Though it may seem novel, small plates are nothing new. From antipasto to tapas, small, shareable dishes are a fun way to eat around the world. And introducing small plates to your menu can improve the customer experience and drive up ticket averages—a win-win!

Increasingly, customers are looking for customizable experiences that they can share with friends, and small plates are a great way to provide just that. Additionally, by adding another course to the dining experience, your FOH staff has an opportunity to upsell additional dishes as well as wine and cocktails. Here are some ideas for incorporating small plates into your menu.

Shareable in Any Language

Let’s look at some of the different types of small plates. One of the most common types is antipasti, the selection of cured meats and cheeses served before a pasta course on a traditional Italian menu. Classic antipasti includes marinated olives, pepperoncini, arancini (fried, cheese-stuffed risotto balls). If antipasto seems like a fit for your menu, consider offering cocktail selections to accompany the course. Aperol Spritz and Sparkling Negroni are both great options.

Similar to antipasto are tapas, Spanish small plates that include marinated anchovies, fried eggplant, pan con tomate, and tortilla española (a potato omelette usually served at room temperature). Sangria is a great accompaniment to assorted tapas, so consider adding one to your drink specials if you add tapas to your menu.

Then there’s banchan, the vegetable side dishes that accompany rice in Korean cooking. While these aren’t technically appetizer-style small plates like antipasto or tapas, they are similar in nature and could easily be adapted to create a small plate menu comprised of various kinds of kimchi, stir fried eggplant, and pickled cucumbers. In Middle Eastern countries, small plates are called mezze, and they include dips like hummus, muhammarra (a red pepper and walnut spread), baba ganoush, and tzatziki, as well as dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), and tabouli.

Get Creative

Using international examples as a jumping off point, work with your chefs to create small plates that reflect your own style of cuisine. This is a great opportunity for your chefs to flex their creativity, so start by brainstorming some ingredients and applications, and then test recipes to find a few that really sing. Try them out as verbal specials first before adding them to printed menus, and listen to customer feedback to see which ones work and which ones don’t.

Spread the Word

Once you’ve dialed in a solid small plate menu, let your followers know all about it on social media and in your email newsletter. Send a quick note to local press to let them know about the new menu items and invite them (and maybe some local influencers as well) to come in and try them. This kind of menu is perfect for Happy Hour because the dishes are easy to execute while your BOH staff are getting ready for peak service hours, so consider creating promotions around your shareable menu at those times of day.

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