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Starters become stars

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Consumers’ craving for appetizers is growing. In fact, 65 percent of consumers said that the last time they dined away from home, they ordered an appetizer, according to Chicago-based research company Datassential’s new MenuTrends Keynote on appetizers.

And while appetizers might seem old hat for some operators—Datassential reports that 85 percent of restaurants currently offer appetizers—for most, they’re an opportunity for experimentation. By menuing creative, flavorful starters, operators can boost checks and provide a way for consumers to build their own meals—a trend that’s growing in importance.

According to Datassential, the fastest-growing appetizers have one thing in common: They’re easily shareable. These on-trend items, including lettuce wraps, hummus and flatbreads, all lend themselves to social experiences and are a natural fit with small-plates menus.

What’s more, appetizers are no longer just for starters. According to a recent Mintel study, consumers increasingly view appetizers and sides as a lunch or dinner option, with 80 percent reporting that they’ve created their own meals by ordering a variety of appetizers rather than a traditional entree.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that some of the fastest-growing flavors on appetizer menus, such as harissa, giardiniera and chimichurri, stem from ethnic cuisines, according to Datassential. Although these flavors may be unfamiliar to some consumers, appetizers—with their lower price point—are a low-risk way for guests to try items that they may normally shy away from.

This post is sponsored by Kerry Foodservice

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