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:
- Remove any mention of appetizers; use the description "shareables" instead.
- 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.”
- Make shareables flavorful, quick to prepare, and pretty to look at!
- Customers want bold flavors, whether in traditional items or in traditional items with a new twist, like Korean tacos or sushi burritos.
- 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
Specialty Fries and Chips
Shellfish By the Piece
Sliders and Other Minis
Source: Technomic Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report 2015