“There is something profoundly satisfying about sharing a meal. Eating together, breaking bread together, is one of the oldest and most fundamentally unifying of human experiences.”– Barbara Coloroso
Most of us have been raised on the traditional “courses” model of dining in restaurants. There are appetizers, entrees and desserts.
Appetizers are fine, but it’s normally too much food for 2 people, and not enough for 4. You can spoil your meal, which are you about to spend $38 on, or maybe get a bite, which is unsatisfying and anticlimactic.
Then you have your oversized and expensive entree. This is tricky because you only have one chance to order “correctly”. You have a giant menu of stuff you want to try, but you can only choose 1. This has an inhenerent anxiety and often leads you to attempt to “Frankenstein” a more desirable meal through subsitutions. There are few sadder feelings than when dining with a group of friends, and seeing that the meal of the person next to you looks better than yours. You chose poorly. Now you sadly eat your meal under a cloud of regret.
Then there is dessert. Why bother? It’s the same 4-6 things on every menu and you’re always full by the time you get there.
Luckily, there has been a shift for those who always found themselves wanting to try more things. Who only wants to eat 1 or 2 things off a menu?! If you’re going out, why not have a fuller experience and the opportunity to try more of the great items on the menu?
Decision fatigue, lack of value perception, and limited variety are all realities of the traditional dining experience where guests simply order their entree. Fortunately for diners, many restaurants have evolved and shifted away from this more traditional model. Over the last decade more and more small plate concepts have emerged as guest preferences have changed (small plate concepts have increased by 281% in the last 5 years). A Tampamaid.com article states that 74% of millennials alone are likely to order small plates and appetizers when dining out.
Small plates restaurants can be creative and innovative as they encourage guests to explore and try things they have never tried before.
These small plate concepts reduce decision fatigue allowing guests to create their own tasting menu, exploring new dishes and trying things for the first time. The value allows people to order 2-3 small plates instead of 1 large meal. Guests feel better about paying for three $10 plates, even if one of them was not “great”, than the potential disappointment about not hitting on a $30 dish. While 44% of Millennials spend their food dollars on eating out, the pain of paying is not there because they feel like they are getting a lot more for better value. All of this while having the opportunity are to explore more, and potentially new, flavors. They are willing to pay for the experience!
THIS SHIFT IS ALSO BENEFICIAL FOR RESTAURATEURS.
Guests that before would not order food because of the price or time commitment may now be more willing to try a new plate that they believe will come out faster. Guests that are eating stay in an establishment 52 minutes longer than those who are not!
If you ask anyone that has worked in a restaurant, they will tell you that the most stressful time of a dining experience is waiting for food to arrive at the table. It’s a helpless feeling for service team members to look at a table waiting for food with seemingly no way to expedite the process.
In the kitchen, the pressure to make everything perfect is compounded by having to time it with the tickets from other stations. Everything for each ticket has to come up together. It’s a beautiful symphony when everything is in sync. However, one small mistake can (and will) have a domino effect that can negatively impact the entire service. Nobody wants to serve or eat food that’s been sitting under a heating lamp. The stress of working expo and coordinating this cannot be understated.
Small plates style menus allow plates to be delivered when ready and enjoyed at their best form. This is a huge relief to the stress of operations and frees up an important leader from expo. Mistakes are easier to overcome and nobody has to watch food “die” in the window waiting for a ticket to be completed. Servers and cooks rejoice!
Guests and service team members don’t have to waste energy worrying about when the food is coming. Everyone in the process can focus more energy on connecting and enjoy themselves.
The most memorable part of your meal should not be the price, wait, or regret. Dining is about sharing an experience with people you care about, much like sitting around the table at your home home where you break bread with friends and family. Talking food and how it connects with us a uniquely human experience- there is an energy to sharing of ideas and memories. The best meals are those which create moments that earn memories. The taste of a delicious BBQ Pork Belly Bao will eventually fade, but the smiles and unique experiences shared will have us craving the opportunity to return for more.
November 30, 2021