As menus undergo a compression, appetizers are expanding ‘real estate’ in restaurant menus. Starters, small plates, bar snacks, tapas – appetizers are seeing a resurgence as menus are adjusted to our existing climate, which is not all that surprising. Truly, appetizers have a lot going for them:
Freedom to experiment for both chef and customer
Customers feel like they’re not risking too much if they try offerings with flavors they haven’t had before. They can share, so they don’t have to eat the whole thing themselves. As for chefs, it becomes a creative outlet as it allows them the freedom to experiment with flavours, combinations and textures that are new to them.
Longer daypart—capturing mid-morning, afternoon through to late-night
Establishments can market it as a way to capture different occasions for people to eat. Capturing a ‘snacking occasion’ instead of trying to get the customer to order an extra dish, whether it’s an appetizer or dessert. Getting customers in who are looking for something to snack on mid-morning or in the afternoon, and capitalize on that smaller menu for day parts that are low traffic for them.
Shareability = Socialization
Almost everyone still enjoys the concept of sharing and communal eating, although it has hampered lately in this climate. As countries start to open up and this practice starts to become acceptable, the sharing and grazing aspect will again, be highly appealing to customer. Appetizers is the best section in the menu to encourage this type of behaviour.
Scaled down with a twist
Downsizing popular menu items into smaller portions. Developing ‘conversation appetizers’—familiar appetizers or even popular main course selections are given a bit of a spin or a familiar twist so as to catch the attention and interest of a customer.
Tapas and Global Flavors
Tapas concepts have become a key component of appetizer menus and chefs have broadened the meaning of tapas to include small plates and appetizers combining all types of cuisines. Although authentic tapas is rooted in Spanish cuisine, chefs have started combining the ‘tapas’ concept with global flavors in their menus. Elevating it by utilizing fresh, seasonal ingredients, top-notch imported products and cutting-edge techniques. Tapas enables the chef to experiment with a lot of products, resulting in an interesting mix of comfort and creativity.
Chef Jomi Gaston
Custom Culinary, Inc.