Building Guest Confidence One Small Plate at a Time

Published: September 14, 2020

Guest satisfaction and hospitality has always been top-of-mind for hoteliers. That sentiment hasn’t wavered as shelter-in-place orders begin to lift across the country and consumers begin to explore traveling again. However, the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a variety of changes in guest behavior and expectations hoteliers are now having to adapt to.

Before the pandemic, 70 percent of business travelers and 68 percent of leisure travelers said foodservice offerings play an important role when choosing where to stay(1). Moving forward, guests will have a heightened sense of general sanitation and food handling practices they will be taking into consideration at the time of booking. Guests can expect hoteliers to take it back to the basics when it comes to their menu in response to new social distancing requirements and enhanced food safety regulations.

Operationally, hoteliers are focused on simplifying their menus to account for slimmer staff support and inventory considerations.

In its COVID-19 impact study, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) states: “A limited menu that focuses on popular sellers allows customers to quickly make a decision and place their order…Reducing menus has also led to a reduction in the number of SKUs in the kitchen, which has made it easier on operators to manage inventory and place orders for ingredients.”(2)

Plate Small, Think Big

Menu simplification doesn’t have to mean boring, though. Adding exciting small plate, or tapas-style, options can help set hoteliers apart from their competitors, while supporting efforts to streamline their menus.

A mix of comfort food and on-trend flavors in smaller portion sizes can help hoteliers capitalize on dishes that maximize targeted products, while offering the flexibility to swap out less popular, inefficient dishes more quickly. Additionally, a variety of small plate options can support back-of-house teams by making it easier for them to replicate dishes at a faster speed without sacrificing quality.

Check out these five small plate menu ideas and beverage pairings to help build menu excitement and enhance guest confidence one small plate at a time.

Smoky Chicken Nacho Fusion

If you’re looking for a unique take on nachos, the Smoky Chicken Nacho Fusion. Paired with a refreshing pilsner, these crispy fried wonton chips layered with tender smoky chicken and topped with shredded pickled purple cabbage, fresh diced tomatoes and roasted shishito peppers, black sesame seeds and finished with a bold drizzle of Gochujang infused sour cream will keep your guests coming back for more!

Chef’s Note: Nachos are a great appetizer with a lot of versatility and room for creativity – the entire flavor and inspiration can be changed with just a few ingredients. For this concept, I love to use on-trend ingredients like pickled purple cabbage and the roasted pulled chicken for a bold flavor.

Featured Product:
Tyson ® Fully Cooked, NAE All Natural* Boneless, Skinless, Pulled Chicken, Natural Proportion

Beef and Blue Cheese Dumplings

Make a statement with Beef and Blue Cheese Dumplings. Paired perfectly with a nice porter, these dumplings consist of marinated sliced beef steak with a mixture of roasted garlic, shiitake mushrooms and gorgonzola. Wrapped tightly in wonton dough and fried to a golden brown. Served with a scallion sesame oil.

Chef’s Note: I cook the beef before making the dumpling mixture so that there isn’t too much moisture that would bop or break the dumpling.

Featured Product:
The Original Steak-EZE® Thick Cut BreakAway® Sirloin Beef Steak, Lightly Marinated, 4 oz.

British Style Chicken Flatbread

British dishes often hit a sweet spot, offering recognizable ingredients and flavors but in a new dish or combination. Satisfy customers with a crispy flatbread with a light smear of bechamel sauce. Topped with tender roasted chicken, bacon pieces, roasted yellow pepper, scalloped rosemary roasted potatoes and gorgonzola that pairs perfectly with a brown ale.

Chef’s Note: When I make this, I try not to overuse the Béchamel sauce to prevent a soggy center in the flatbread. I also like to make sure the potatoes are a golden brown prior to baking and will add roasted garlic to the béchamel for an additional depth of flavor.

Featured Product:
Tyson ® Fully Cooked, NAE All Natural* Boneless, Skinless, Pulled Chicken, Natural Proportion

Bavarian Combo

Perfectly paired with a Lager, the Bavarian Combo features a duo of black oak and chicken apple sausage served over purple cabbage kraut. Garlic-smashed roasted potatoes and roasted honey-cinnamon apple wedges compliment the bold sausage flavors.

Chef’s Note: I like to get creative with sausages to fit flavor profiles and seasonality and will offer flights with drinking pairs for each.

Featured Product:
Hillshire Farm® Fully Cooked, Endless Rope, Polska Kielbasa, No MSG, Gluten Free­­­­

Aidells® Fully Cooked All-Natural Chicken and Apple Smoked Sausage

Pork Belly Bahn Mi Slider Duo

Pork belly can take on a variety of flavors – from salty, sweet or smoky – making it a blank canvas for other bold flavors. It’s no surprise pork belly has grown 40 percent on menus over the past four years3!

The Pork Belly Bahn Mi Slider Duo features braised pork belly topped with an Asian-style pickled pepper salad, sriracha may and served side-by-side on pretzel slider buns. Suggest a cold Pilsner to give guests the ultimate slider experience!

Chef’s Note: I love that this concept can work for small plates, sharables or full-sized sandwiches, making it the perfect way to test new full-sized sandwich concepts or simply provide variety to your customers.

Featured Product:
Hillshire Farm® Fully Cooked Sous Vide Large Cut Pork Belly

For additional small plate insights, ideas and more, download the Tyson Foodservice Think Big, Plate Small Guide.

1 Technomic Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report 2019

2 IFMA Coronavirus Impact Study, What’s Working and What Will Become Part of the New Normal, April 22, 2020