Menu makers these days are placing more attention on the items that come before and after the main event. Originality, full flavor and familiarity with a twist are the keys to creating successful appetizers in 2012. “It’s worth noting that consumers are often willing to try an unusual ingredient or preparation as an appetizer, because it’s less of a commitment than ordering something they may or may not like as their entrée,” says Technomic’s Joe Pawlak. Take note of these trends:
- Simple starters: Restaurants are taking rustic foods and letting their simplicity do the talking. Items like bruschetta and topped flatbreads give customers a satisfying appetizer—especially when the flavor is accented by a cooking method, such as wood-firing or grilling. Skewered meats with an interesting salsa or simple dressed salads with seasonal produce are other ways to offer a simple first course.
- Remaking the classics: Tried-and-true ideas won’t disappear from the menu, but creating different interpretations of them can turn comfort foods into more exciting appetizers. Items like meatballs, mini burgers, appetizer pizzas and assorted dips and sauces are ways to put a new spin on the classics.
- Desserts: Leaning on time-tested classics like cake or ice cream, desserts will not change so much in form as they will in flavor. A move toward more ethnic-influenced flavors will take place, adapting to a change in the public’s flavor preferences. Using familiar ingredients and forms is a way to build upon favorties and still reflect changing consumer interests.