Small Plates: A Trend or Newly Refined Dining?

What started out as a trend in big cities like Los Angeles and New York has begun to trickle down and is becoming more mainstream.  The idea of smaller portions is turning into a growing preference of many restaurant patrons, due mostly in part to the convergence of four trends.

  1. The success of tasting menus – Today’s society encourages indecisiveness.  Consumers want to sample multiple dishes and not be confined to one entree decision.  Tapas and other types of tasting menus are becoming increasingly popular.
  2. Broader knowledge of food – Food TV, food magazines, newspaper sections are dedicated to educating the average consumer about cuisine.  These consumers have become more interested in trying or sampling some of the ideas they have seen or heard about.
  3. Desire for variety – Sometimes having just one dish is boring, but sharing a few smaller dishes with friends makes your restaurant experience more fun!  Everyone can comment on their likes and dislikes, sparking easy conversation over dinner.
  4. “Less is more” – The age old saying applies to most situations and food is no exception.  Health concerns and the economy have both contributed for consumers wanting to lessen their portion sizes.  Although many times tasting menu’s end up being more filling, the idea of having a little of everything puts many consumers minds at ease.

Although some research on this topic has pointed toward the term “recession dining,” I don’t feel this is the case.  The fact is, the revolution of small plates is not an economic trend and is here to stay.  Small plates are on the menu at all types of restaurants, fine dining and corporate alike.  From TGI Friday’s “Right portion right price” menu to Seasons 52’s menu; two very different establishments with different target markets, but both adapting their business models toward smaller portions that encourage continuous ordering.

Whatever the reason for the change, smaller plates are changing the dynamic of casual and fine dining.  These plates are meant to be shared, so get together with a group of friends, order a few small plates, and try some different things.  Best of all, if you try something you do not like, move on to the next plate!

Here are a few great “small plate” recipes you can try, too!