Make Sharable Your New Mantra

Monday, May 1, 2017

The new key to appetizers is shareability. Learn how this concept can affect your operation and put patrons in the party zone, ready to order more. 

Two people sharing a meal at a restaurant
©iStockphoto.com/andresr

Call them appetizers, call them snacks, call them small plates, call them finger foods. Small, savory, shareable bites have become one of the most robust categories on food service menus.

According to the Technomic “Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report 2015,” this so-called Left Side of the Menu (LSM, including starters and small plates) is undergoing a number of key developments:

  • Interesting starters and small plates encourage customers to share
  • Engaging appetizers and small-plate formats will appeal for social meals
  • LSM premiumization will increase incremental sales
  • Consumers will demand more innovative starters and small plates

That gives food service operators lots of fertile ground for developing their own distinctive offerings. “Handheld foods and snacks continue to provide versatility and profit opportunities for all dayparts and menu types,” says Brian Dragos, Minor’s® corporate executive chef, who shares several pointers for maximizing the category:

  1. Remove any mention of appetizers; use the description "shareables" instead.
  2. People usually come to a restaurant because they are hungry. Have servers approach tables with a welcoming statement such as, “Welcome to Brian’s, could I get you some of our new Korean BBQ Wings or Pad Thai Shrimp? They’re awesome to share and you’ll have something to taste while you look at the menu.”
  3. Make shareables flavorful, quick to prepare, and pretty to look at!
  4. Customers want bold flavors, whether in traditional items or in traditional items with a new twist, like Korean tacos or sushi burritos.
  5. Think of street food as the best route to inspire and market snacks—they offer the kind of salty, spicy, crispy, hot, crunchy, and sour flavor experiences that customers crave.

Positioned as such, almost any menu item can be merchandised to share, from old favorites such as nachos, mozzarella sticks, or chicken wings to a bubbling hot gratin dish full of macaroni and cheese, accompanied by four forks. 

51 Fun Ideas for Finger Foods:

 

Dips and Dunkables

  • Hummus and pita
  • Clam dip and chips
  • Spice mixtures such as dukkah with crudites
  • Spinach-artichoke dip with baguette

Bread-Based Specialties

  • Crostini and bruschetta with toppings
  • Flatbreads
  • Pizza
  • Bread with a spread, such as biscuits and pimento cheese

Specialty Fries and Chips

  • Poutine
  • Frites with dipping sauces
  • Colorful housemade beet and zucchini chips
  • Potato “tots” with toppings

Samplers

  • Assorted fried vegetables
  • Meat-and-cheese plates
  • Combo plate of best-selling appetizers

Shellfish By the Piece

  • Shrimp
  • Oysters and clams
  • Crab claws

Sliders and Other Minis

  • Burger variations
  • Pulled pork
  • Mini grilled cheese

Vegetable Specialties

  • Whole steamed artichoke with sauce
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Housemade pickles
  • Avocado fries with crema dipping sauce

 

Savory Bites

  • Bite-size crab cakes
  • Cocktail meatballs
  • Jalapeño poppers
  • Bacon-wrapped pork belly or scallops
  • Lamb chop “lollipops”

Easy Additions

  • Flavored popcorn
  • Marinated olives
  • Smoked nuts
  • Housemade snack mix
  • Smoked fish
  • Glazed bacon strips

Retro Classics

  • Deviled eggs
  • Crab or cheese puffs
  • Mini hot dogs, with or without a pastry crust

Asian Inspirations

  • Dim sum
  • Egg rolls
  • Shrimp toast
  • Satays

Mexican Favorites

  • Taquitos
  • Guacamole
  • Street tacos
  • Chicharrones (fried pork skins)
  • Empanadas

Pub Food

  • Scotch eggs
  • Hot pretzels with cheddar cheese sauce
  • Sliced sausages with signature mustards

 

Source: Technomic Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report 2015