Amping Up Your Appetizers & Small Plates
Appetizers traditionally take up the first place on your menu, so not only do they start a meal — they also are the diner’s first impression of your menu as a whole. The smaller portions means both diners and chefs can take bigger risks, as people tend to be more adventurous with shared pre-meal snacks than with their entrees. And because chefs know people might be more likely to try new things off the appetizer menu, they can experiment with new ideas and flavors here first before expanding them to other places on the menu.
In the last few years, appetizers have really changed the way we dine — rather than merely beginning a meal with them, tapas and other small plates have become a more popular way to eat a full meal; dining groups order a variety of small plates to share as a meal, each person getting a taste of each one. Along with being able to control the amount you eat, this allows people to get a wider variety of dishes in one meal.
So what can you do to invigorate your appetizers?
First, consider relabeling your menu. With the increased popularity of appetizers as a meal, the term “small plates” might be more appropriate. Other restaurants have come up with flashy, snappy sounding names full of alliteration, but you’re probably fine changing from “appetizers” to something that doesn’t limit these menu items to the start of a meal.
Second, take a look at what appetizer options you’re offering. Because the appeal of small plates has to do with experimentation and variety, some of the more standard options have dropped in popularity in recent years. That DOES NOT mean you have to automatically get rid of your popular potato skins appetizer — if it sells well, keep it on the menu — but it does suggest that you should take a look at which of your appetizers sell and which don’t, and replace those that don’t with something more interesting. Tweaked versions of already popular appetizer options might be a good idea: instead of standard garlic bread, consider offering a few flavors of toasted flatbread; spice up your wings with a range of interesting dipping sauces like teriyaki, garlic parmesan, etc. If you’re into culinary adventure, play around with whatever inspiration you like. Your customers will appreciate the opportunity to test their palettes.
Appetizers and small plates may be, well, small — but they’re not to be ignored as a portion of your menu. Whether it’s people ordering them for smaller portions, variety, or as a giant family-style meal, they can be an integral part of your menu. They can make you money!
I’ll be back Friday with another post. Until then, contact us here.