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Consumer Trends

Small plates fuel shareable meals

Shareable meals, fueled by the trends of small plates and communal tables, have proven to be more than just a passing fad. Seventy percent of consumers order shareable meals so they can try more than one item on the menu, reveals a report by Technomic. Sharing small plates with dining companions also creates a more party-like experience—another craving patrons are seeking to satisfy. More than any other factor, 69 percent of consumers report that dining with friends contributes to a fun, exciting restaurant experience.

“When this group goes out to restaurants they’re in ‘hangout mode;’ they meet up to eat and drink continuously over several hours, looking to explore different tastes and sometimes moving to different venues,” reports Craig LaRosa, principal with Continuum, a design and innovation firm that consults with foodservice clients. “They are looking to spend money on the ‘experience.’”

At Ada St. in Chicago, patrons dine outside, sitting on picnic benches at patio tables clad in red-checkered tablecloths and candles, watching the action at the ping-pong table or listening to cuts from the house’s vintage vinyl record collection.

“It’s kind of like a party,” says Michael Kornick, chef and co-owner of Ada St., as well as the Chicago restaurants DMK Burger Bar and Fish Bar, all with partner David Morton. The tavern-style spot seats 25 in the backyard and 45 inside.

  • Appetizer combos/platters promote sharing and offer customers a variety of the appetizers presented on the menu 
  • Flexible menus with many small plates and appetizer options are welcome. But you can’t fool Gen Y—they want authentic, honest food prepared with a unique point of view
  • Noting this trend, T.G. I. Friday launched its Taste & Share menu in April, delivering bolder flavors, lower prices, and small-sized selections, such as Thai Pork Tacos, Ahi Tuna Crisps, Bacon Mac & Cheese Bites and Corned Beef & Swiss Sliders

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