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Restaurants Profit From Consumers’ Penchant For Snacks

The rise of small plates has been predicted early this year; and true to what was forecasted, restaurants nowadays are indeed benefitting from the American consumer’s current love affair with these mini-dishes.

“Our latest customer studies show that snacking has become a big part of the American consumers’ daily life,” according to Darren Tristano, market research firm Technomic’s executive vice-president.

Technomic’s recent research took a look at the attitudes, purchasing behavior and snack preferences of over 1,500 consumers, and learned that the common consumers’ snacking frequency is considerably higher than how often they snacked two years ago. 48% now says that they snack at least twice a day, while in 2010, only 25% claimed that they eat snacks that frequently.

And in those snacks that consumers purchase, 22% of it was bought at restaurants, an increase from the 17% report in 2010. True to what the report says, restaurants have indeed increased their snack offerings to their diners the past year—McDonald’s and KFC serve snack-sized sandwiches, and many restaurants now offer snacks and small plates in their menu.

California Pizza Kitchen, for instance, offers the “Small Cravings” in their menu in quality café menu covers–small portions of CPK delights ranging from healthful salads to more self-indulgent treats like their high calorie Chicken Tinga Quesadilla.

The small plates trend were said to have surfaced due to the rising pressure that were placed on restaurants regarding portioning and calorie counts in their meals.

“Because of that, Americans now tend to ‘graze’ all through the day, snacking to get themselves fueled in between their traditional meals,” Tristano said.

Chain restaurants have also exerted efforts in marketing their cheaper bar plates and snack items, catering to their younger diners who are inclined to visit restaurants for snacking during late-nights. Some restaurants, like Uno Chicago Grill, offer some of their snack menu items (featured in their elegant menus in long-lasting café menu covers) only at specific hours—their “Snack Hours Menu” can only be availed from 4pm to 7pm, and again at 10pm onwards. The menu includes mini-sandwiches like lobster sliders and hamburgers, as well as customary bar food like buffalo chicken wings.

Other than their penchant for snacking, today’s consumers love small plates because of its “social” characteristic—small servings are designed to encourage conversations unlike traditional meals. It’s clearly a lot cheaper, and it appeals to man’s adventurous nature, eating and tasting small portions of the mini-dishes.

But the most common reason is convenience—62% of consumers said that they bought their snacks at their favorite restaurant on impulse.