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Research Predicts The Rise of Small Plates

Although we can fittingly say that small plates have been around in the restaurant scene since, well, forever (think of the Chinese dim sum, the Spanish tapas, Turkish and Greek mezze and the Italian antipasti ), this type of serving is said to be one of the top growing trends among main dishes this year.

Small plates are mini-dishes or micro-plates; normally an appetizer-type fare that serve as mini-courses.

In a yearly poll of more than 1,800 chefs that was conducted by the American Culinary Foundation, it was found that Americans (and Canadians, too, as research has found out) have indeed swayed away from the country’s emblematic love for large portions. In a similar consumer survey, 54% of Americans claimed that they often try to look for small plates when dining out at restaurants.

Fine dining restaurants have already come up with “chef’s menu”-style offerings that fundamentally serve as samplers for the house’s main specialties. And recently, casual restaurants have also taken the hint and joined the act—Cheesecake Factory came up with their “Small Plates and Snacks” menu, which they label as “pre-appetizers.” Houlihan’s went all out and came up with four “small portions” menu sections: the Slider Pit, the Mini-Entrees, the Big Small Plates and the Mini-Desserts. And they say that their customers’ response was tremendous.

And why do you think customers love small plates? We chanced upon a food blog that gave us the answers:

• It’s obviously cheaper.

• It appeals to man’s adventurous nature. The fact that it has a lower cost makes it all the more appealing—the price reflected in the restaurants’ menus and table tents makes it safer to try new stuff. Trying out a cheap mini-style of something and disliking it is far less difficult to do than wasting money on a full entrée that costs more.

• Customers love variety—and small plates provide that to them.

• Small plates have always been known to be social—the small servings is designed to encourage conversation, since diners do not get so focused upon eating a complete meal that is set before them.

And here are some quick reasons why restaurants go for small plates:

• Less turns out to be more. Small plates are priced less, so customers tend to get more of them—oftentimes they order more than what they can eat without even realizing it.

• Easy on the kitchen. Small plates are prepared on an “as-ready” manner, and your chefs do not have to cope with the preparation of different dishes all at the same time.

• More beverage sales. They’re social—groups of diners have the tendency to request for more drinks as they get involved in their conversations.

• Customers would want to try them all. Since they’re priced cheaper than the main entrees, once a customer likes one of them, they’ll make sure to come back and try all of the others that are presented in the restaurants’ menu and elegant table tents.

Given all these, it’s just understandable why restaurants all over – chains and independents—are capitalizing on the trend. After all, what’s there to lose?