Customers are seeking more flavorful, dynamic options in their dining selections, and operators have taken note, leveraging the small-plate trend as a way to showcase a range of flavors and cuisines in a small, approachable package. It's no surprise that small-plate menu items have risen 25 per cent on menus in a year-over-year comparison in the U.K., according to Technomic's MenuMonitor.
Small plates allow customers more ordering flexibility—whether they desire just a snack or a full meal across several dishes—and offer a variety of price points. Ethnic small plates are making waves right now by allowing customers to sample, pass and awe at dishes that may be unfamiliar to them without having to make the commitment of ordering an entrée-sized main dish.
"Operators have a tremendous opportunity to gain share of stomach by offering small-plate options," says Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic. "Restaurants can be creative with their menus, trying new ingredients and flavors with small plates as a way to introduce new items. Not only that, but it can create a more intimate experience where customers see dining out as more of an event than a meal."
Menus can provide essential customer and competitive insights, but only if you have easy access to relevant and reliable data. The latest research from MenuMonitor, Technomic's online database of more than 300 chain, independent, hotel, retail and college & university U.K. menus and 7,000 international menus (sourced down to the specific location where the menu is served) will help you answer the questions: which ingredients (or flavors) are gaining in popularity, are there gaps in our menu, what are some of the best options to fill those gaps and improve our competitive position, and how do menu trends vary by region? Other interesting findings from MenuMonitor include:
• Pachamama, a Peruvian small-plates restaurant, features traditional Peruvian foods using British-sourced produce. Offerings include sea bass, chicken anticuchos, saddleback spare ribs, chicharrónes, Cornish lobster, lamb belly and sweet plantains.
• All Bar One launched several new small-plate dishes, including Ginger Teriyaki Chicken Skewers, Salmon Bruschetta and Sea Bass Ceviche.
• Bill's rolled out multiple small-plate offerings, including Crispy Crumbled Halloumi, Bill's Giant Green Gordal Olives and Bill's Cheese Plate.
• Piccolino Ristorante e Bar recently added the Cicchetti Bar, a late-night food bar. Cicchetti Bar offers small sharing plates of Venetian-style tapas, and the menu is separated into various sections, including Crudo, Ceviche, Insalata, Terra E Monti, Bruschetta, Griglia, Pizzette E Pasta Al Forno, Pesce Al Forno, Carne Al Forno, Fritti and Padella.