Sitting at a communal table, ordering nothing but appetizers for dinner. Selecting one decadent dessert, then asking for four forks to go with it. Diners are increasingly wanting a bit of this and a bite of that, and they’re willing to share with one another to feed their seemingly endless appetite for small-bite variety.
Sharing happens when food is served from platters and bowls that diners pass and serve themselves (family-style fried chicken dinner special). It’s natural when many small plates are ordered to make up a meal (dim sum or tapas). And it also occurs when a group orders a single item that is easily distributed into individual portions.
“Diners love sharing because dishes ordered and eaten that way tend to have a higher perceived value, which addresses their lingering concerns over economic pressures and rising food costs,” says Melanie Young, a consultant in the food, wine and hospitality industry, and the founder and cohost of The Connected Table LIVE! radio show on IHeartRadio.com. “People are also paying attention to the oversized portions often served in restaurants, so allowing them to order smaller plates, or to serve themselves only as much as they want from a communal item, helps them feel more in control of their dining experience, while still getting the variety they crave.”
For operators who have shied away from sharing-centric menus or seating, Young has some advice: “Many people don’t understand this sort of structure can be profitable. Get out of that first, second, third course mindset and be more creative. If you try more items that encourage sharing, you’ll be able to offer more variety and interest, which is what consumers are looking for.”