Gone are the days of the typical restaurant guest ordering an appetizer to start the meal, then a full-sized entrée, and then a dessert. Small, sharable plates, also dubbed tapas, snacks, and bar bites, are becoming the norm, with Millennials leading the dietary revolution. As the group of 19- to 35-year-olds has aged, restaurants are taking Millennials’ dining desires—and their discretionary income—more seriously.
“Millennials want to drink some wine and share some [small plates], while they sit and converse,” says Chef David Burke, founder of David Burke Group. “They do not want to sit down for the traditional one- to two-hour dinner.” But the snacking and small plate trend is attractive because it is casual and offers a variety of foods, he adds.
Operators say small bites encourage consumers to spend money they otherwise might not. A group of friends or colleagues might meet for a drink and end up sharing dishes with each other, for example, without feeling they have spent too much money on a pricy, heavy meal.
“The days of one-pound steaks and giant entrées is a little more suited to those over 40 years old,” says Michael Kornick, chef and co-owner of DMK in Chicago. Small plates are such a hot trend that two of DMK Restaurant Group’s restaurants are dedicated almost entirely to tapas offerings. “The menus are designed to have people try a bunch of small things,” Kornick says.
At the group’s mk in Chicago, bar bites include Asparagus and Poblano Soup with Goat Cheese, Fried Chorizo-Stuffed Gordal Olives, Bison Tartare, Wagyu Beef Sliders, and Maine Lobster Skewers.
Small plates force creativity and innovation, Chef Burke says. Many casual and full-service restaurants have become adept at developing small plates that are not only different than any other dish on the menu, but are also unmatched among their competitors. And the presentation of these plates is typically much more creative than appetizer and entrée plates.