Small Plates Will Start Your Spring Menu Off Right

Tapas Small Plates

When you finally start to see flowers blooming, green on the trees and you can walk outside without a winter jacket there is a certain energy that comes about. For some this means sitting outside, reading, working out, but for those of us in the industry it means it’s time for the spring rush! Aside from the end of soup the spring season signifies a lot in the culinary world, food festivals are getting ready, restaurants are unveiling their spring menus, beer tastings, floral drinks and small drinks will be all you see on the table.

Liz Weiss
Liz Weiss

I’m not sure if it’s the warm weather or people coming out of hibernation but during spring there is a huge rise in sharing plates. For a restaurant owner, this is a blessing; you can sell a table of six, eight small plates that they all share. Even though they are less expensive, people buy more of them. The question becomes how do you manage that profitability within a restaurant.

For your guests this a great way for your guests 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 makes the average check go up. Managing the comparison of appetizer and entrees vs. small plates is a challenge that has an odd solution.

It seems that having on odd number on that plate is the way to do it. Look at the number three, there is a theory that three is a cluster. When you walk down the street you are going to notice that everything is in increments of three from flowers to a grouping of books. When you are talking about food, three is a weird number for a table of people. If you are out to dinner with four people and you order a small plate that comes with only three pieces of food you are not going to cut it up and share, you are going to order another serving. This will stay constant all throughout the meal if your guests are eating small plates for their meal.

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. Now let’s get to tableware. Pretty simply you are serving on smaller plates, which will give you less expensive costs for your plating.

IRFSNY Oct 2017 728×90

Having smaller plates gives your restaurant the option of mixing and matching for your tables. You can incorporate wood, stone, tile, slate or a really intricate bowl. 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. Within the small plates’ world the coolest catalog that I have seen recently is the Rosenthal, they have dishes that look like they are made of concrete and slate that are just beautiful. You can play with all sorts of shapes, colors, and textures as long as you match them to the food.

You should always look at the individual item that you are serving. This is what makes small plates such an interesting segment of the restaurant industry. You have freedom to allow the chefs to create whatever they want, the option for your guests to try more than normal, and do it in a unique stylish way.

Liz Weiss is the President and co-owner of Armonk, NY based H. Weiss Co. She is known nationally as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on tabletop design. The Michigan State graduate is also actively involved with WPO-Women’s Presidents Organization. Comments may be sent to eweiss@hweiss.net