Some Considerations for a Small-Plate-Focused Menu

Posted by Patrick Maness +

If you’re in the foodservice business, you don’t have to be told that a revolution in the way Americans eat has occurred in the last decade. The emphasis on healthy diet and lifestyle choices has made it so people no longer go to restaurants looking to get the most food for their dollar. What’s more, restaurant diners are demanding better ingredients and expecting higher quality overall.

The days of large portions padded with starches and carbs have given way to smaller plates featuring better ingredients. And there are many “national” small-plate dishes. The Chinese have dim sum, Greeks their mezze, and Japanese their sakana, but perhaps the most famous of the small-plates are tapas.

According to legend, tapas got their start in 13th-century Spain when King Alfonso the Wise became ill and could eat and drink only small portions. Tapas food is served either hot or cold and, in general, it is extremely flavorful due to the large amount of garlic, cumin, chili peppers and olive oil used.

Like other national cuisines, once tapas caught on in America, they took on a whole new appearance and life. While many restaurants continue to serve traditional tapas fare, pretty much anything can now be considered tapas, from a sampling of cheeses to a slice of barbecue. Outwardly, what distinguishes these plates as tapas are the small portions and how they are presented.

It's also worth noting that people are willing to pay a lot more for these little plates.

For a restaurateur, this sounds great. It’s a dream combination of smaller portions and higher tabs. However, there is a lot more to consider than how to present menu items on smaller plates. A successful small-plate menu must take many factors into account. When you consider all the supplies and sourcing needed for smaller plate sizes, is it a good choice?

In this blog series, we’ll take a look at what is involved with serving tapas and what it means to have a stellar small-plate menu. Topics will include:

Catering tapas and small dishes

Many people and organizations are looking to catering services that offer tapas because they want a wide variety of flavors and dishes. This is great for serving a diverse crowd, and it's certainly fun, too. This blog will offer tips to help you successfully cater such an event. We’ll discuss how to serve tapas and small dishes, themes to consider, hot and cold stations, and other food you can serve to fill out the small-portion plates.

Small-plates menu to encourage repeat customers

One of the strongest business cases to be made for a small-plate menu is that it encourages repeat customers. The main reason for this is that people are able to sample a variety of dishes, making it more likely they will try and like something new. The fun of enjoying a variety of plates from a creative menu is compounded by the fact that these plates offer healthy, high-quality ingredients. We’ll talk about how to take advantage of these factors to build a strong customer base. 

Are small-plate menus for all generations or just millennials?

Tapas have been described as food for millennials, and some are worried that serving tapas will limit their clientele. But in our adventurous culinary age, the whole idea of tasting and sharing, which is the point of having tapas, could very well draw customers of all ages. In this post, we’ll look at how to do this and even tackle some other issues, such as which small-plate menu items might also appeal to seniors. 

Are small plates really meant for sharing?

It’s generally accepted that small plates are meant to be shared, but many people question this idea. Some people find a table full of plates frustrating and are unable to satisfy their hunger with the smaller portions. Still, sharing is part of the draw. This blog will explore this issue and how you can make your small-plate menu more friendly to sharing.

Small-plate dining opens up many possibilities, both from a business standpoint and as a way to creatively expand your offerings. It’s an exciting trend and these blogs will help you explore some of the important details of the small-plate phenomenon.

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