May 1, 2013
May 9, 2013

Little servings give diners an opportunity to control health, value, and variety.

Small portions are very big these days.
Many 2013 trend predictions determined that small plates and snacking are expected to be popular among chefs and restaurant operators this year. While diners are still eating during the traditional meal times—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—they are eating less at those times, opting instead to have five or more smaller meals a day.

More American consumers are eating during the three normal meal times than five years earlier, but these dining occasions are increasingly composed of more mini meals. The “Snacking in America 2012” report found that the average diner consumes fewer food and beverage items at traditional meals than in the past, while more than half of Americans are snacking two or three times a day.

A quick serve with a diverse menu gives customers a better opportunity to plan their meals.  If you build a menu that has different flavors and portions, it gives the consumer the ability to not only shape a particular meal, but also to shape how they will be eating during their entire day.

A Research Group determined that Americans’ eating habits have significantly shifted, perhaps explaining why smaller meals have become more popular. Only 28 percent of family meal occasions involve children, according to this 2011 study, “How We Eat,” while 76 percent of adult eating does not happen during family eating occasions. Meanwhile, 44 percent of adult eating happens when no one else, including family and friends, is present. The study adds that quick-service restaurants are best positioned to take advantage of this trend.

Dining alone in today’s world doesn’t necessarily mean eating in isolation. Even when people are eating out, at home, or on the go, they are texting or otherwise connected with others, whether it’s family, friends, or coworkers.

Small plates have become an easy access point for Americans as they turn to snacking and dining during non-meal times of the day.

A snack can be a slider, a small bite—something to bridge one eating occasion to the next. Consumers say they would like to eat the three meals a day, but they aren’t. They are eating five times a day. Small plates fit right into this.

Quick serves have offered small portions since fast food got its start in the early 1920s, when the first White Castle restaurant opened, offering small burgers for 5 cents each. The weight of the beef patty in this small burger, now known as a slider, has been virtually unchanged.

Small burgers, cheeseburgers, and other sandwiches easily allow customers to choose how much they want to eat. Diners on average order four sliders at once.

Customers also share that they love the smaller size because it’s easier to manage for on-the-go lifestyles and allows for variety.

Other entrée items from limited-service restaurants have been resized and repriced to accommodate customers’ changing lifestyles.

Over the years, fast-food value menus has featured various small entrée items, including the Junior Cheeseburger, Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, & Crispy Chicken Sandwich with pricing starting at 99 cents.

You can get one or two items for a small meal, or a side with a premium sandwich.  Most people shop around the entire menu.

The lines between the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner dayparts have been blurred. Diners are also more demanding because they have more food options. The consumer is in the driver’s seat and can demand quality and taste at 99 cents. A company might have gotten away 10 years ago with just filling food. Customers now demand it must taste good, too.

While value menus are a traditional limited-service method for offering smaller entrées, many bakery-cafés,  have mirrored a deli favorite: half or small portions of soup, salad, and sandwiches in a combination meal.

Saval Foodservice, the #1 Independent Broadline Wholesale Food Service Distributor in Baltimore, Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC. Serving restaurants, carry outs, delis, caterers, country clubs, and grocery stores.

Source:, 4.29.2013

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