Enjoyable small plate Mix & Match menus

Small Plates Equal Big Changes for Restaurants as Mix-and-Match Menus Boom in Popularity

A report published by Technomic, the 2017 Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report, 37% of consumers find small plates a better value. The idea of mixing and matching from a menu is appealing on so many levels and provides a great deal of benefits. Whether they share them or eat them by themselves (as 59% of consumers admitted in the same report), it’s very clear that mix-and-match menu styles are the trend to incorporate.

The National Restaurant Association also revealed that restaurant concepts for small-plate menus are in the top 5. As a restaurant owner, creating a mix-and-match menu for small plates may be the key to retaining your popularity.

Want more reasons to start dishing up small plate options?

Mix-and-match small plate menus take away the risk

Spain Tapas

Whether it’s their first time dining with you or they’re regulars, using this small plate concept to mix and match eliminates the risks of trying something new. Regular customers may order the same dish every time because they love it while in the back of their mind, they want to taste something else. Likewise, new diners aren’t sure what to try first.

By allowing them to mix and match these small plates, they get the best of everything. They can try a variety of different things in a much more affordable way, discovering new favorites that they may opt to order as a full plate on a later visit.

It allows more interaction

men and women standing infront of dining table
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

When dining out with friends and loved ones, the mix and match concept allows easier shareability of meals. Everyone can pick a few small plates and try them out. If they’re still hungry, they can order more without overwhelming their stomachs or their wallets. These little taste from small plates go over big for creating a wonderful dining experience.

Small plates make it easier to watch calories

blue tape measuring on clear glass square weighing scale
500Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For guests that are looking for healthy options but don’t want to be saddled with a salad, mix-and-match small plates allow them the chance to taste the things they want in proper portion sizes. There’s less guilt to enjoy something more fulfilling, plus it allows them to build a meal that fits within their caloric and dietary needs.

As the trend for mix-and-match menus continues to grow, restaurants should think about having small plates as specials or appetizer bundles, samplers, or even as scaled-down versions of their most popular main dishes. With beautiful plating of these small items also comes the urge to snap photos and share socially, an added benefit to drawing in more of your local community to get a taste of what you’re dishing up, big and small!

Example of small dishes

Spain tapas

Tapas store in Spain

Tapa is an appetizer or snack in Spanish cuisine. The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover”, a cognate of the English top.

Tapas may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as chopitos, which are batteredfried baby squid).

In some bars and restaurants in Spain and across the globe, tapas have evolved into a more sophisticated cuisine. Tapas can be combined to make a full meal. In some Central American countries, such snacks are known as bocas. In parts of Mexico, similar dishes are called botanas.

In pre-19th-century Spain tapas were served by posadas, albergues or bodegas, offering meals and rooms for travellers. Since few innkeepers could write and few travellers read, inns offered their guests a sample of the dishes available, on a “tapa” .

Tapas usually includes dishes like  Allioli, Boquerones, Croquetas, Empanadillas and Patatas bravas .

Korean Banchan.

Korean traditional Bansang with Banchan

Banchan is a collective name for small side dishes served along with cooked rice in Korean cuisine. As the Korean language does not distinguish between singular and plural grammatically, the word is used for both one such dish or all of them combined.

Banchan is thought to be a result of Buddhist influence at around the mid-Three Kingdoms period and the subsequent proscription against eating meat by the monarchies of these kingdoms. Thus, with the ban on meat-containing dishes, vegetable-based dishes rose in prominence and became the focal point of Korean cuisine; court kitchens developed various methods for cooking, preparing and presenting these dishes, while less-affluent commoners produced smaller, simpler arrays of these vegetable-based dishes

The basic table setting for a meal called bansang (반상) usually consists of bap (cooked rice), guk or tang (soup), gochujang or ganjangjjigae, and kimchi. According to the number of banchan added, the table setting is called 3 cheop , 5 cheop , 7 cheop , 9 cheop12 cheop bansang, with the 12 cheop used in Korean royal cuisine.


Perhaps Spain and Korea had it right all along. Tapas-style dining has become more prevalent in the restaurant industry and experts feel strongly this is one trend restaurants should pounce on. It’s happening in every type of cuisine where a variety of small plates are selected to create a mix-and match menu that satisfies every customer’s desire.

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