Eighty-five percent of all restaurants, from quick serve to fine dining, offer appetizers on their menus according to the recently released MenuTrends Keynote Report from food industry research firm Datassential.
On average, restaurants that include appetizers have 15 such items highlighted on their menus.
“Operators have found that appetizers provide not only a check-boosting opportunity for business growth, but also allow chefs to be more trendy and experimental,” says Brian Darr, Datassential managing director. “Appetizers are also often the first items shown on the menu, which gives the restaurant the perfect vehicle to create a positive first impression.”
Diners view appetizers eaten in restaurants as an indulgence that allows them to try unique flavors and ingredients and enjoy items that they do not typically prepare at home. When considering an appetizer, consumers generally look for easily shareable finger food and rate garlic bread as their preferred appetizer, either as a standalone, straightforward starter or dressed up as bruschetta.
Wings, shrimp cocktail, and French fries rank just behind garlic bread. As for fries, 57 percent of restaurants have them on the menu, most often listed as a side dish, but the study found that over one-third of consumers said they love fries as an appetizer.
Although cold appetizers, such as crudo or ceviche, have grown in recent years, nearly three-quarters of consumers surveyed said their last appetizer was served hot.
Of those appetizers eaten at home, more than half were frozen or refrigerated/pre-packaged items while the remainder were prepared or assembled from scratch.
The number of appetizers on restaurant menus has grown in recent years, a trend highlighted by the increasing appearance of ingredients such as quinoa (up 112 percent in the past year) and kale (up 106 percent). The increase in appetizer items is in contrast to overall menus, which are decreasing in size.