting nibbles." 1
Draw more bar patrons and sell more drinks with a menu of small plates in your lounge. Roasted almonds with pimentón. Fried calamari. Grilled shrimp with romesco. Watch that bar check climb.
"I want a little something sweet at the end that I can try without feeling guilty." 1
Mini desserts let guests indulge without buyer's remorse. You make an extra sale, and they leave content. In one survey , 61 percent of respondents said they would love more mini-dessert options.1
For bold flavor in a small format, watch chef Bill Briwa prepare Fromage Blanc, Toasted Almonds, Aromatic Spices & Mint Chutney.
1 Datassential MenuTrends, "Small Plate Trends: How Are Small Plates Impacting Restaurants," May, 2012. www.datassential.com, Page 7 - 31.