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Bigger Is Not Always Better

Hotel F&B Operators Need To Look At Smaller Plates, More Creative Menu Options

Monday, November 25, 2019
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When it comes to what’s trending in food & beverage within hotels it seems bigger is not always better, at least in the eyes of today’s guests who are looking for more variety, smaller portions and increased options.

That was just one of the conclusions drawn by Bethany Runyan Meadows, senior manager, channel marketing, Tyson Foodservice, during a recent Hotel Experience panel discussion entitled “Small Plates To Big Flavor: Menu Innovation That Guests Crave.”

Runyan Meadows also emphasized the growth of ethnic flavors in traditional American dishes as well as the continued emergence of plant-based menu options.

She offered some advice to hotel F&B operators as it relates to small plates, including sharables and appetizers. “That left side of the menu, as they talk about it in the restaurant world, is a place to really look at going a little bit further out there with ingredients and with flavors. That’s really what consumers are looking for versus maybe updating your entrée offerings,” said Runyan Meadows.

She further explained some of the reasons for the increased popularity of small plates and urged hoteliers to be creative. “It’s an area where we’re seeing a lot of growth with consumers so look at that area for inspiration when you go to restaurants. The reasons for this is people are looking for snacks. They want variety and that enables them to custom create their meal and they’re looking for portion control,” added Runyan Meadows.

She reinforced the importance of small plates when referencing a recent study of operators and how they have responded to the aforementioned trend.
“We see small plates with loads of layered flavors and colors. It gives the option for guests to share and try more different items. Some try to offer smaller plates for customers who look to spread their meals throughout the day rather than three main meals,” noted Runyan Meadows.

She also touted an additional benefit of creating a menu with compelling small plate options. “If you’re looking for a happy hour dish to be able to get additional traffic during those off-peak times this is a great way to do that,” she noted.

Runyan Meadows shared another trend from operators in terms of their offerings. “Guests are more adventurous with flavor fusion and textures. So different, unique, bold flavors is what they’re putting on their menu,” she stated.

Runyan Meadows noted, for example, that ethnic flavors paired with wings is a prime example of being more adventurous. She also specifically mentioned middle eastern dips and sauces and reinventing street foods in a different form as noteworthy trends.

Runyan Meadows elaborated on the increased ethnic influence and what’s important to consumers. “Ethnic flavors are very desirable in sharable plates and tapas. What they’re really looking for is American dishes with ethnic twists. We hear a lot about when you’re doing something ethnic-based to be authentic; authenticity is important. But really what consumers say is ‘if you are advertising as authentic be authentic.’ Do what you’re saying you’re going to have on the menu,” said Runyan Meadows.

Additionally, she pointed out that consumers are excited to try new and ethnic flavors and forms in small plates because it is a safe way to have the experience.

Meanwhile, Runyan Meadows offered a nod to the healthier eating movement among many of today’s health conscious consumers. “Make sure that you’re incorporating a plant-based option. That’s going to continue to be an important add-on to the meat-based options you might have,” she concluded.

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