Small plates a big draw for millennials

Going out to eat for younger consumer groups is all about experience, adventure, and togetherness. That’s what panelists at the 2018 Global Seafood Market Conference, hosted by the National Fisheries Institute, discovered when parsing out the preferences fueling the latest small-plate craze dominating foodservice.

Sharing is caring, particularly for millennials, who yearn for social dining experiences that go beyond just eating alongside friends, the panel said. Much about these consumers defies the trends of the past – they tend to eat four smaller meals a day at non-traditional times, with 55 percent preferring communal tables at restaurants, according to data from Splendid Communications. Millennials even love to grocery shop in groups, and view food as vehicles for entertainment and self-expression, the brand research firm found. 

Orca Bay Foods’ Marketing and Communications Manager Lilani Estacio confirmed that for millennials, eating has indeed become a means for connection and adventure. 

“[Millennials] are really all about the experience, and that’s why the shared plate is booming in the restaurant industry. It’s a social experience for them, and they are active social media users as well,” Estacio said.

Shared and small plates cater to these millennials desires to try new things together, the panel said, and present a great opportunity for seafood. Such offerings also appease the consumer group’s hunger for healthy meals that pack an appealing aesthetic. Some of the factors that make small plates most attractive, according to the panel, include:

  • Smaller-sized plates reduce the amount of food diners leave uneaten, on average 17 percent of their meals
  • Consumers find a 70-percent plate fill rate to be “visually pleasing”
  • Consumers report the same level of satisfaction for a small-plated portion than a large as long as the plate appears full  

The fact that small plates present less risk financially has also proven to be a draw for millennial consumers and others, Estacio added.

“Shared plates and small plates are a fun experience for [millennials] – it’s low risk, they’re trying different things without fully investing what you would be paying for a main entrée,” she said.  

Seafood dishes that are seeing traction within the small plate arena include tuna poke, as well as appetizer dishes that take parts of fish and transform them into recognizable pub fare, such as tuna wings or catfish nuggets.


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