Ethnic flavours can help to boost appetizer appeal

March 19 2014

We have previously documented how important it is to have a variety of snacks and smaller meal options on restaurant menus to cater for a wider range of diners. 

Whether this is because consumers fancy a little something to whet their appetite before the entree or they just want a light bite to tide them over until their next full meal, foodservice operators around Canada would be advised to take notice of this growing food trend.

Data from Technomic revealed how opting for an appetizer instead of an entree enabled around three in ten of those surveyed to better control portion sizes and not spend so much. 

In an attempt to capitalise on this market, the fact-based research and consulting firm revealed some ideas restaurants are implementing when it comes to creating appealing appetizers.

Latin-Asian fusion

It transpired 31 per cent of those polled said unique or ethnic flavours played a strong role in choosing what light bite to purchase. 

Combining the cuisines of Latin America and Asia is one way foodservice operators are trying to attract diners. 

The fact that ingredients like lime and cilantro are found in both regions' cuisines helps to bridge the gap and entice consumers. 

Technomic cited how The Boathouse in British Columbia offers Ahi Tuna Tacos on its menu, where the fish is served in crispy wonton tacos with wasabi aioli and mango salsa as accompaniments. 

Furthermore Beer Bistro lists Tandoori Shrimp Tostadas as an appetizer option, which features lime-cilantro cabbage, guacamole and creme fraiche.

Mexican appetizers were shown to have come top in terms of how frequently they appeared on menus and the number of restaurateurs listing them on menus between the fourth quarters of 2012 and 2013, according to MenuMonitor. 


Flatbreads is another option that a growing number of restaurant operators are employing. 

As they can appear to be a lighter version of pizza, it widens their appeal and makes them more child-friendly and consequently family-friendly. 

This type of bread can also be combined with other popular ingredients, making it a firm favourite among consumers.

Technomic cited Bao Bei's Grilled Garlic Pesto Chicken Flatbread - which comes with fresh mozzarella cheese, balsamic onions, roasted red peppers and arugula - as one way the food was being implemented onto menus. 

Fox & Fiddle was also shown to be making the most of this trend, as it provides the Butter Chicken Flatbread for diners to enjoy. The flatbread is stone-baked and comes with breaded chicken covered in butter-chicken sauce, topped with melted marble cheese and garnished with fresh cilantro.

The findings revealed 39 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women said they would be more likely to order appetizers if there was a greater variety for them to ponder over. 

In addition, there seems to be a range of dining preferences when it comes to these lighter bites. Just under half of the time (48 per cent), consumers like to enjoy their appetizer on their own as opposed to sharing it with their companions. 

This highlights how important it is for foodservice operators to explore new flavours and fusions to appeal to diners, whether or not they want to share them with their friends.