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Snacking Influences Small Plate Consumption, Technomic Finds

Consumer purchases of appetizers and other "small plates" are nearing pre-recession levels, according to Chicago-based research firm Technomic.

In fact, diners are doing a lot more mix-and-match dining, partially due to the lines between restaurant dayparts blurring as a growing population of snackers changes their eating-out behavior; consumers often consider appetizers to be "snacks," while a trio of small plates can make up a full meal.

According to Technomic's report, consumers still eat 59 percent of appetizers ordered as starters. Demonstrating the flexibility of small plates, 34 percent of consumers say they eat these menu items as starters, while 33 percent say they will eat small plates as a meal. Forty-six percent of consumers say they are less likely to order an entrée if it comes with a side they do not enjoy, and 36 percent often choose entrées based on the accompanying sides.