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Small plates, big trend

Despite spending less at restaurants, customers are still ordering appetizers at an exponential rate. In a slow economy, appetizers are easier on the wallet and two can be combined to make a meal. What's more, they offer diners an opportunity to explore flavors and ingredients; appetizers are offered in every cuisine and take form in various shapes and sizes.The variety of starters on menus is one of the hottest trends on the restaurant scene right now—so much so that entrees are taking a back seat to small plates. And chefs are expanding their appetizer lists to meet consumer demand.

  • 77% of consumers order appetizers in fine dining restaurants because they are a great way to introduce customers to the quality of food and inventiveness of the menu
  • Appetizers are an excellent place to introduce restaurant patrons to new or exotic ingredients that they may be wary of when committing to an entrée; the risk involved is limited but the experience is limitless
  • Ethnic/street food-inspired appetizers like tempura, taquitos, kabobs, dumplings, dim sum and hummus are growing increasingly popular among consumers
  • Appetizer combos/platters promote sharing and offer customers a variety of the appetizers presented on the menu
  • Warm appetizer salads are increasing on restaurant menus

2011 National Restaurant Association, Menu Insights