Small plates have always been some of my favorite dining options. Part of the appeal is the opportunity to try a variety of dishes and flavors I wouldn’t otherwise be able to. “Family-style” dining isn’t new, but small plates menus are a modern take on the practice.
Not to mention there’s a good monetary benefit for you. Let’s review:
1. Portion Control
There’s no better time of year than January to rein in portions. After the excess of sweets and meals during the holiday season, your customers are looking for a way to scale back. Smaller plates are a great way for guests to indulge on a smaller scale without splitting full entrees with their dining companions.
2. It’s Your Chance to Be Creative…
Your standard menu might offer few opportunities to rotate seasonal dishes or experiment with new ones. Unlike your overall menu concept, small plates let you break out from the confines of your typical faire. Use small plates to introduce new or different flavor profiles to guests. You may also find that experimentation can lead to some real standout dishes you never considered before. You might even explore new ways to present your dishes, like using a white ceramic pail by American Metalcraft for french fries or meatballs.
3. …And Cut Costs
It’s no surprise that food waste reduction is on the Top 20 Food Trends List for 2016, as reported by the National Restaurant Association. In a country that loses roughly 31% of its food to waste, reducing food waste in your kitchen is more than just hopping on a trend—it should also give you the warm, fuzzy feeling of doing something good for the community.
But, if the warm fuzzies aren’t enough, consider your bottom line. Small plates give you more choices to utilize ingredients you might otherwise trash. So go on, flex those creative muscles and get cooking.
4. No Expediter?
Unlike traditional menus that require a standard 3 or 4 course meal to be timed accordingly, small plates are typically fired right when they’re ordered. Because small plates are brought to the table as soon as they’re ready, you might find it unnecessary to keep an expediter to coordinate the cooks’ timing. One less body means one less person on the payroll.
5. Larger Tabs
You know how you scarf down so much bread at the table that by the time your entrée comes you only finish half and take the rest home? It’s no surprise that dieticians urge us to slow down when we eat so our stomach can signal to our brain sooner that we’re full.
But do we listen? Heck no!
We’re hungry. Put a plate of food on the table and it’ll get licked clean in minutes. So what’s the logical thing to do? Order more food.
That’s what happens with small plates. Because they’re delivered to the table as soon as they’re ready, your guests will keep ordering more and more food because they don’t feel full yet. Then, it’s time to go, but that tab has already been filled.
6. Turn Over Your Tables More Quickly
Our society is one of multitasking and speed. Love it or hate it, we want to get in, get out, and on with our lives. Without worrying about a regular course flow during service, you can serve guests quickly, and more often than note they’ll be ready to leave as soon as they’re finished eating. That means your regular table rotation of 2 to 3 times that evening probably got turned over 5 or 6 times.
7. Millenials Want It
Sure, this one might be a throwaway. Still you can’t deny the influential power of this up and coming generation. Millennials are putting the food industry on its head, and they’re demanding more than just high quality, responsibly sourced ingredients. The younger generation loves to customize their meals, and view small plates as a way to try and share a bit of everything.
Plus, Millennials are very used to getting what they want, when and how they want it.
But I’d caution you to label those Millennials as “entitled,” for this generation is also leading the charge on noble social causes like hunger and agricultural reform and much more.
Now Let’s Play Devil’s Advocate:
Ok, we’ve sold you on the small plates concept, but consider this: small plates aren’t perfect for all business concepts. You might think the first step in offering small plates is rewriting the menu, but that’s just the beginning. Also think about your kitchen staff—are they equipped to handle a different pace? Think about the impact of a variety of smaller, more complex dishes versus a standard few, easy-to-execute dishes would have on your efficiency. Don’t forget presentation either—your smaller portions might look strange plated with your existing tabletop items.
So what do you think? Do you offer small plates at your restaurant? Love it, or hate it? Sound off below!