"Three square meals" a day are becoming a thing of the past. Small meals are big business. Whether they are called appetizers, snacks or small plates, little portions are a large part of the American diet. More than half of consumers say they snack twice a day—between meals, as part of meals and in place of meals.1 So what constitutes a good snack?
84 percent of consumers report that taste outperforms all other considerations when deciding whether to purchase a snack. If it doesn't taste good, nothing else matters.2 That includes portability, which is the second most important thing consumers want from their snacks, hence the increase in grab-and-go items in the quick-service and convenience segments.
Most consumers are dissatisfied with the availability of menu offerings that can be ordered as snacks. As a result, many consumers eat a wide array of items as snacks.2 Women prefer to eat traditional appetizers for snacks, while men tend to order entrees when they want to have a snack. It seems they are looking to small salads or a serving of chips and salsa to meet the need of mid-day snack between meals.1 Snacks can be positioned as smaller size, smaller price, better-for-you, value, handheld, indulgent or shareable. "Social Snacking" is known to be a common theme during “happy hour” but some trend-setting restaurants are tapping into these new patterns by promoting small plates during hours that are historically slower, for example, the hours between lunch and dinner. Mid-day menus are becoming an increasingly popular way to satisfy a customer’s afternoon craving.
The surge in snacks offers foodservice operators the opportunity to diversify their menus. For example, get in on the emerging trend of reimagined chicken nuggets. Using different crusts and breading, herbs and spices, sauces and even meats, restaurants are dishing out gourmet nuggets, even lobster and pork belly nuggets. Another great way to diversify the menu is to offer a sampler platter. This gives the customer an opportunity to try and share a little of this and a little of that. By getting a variety of items, a customer doesn’t feel forced to commit to one thing or end up with "order-envy".
Whether you call it the "Midday Munchies" or offer "Four O’clock Fare," boosting afternoon traffic can extend your menu way beyond your grandmother’s early bird special.
It's 4 o'clock somewhere ... who's hungry?
Fork in Philadelphia has offered chicken nuggets cooked sous vide with spicy mustard and agrodolce on their changing “to start” menu.
1 The NPD Group’s SnackTrack® service, Years ending March, except latest period and Technomic Inc, The Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report 2014
2 Technomic Inc, The Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report 2014