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Why small plates are the next big thing

Photograph: Shutterstock

Dining out offers consumers the opportunity to enjoy foods they might not eat on a regular basis. It also allows them to try new foods should they want to. But dining out isn’t always an adventure or an indulgence—sometimes people are just hungry and want a quick, tasty bite to eat.

With all these reasons for dining out, operators have a tall order. They have to provide new and interesting dishes, exciting, trending flavors and portions that fit all appetites. Enter the small plate—a smaller-sized portion of foods diners know and love, as well as ones they’ve yet to experience.

According to Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report, about one in five consumers (19%) say they purchase small plates at least once a week, and though they’re sometimes shared, 59% of consumers say they eat them by themselves.

Why small plates?

Small plates have gained speed in the restaurant industry for a variety of reasons. Consumers want to try a particular small plate, they want to try several different dishes, they want something to eat while they wait for their meal, and they’re less expensive than entrées. For diners who are extra hungry, small plates are perfect for tiding them over ’til their meal gets there. And for diners with snack-sized appetites, small plates are great to ensure they don’t over-order. In fact, 37% of consumers say they think small plates are a better value, according to Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report. They’re also ideal for consumers who want to try something new but don’t want to be stuck with something they don’t like. Because small plates come at a lower price point and are offered in a smaller portion, there’s less risk. Indeed, 51% of consumers say they are more willing to try a new flavor or ingredient in a small plate than in an entrée.

Introducing new flavors and formats

Restaurants have a lot of opportunity to get creative with small plates. Offering new flavors and trending ingredients as well as new formats in small plates means less waste and less risk. Versatile ingredients, such as Tyson® Chicken Chips, offer a unique form that’s great for an array of small plates or snacks. Easy to dip, these protein-packed, breaded snacks are available in two familiar and well-loved potato chip flavors that are perfect for dressing up. For instance, pile Tyson® Smoky BBQ Chicken Chips with chili and cheese, then top with other nacho toppings like beans, green onions, tomatoes, avocado and guacamole for a unique take on barbecue chicken nachos. Or, give Buffalo wings a facelift with Tyson® Ranch Chicken Chips—load them up with blue cheese crumbles and Buffalo hot sauce, and serve with a side of celery and carrot sticks. It’s a boneless twist on a popular appetizer that translates perfectly into a shareable (or not!) small plate.

Versatile ingredients make offering small plates easy. By using a familiar flavor as the base and topping it with unique or tried-and-true garnishes, diners can have a taste of a favorite food or find a new classic.

This post is sponsored by Tyson Foods, Inc.

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