As we begin to enjoy warmer spring and summer weather, we are seeing a great opportunity that brings the fun back to dining.
In a world of cellphones, a dining experience that features sharing is nothing short of special. It’s all about a fun sharing experience for the dining patron and their friends. It starts with reworking your menu so that the word “SHARE” becomes a highlight. I know that it is ironic that many restaurants spent years penalizing diners who wanted to share.
The right spot on the menu is to create a pre-appetizer addition to the menu that comes with a description that promotes the new shared plates. We are seeing it being done right with operators like Dave DiBari. His new Eugene’s Diner & Bar restaurant in Port Chester is utilizing smaller plates to create larger profits.
For your guests, this a great way to be able to try your menu and order something different. Let’s say four people come in and order four appetizers and four main courses, where they are sharing eight different things. If you were to push small plates from the moment they sit down they may end up sharing 12 small plates. This which makes the average check go up. Managing the comparison of appetizer and entrees vs. small plates is a challenge that has an odd solution.
We have been working with our customers to replace their bread and butter plates with a sharing plate so it’s a little larger than a bread and butter plate. We suggest an oval because it takes up less room. Our goal is to replace a free piece of bread that is not being paid for with a shared appetizer that is creating revenue.
With small plates and bites you are going to have a variety of positives from a higher average check, energy and ingredient savings, and of course savings on tableware. The energy savings are simple, the plates you are preparing are smaller portion size, for your chef that means fewer ingredients, less time cooking, and therefore giving you some savings on ingredients and energy.
Smaller plates also enable the operator to create a rhythm and pace that leads to a faster turn of tables. It’s almost as if the staff is able to set the pace because with a smaller plate the customer expects that when a plate is put on the table that one is going to be taken away.
As we work to help our BHS customers understand to add this sharable strategy, we’ve had answered questions regarding pricing. Our suggestion has been to find a price point between the appetizer and the entree-sized portions of the same item.
Last year when we looked at this phenomenon, I talked about a shared program being based around a portion of “3”. Well “4” is the new “3” in 2019. People sit as a couple so you need four portions on your new sharable menu. When you see it done properly at places like Stanton Social and Beauty and Essex, it’s all about buzz and flow. You have plates coming and going with an attentive wait staff and nothing but smiles on customer’s faces because they get to “ooh and aah” over all of the different flavors and textures. As the restaurant owner, you get to sell more and create a pace that may even get you an extra table turn.
Now let’s get to tableware. Pretty simply you are serving on smaller plates, which will give you less expensive costs for your plating. Having smaller plates gives your restaurant the option of mixing and matching for your tables. Because it’s so informal, you can get a really fun mix of serving vessels that include wood and copper and hammered looks that are all unique. You are given a ton of leniency with the matching because the plating for small plates is usually smaller and sturdier than your average 12-inch plate. From a flatware standpoint, you can certainly use your “winter” inventory. We suggest supplementing it with some of the hot ball and copper looks we are seeing with disposables.
With so many of our BHS customers now focused on green and sustainable agendas, a sharable menu enables the operator a superb solution. Many of the menu items lend themselves to serving on disposables. FOH and Pack’n’wood make a line of really attractive and affordable solutions. We love many of the skewer options.
We are seeing a move towards melamine and polycarbonate cups around pools at Manhattan hotspots and with our country club clientele. In fact, we are starting to see a higher quality melamine being swapped out for slate and used as china. There’s no question that the smaller plates create a sense of healthier eating.
Seasonal beverage menus are driven by the creativity of the drink and of course how they are served. From craft beer flights to floral drinks and cocktails, our goal at BHS is to help our clients get it right. This is the summer of patterned glass. Not cut crystal, pressed glass. Lots of double old fashioned and hi-balls that are used for everything. This year’s texture trends are highlighted matte finished but not with ridges.
Spring/Summer is such a great time of year to implement a sharable program. It is a much less formal time of year and in many cases you have more space to work with due to your outdoor dining space. Remember, our BHS team is here to help.