Culinary no-no #721


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Some of the appetizers at the amazing Packing House restaurant in Milwaukee. Our family dined there Christmas Day evening and the entire list of appetizers was on the menu.

One of the biggest new trends in the restaurant business hit several years ago. Look, there have always been appetizers.  But as the main dish? Or dishes?

Absolutely. Diners have their reasons.

They want to experiment and try something new.

They want to control their portion sizes.

They’d like to share a dish with a friend or friends.

Technomic’s 2015 Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report found that 53 percent of consumers order sides, 39 percent order appetizers and 30 percent order small plates on all or most of their restaurant visits.

“Overall, I’m seeing more filling, protein-heavy starters, snacks and small plates, but more vegetable-focused side options,” said Jill Failla, editor of consumer insights for Technomic Inc., based in Chicago. “As sides grow larger and more family-style, they will likely begin to feature more proteins, such as with the trendy lobster and mac and cheese.”

The top dishes cited by chefs back then were fresh/house-made sausage (67 percent); house-made charcuterie (59 percent); vegetarian appetizers (59 percent); ethnic/street-food inspired appetizers such as tempura, taquitos and kabobs (53 percent); and seafood charcuterie (52 percent).

Not surprisingly, acccording to Technomic’s report, chicken wings were both the leading and fastest-growing appetizer at Top 500 Limited Service Restaurants (LSRs) since they are versatile, coming in a wide variety of sauces and coatings. Sliders were being repositioned as small plates.

Charcuterie? Oh yeh.

“Thinly sliced Italian meats often served with a variety of cheeses, crusty bread and a fruit plate — they are perfect for sharing and work well with new Italian menus, as well as the vast number of gastro pubs and mixed ethnicity restaurants,” said Ana Mann, senior director of syndicated services at Datassential, based in Chicago.

Consumers were also concerned about how much they spend when eating out. Value was critical, meaning great taste and quality for the price.

When they want appetizers, consumers opt for easily shareable finger foods:

  • French fries
  • chips and salsa
  • wings
  • onion rings
  • fried cheese sticks
  • chicken strips

OK. That was six or seven years ago. My guess is the appetizer trends have continued. Why mess with success.


A recent headline in the Wall Street Journal read:

Going Out to Eat in the Age of the Shrinking Menu

This year, 60% of dining places reported cutting down their menu dimension, according to the previously-mentioned Datassential, a foodstuff-sector sector-investigation agency. They
analyzed more than 4,800 menus in the U.S. and discovered they’re getting smaller and samller.

Menus at fine-dining establishments shrunk the most with products declining 23% over 2021.

These days running a restaurant is brutal. Owners know full well that costly proteins such as tuna, steak and salmon are also harder to uncover at some upscale places. For menu items and that includes main entrees as well as appetizers the owners’ priority is quality, not quantity. They must also consider the impact of ingredients and prep time.One analyst told the Wall Street Journal the actual number of menu objects can tick up or down by around 10% depending on what time of year it is, but also suggest most restaurants haven’t calculated or adjusted to the huge swings connected with COVID.

For a lot of diners a quicker in-person experience with appetizers beats less than appetizing carryout. Diners say even a quick dine-in menu feels more enjoyable after dealing with one way too a lot of evenings of mediocre carryout.

That could be the new restaurant trends. Don’t like the prospect of incredibly shrinking menus? There’s always the Cheesecake Factory.


Major Restaurant Chains Limit Delivery Hours As They Re-focus on Dine-in Customers

Does WI make the no-no list on this? I say yes.

ICYMI, Culinary no-no #720: Mucking up eggnog

3 thoughts on “Culinary no-no #721

  1. Been catching up on your blog Kevin and want to wish you, Jennifer, and Kyla a Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
    Think of us if you should feast upon cannibal sandwiches this New Year’s, and we will drink a toast of, well, something? probably not champagne, maybe tea.
    Many well wishes for blessings your way. 🙂


  2. Pingback: Culinary no-no #722 | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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