According to a recent study from Rockville, Md.-based research firm Packaged Facts, two-thirds of consumers report that they often snack between meals, up from 62 percent in 2004. As dayparts and meal occasions continue to blur into round-the-clock eating, operators in all segments are moving from menuing classic appetizers and entrees to a more flexible approach that allows items to function as traditional courses as well as shareables or snacks.
Casual-dining chain Applebee’s recently launched a mix-and-match menu of shareables, pub plates and bar snacks, which allows guests to customize their meals and provides options for in-between times, such as happy hour or late-night snacking. In the same way, 43 North, an upscale concept in Madison, Wis., includes both small-plate and large-plate options for every dish on its menu, from bar snacks to soups, salads and entrees.
And as consumers seek out these varied meal options, operators can reap the benefits of this growing trend. According to a new report from Chicago-based research firm Technomic, 31 percent of consumers say that they visit foodservice locations late at night, so operators who appeal to this demand can boost incremental traffic during all times of day.
One thing is clear, though: Although consumers look for menu items that can be eaten any time, flavor is still paramount. The items on Applebee’s shareable menu, for example, feature interesting flavors that are globally inspired and provide a spicy kick—trends that continue to make waves across the industry as a whole.
This post is sponsored by Land O'Lakes Foodservice