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Mix-and-match dining creates a main meal of small plates

From dim sum to tapas and beyond, small plates can make for an attractive meal. When consumers combine a few of them, they have a full main meal. Thirty-eight percent of consumers, according to a 2013 Technomic survey, say they order appetizers on all or most of their restaurant meals, a 41 percent increase over 2009. These numbers suggest you may want to look at catering in a whole new way.

Tapas, for example, hit restaurants in 1997 and is now a staple of many catering companies. Why? Because clients appreciate the variety in menu selection. In fact, they demand it. Smaller plates are also more shareable and could increase the level of social interaction at an event. Plus, they could distinguish the event with a more memorable menu.

Small plates offer big choices

When looking for small plate options, consider the following:

  • High-quality, healthful snacks—Dieters are often advised to eat before they attend a party to take the edge off their hunger. When you offer healthy food in smaller quantities, you can unburden—and satisfy—more guests. Some good choices from our tapas menu could include sliced serrano ham with seasonal fruit and a garden salad or grilled ahi tuna.
  • Customizable choices—Smaller plates can fill a variety of needs. Select from cold and hot menus, an array of proteins and accompaniments. Chances are you’ll have an assortment of palates and eating philosophies (ranging from vegan to carnivore) at your tables. Ensure your smaller-plate selections meet their needs, including a cheese, fruit, and nut choice for dessert, in addition to or instead of a more traditional sweet treat like crème brûlée.
  • Balancing act—A small plate can creatively combine protein, starch, and vegetable for a complete bite. It can be more visually appealing than beef on a stick. Also think about how each plate harmonizes with those before or after.
  • Think mini—Petite servings offer alternatives to traditional service. Epicurean delights presented on a spoon, a stick, or in a delicate glass can add a new spin.
  • Chef stations—Small plates with big flavors can be produced at chef stations and not just in the kitchen. Interacting with chefs as they prepare their dainty dishes creates engagement for both guest and chef.

Whether the event is a wedding or corporate hospitality, even the most discerning palate there can appreciate—and be satisfied—by a small, tasteful plate.

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