There’s never been a better time to expand your menu with social-friendly shareables. As eating habits shift towards more snacking and sharing, there is a growing preference towards starters and small plates. Small plates, in particular, continue to proliferate on menus and are helping to change meal dynamics.1 This is especially true for younger generations, since more than half of millennials and Gen-Zers say they see dining as a social occasion.2
Shareables and small plates are a great way to experiment with new flavors and applications while also appealing to customers looking to try a variety of dishes. Not to mention the fact that consumers often order several small plates to share, therefore increasing the total check average.
When developing your shareables program, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your satisfying your customers with on-trend flavors and ingredients.
- Go Global – Ethnic cuisine is still in high demand. In fact, Technomic reports that younger consumers are more interested in trying ethnic flavors than they were a year ago.3 Small plates are a great way to introduce your customers to global flavors. Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian influences are currently trending on menus. Encourage customer trial by introducing exotic flavors like gochujang, XO sauce, harissa and za’atar into more familiar dishes.
- Quality is Key - With a greater awareness around the impact of food, consumers are shifting their preferences toward clean ingredients and responsibly raised animal proteins. Not only do high value menu items satisfy diner demand, they can also elevate sales, since many consumers are willing to pay more for items featuring “clean” claims or items that contain simple, recognizable ingredients. Forty-four percent of diners are more likely to pay higher prices for organic foods while 37% would pay more for antibiotic-free foods.4 Small plates are a great way to see how premium ingredients like PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® Organic Chicken, PERDUE® No Antibiotics Ever Fully Cooked Chicken Wings, or PERDUE® No Antibiotics Ever Turkey perform on your menu.
- Get Creative - Shareables and small plates should be creative and engaging. Encourage your staff to upsell shareables – they should recommend them when taking the drink order, highlight their favorites and use descriptive language to entice guests. Keep your offerings fresh by offering LTOs with seasonal ingredients, change up the menu frequently and get customer feedback. Let your customers inspire new menu creations and tell you what they like and don’t like about existing dishes.
- Make Your Menu Work Harder - Your guest’s dining experience starts with the menu. Not only does your menu influence your patrons’ first impressions, but it also provides insight into the restaurant’s concept and point of difference. Use the menu to tell your brand story, share your point of difference and communicate your commitment to quality. Call out high-value claims like “organic” and “antibiotic-free” with detailed descriptions. After all, which would rather order, “roast chicken” or “slow-roasted organic chicken?”
- Presentation Counts - In this day and age, it’s all about presentation. When plating your dish, ask yourself, “is this Instagrammable?” Armed with smart phones and social media, customers, especially the younger crowd, want to share their experience with the world. As soon as the plate arrives to the table, they are ready to photograph it and post it, so make sure it looks good. It just might just attract your next customer.
Shareables are a fun and profitable way to demonstrate your creativity and set your restaurant apart. Plus, blurred dayparts and all-day snacking have opened up even more opportunity to drive sales of shareables. Now’s the time to get cooking and showcase your shareables!
1 Technomic, “Starters, Small Plates and Sides Consumer Trend Report,” 2017
2 Startt, Chris, “3 Ways to Engage Millennials and GenZ,” Fast Casual, 4/13/17
3 Technomic, “Flavor Consumer Trend Report,” 2017
4 Technomic, “Consumer & Restaurant Menu Trends: The Clean Label Influence,” March 2017