Small plates are a big deal to diners, research suggests

September 11 2017

Consumers are expected to adopt a more tapas-esque approach to dining and restaurant ordering in 2017, according to new research.

A study from food research group Technomic has revealed that starters and small plates are set to play a larger part in restaurants as diners’ eating habits embrace the urge to snack and share.

In particular, small plates continue to appear on menus and are helping to change meal dynamics, so says Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report.

Almost two in five (38 percent) consumers who order appetizers strongly agree that they sometimes visit a certain restaurant because they are craving a specific appetizer.

More than two-fifths (43 percent) of consumers would like more full-service restaurants to offer small plates, while 62 percent believe it’s important that they can choose the side that comes with their entree.

Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic, said that consumers are feeling more empowered than ever and feel that they should be entitled to order several taster-style dishes rather than commit to a larger plate concentrated on one dish.

“Preference is growing for meals that include several smaller-portioned or shareable dishes instead of those focused on a single entree,” she commented.

“Small plate and appetizer bundles, samplers and more innovative side dishes are trending as consumers increasingly opt for meals that feature a variety of flavors.”

More than 1,500 consumers were questioned as part of Technomic’s comprehensive 2017 Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report. This research serves as a guide for foodservice operators and suppliers to understand how diners consume entrees, their attitudes toward the left side of the menu and to identify key areas of opportunity.