With all the buzz around small plates, it’s sometimes forgotten how a well-planned appetizer or starter menu can add to a foodservice operation’s bottom line. And since consumers today are open to all sorts of new ingredients and ethnic flavors, operators have virtually limitless opportunities to create exciting, profitable starters.
Restaurant customers have a strong interest in appetizers. The 2015 Technomic Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report found that 39 percent of respondents say they order appetizers on all or most of their restaurant visits. And, 31 percent of respondents say they would order appetizers more frequently if there was a deal paired with an entrée.
Here’s how the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast” survey ranked the top five appetizer trends, and how some operations are creatively capitalizing on them:
With a name like Banger’s, it’s a given that you’d see sausage on the appetizer menu, and this Austin, Texas, restaurant offers a starter plate of beef and pork snack sausages accompanied by spicy mustard and a housemade piccalilli.
Once thought of primarily as a specialty of high-end French restaurants, charcuterie boards or platters are found in many types of eateries these days. In fact, Datassential’s 2015 Menu Trends Appetizer Keynote Report found that charcuterie menu mentions were up 163 percent over the past four years. At Cassia in Santa Monica, Calif., the charcuterie selection reflects the Asian emphasis of the menu, including such specialties as Singaporean candied pork, Vietnamese meatloaf and smoked curried duck.
Meat is great, but for those who want to go meatless, vegetarian options are especially welcome. Many Mediterranean cuisines are light on meats, and the appetizers at Tiqa Pan Mediterranean in Portland, Maine, reflect that tradition, with warm marinated olives, the Middle Eastern red pepper spread muhamarra and grilled green onions with asparagus all on the starter menu.
Ethnic/street food inspired appetizers
Global cuisines lend themselves to all sorts of delicious applications for the appetizer menu, such as the Latin-Asian fusion version of elotes served at Chino Chinatown in Dallas. Here, the classic Mexican street food treat of grilled corn is topped with cotija cheese and togarashi seasoning, then served with a sriracha aioli.
For seafood lovers, Chicago’s Kinmont goes all out with a seafood charcuterie board, which features salmon gravlax and smoked trout rillettes, paired with a tuna conserva, mustard and grilled bread.
This post is sponsored by Kerry Foodservice