Appetizers, small plates and happy hour/bar menus are usually stacked with familiar dishes like nachos, wings and other tasty eats. Other foods, like loaded fries, pizza and flatbreads, sliders and more are popular too—and they have one thing in common: cheese.
According to Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates & Sides report, happy hour is a time when restaurants can capitalize on consumers’ desire to order small plates and apps—47% of consumers say they’d be likely to order an appetizer during happy hour, while 42% say they’d order small plates during happy hour. With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that operators are riffing on the classics to offer consumers unique, craveable options. According to Technomic’s report, 46% of consumers say that it’s important for an appetizer to be familiar to them, while 47% say they want new and unique items. This presents great opportunity for operators, who can innovate on classics and attract both groups.
Here are some delicious ways to add cheesy, craveable dishes to the appetizer and bar menu to attract more sales.
Pizza and flatbreads: On Ninety Nine Restaurant’s Summer menu, diners can choose Shrimp Flatbread. At this Woburn, Mass., eatery, this dish features flatbread glazed with lemon butter sauce and topped with shrimp tossed in roasted red pepper peso, fresh tomatoes, and provolone and mozzarella cheeses. Perfect for summertime—but great all year long.
Sliders: According to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, mentions of sliders are up 3.2% on menus year-over-year. And 49% of consumers say they’d be likely to try new flavors on burgers, so using unique cheeses or spicy sauces can be a perfect option here. At Smith & Wollensky in Medford, Mass., the menu features filet sliders, with bacon jam, white cheddar and steak sauce mayo. These premium ingredients are great for attracting the 64% of consumers, according to Technomic’s Starters, Small Plates & Sides report, who say that premium or high-quality ingredients would make them likely to purchase an appetizer.
Poutine: Poutine appetizers are up 9.8% year-over-year according to MenuMonitor, and one way that operators can innovate on this fries-gravy-cheese curd delicacy is by adding even more indulgence to it or even switching up the potato base and using tots instead. At Bar Louie, the BBQ Poutine appetizer features house fries, crispy pork shoulder, Bulleit bourbon-spiked barbecue sauce, white cheddar fondue sauce, queso fresco, pickled onion and scallions.
This post is sponsored by Saputo Foodservice