What's the most popular type of appetizer?

July 20 2015

If you're looking to add something new and unusual to your menu, the appetizers section is the place to do it. After all, research from food trend experts Technomic has shown that consumers are more likely to be adventurous with starters and small plate items.

Back in October, Technomic vice president Darren Tristano explained: "“Small plates are generally reserved for more innovative menu items versus more traditional items,” and pointed out that diners recognize small plates as being less risky.

However, that doesn't mean you should fill your appetizer menu with only exotic flavours. After all, some customers will still prefer old standbys like soups and salads.

Restaurant Central reports that Techomic's most recent MenuMonitor data indicates that soup is the leading type of appetizer on Canadian menus. It accounted for 1,968 listings on 908 restaurant menus.

"Soup is often spotlighted as a rotating, seasonal starter option with operators highlighting local, in-season ingredients," explains food editor Kristin Menas. She adds that soup can vary from light to heavier varieties and notes that the three most common types of soup appearing on menus are Asian soups, soup-of-the-day specials and seafood soups.

Salad is also among the top five appetizers on menus. It made 1,820 appearances in Technomic's data.

One reason for the popularity of salad is that Canadian consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious - and since salad is full of good-for-you ingredients like fresh vegetables, it is an ideal starter option.

What's more, salads provide an easy opportunity for restaurant operators to showcase their seasonal ingredients as toppings. for example, Joey's Seafood Restaurants currently offer a Summer Salad, which features romaine lettuce, mandarin oranges and sunflower seeds, all topped with a red onion vinaigrette.

Proteins also proved popular choices for appetizers, with non-breaded proteins like meat skewers, smoked salmon, grilled shrimp and oysters coming in ahead of breaded proteins like chicken fingers and scampi (1,810 listings compared to 1,627).

Finally, breaded vegetables had 898 listings, making them the fifth most common type of starter on Canadian menus.