Although an average of 85% of restaurants, fine dining and quick-service restaurants offer appetizers on their menus, nearly 35% of consumers eat appetizers at home, according to “MenuTrends Keynote Report,” produced by Chicago-based Datassential.

When considering an appetizer, consumers generally looked for easily-shareable finger food, and rated garlic bread as their “most loved” appetizer, either as a stand-alone, straightforward starter or dressed up as bruschetta. Wings, shrimp cocktail and French fries ranked next.

As for French fries, 57% of restaurants have them on the menu, most often listed as a side dish, but the study found that over one-third of consumers said they love fries as an appetizer. 

From a foodservice standpoint, more than two-fifths of Millennials say they would like more restaurants to offer appetizers (and small plates) with ethnic flavors or ingredients, according to “2015 U.S. Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report.” The report, produced by Chicago-based Technomic, also found that more than half of consumers say they are more willing to try a new flavor or ingredient in an appetizer or small plate than in an entrée. 

This study also revealed that 53% of consumers ordered sides, 39% ordered appetizers and 30% ordered small plates on all or most of their restaurant visits. Nearly half of consumers (47%) say that happy hour deals would encourage them to order appetizers more frequently. And, the fastest growing sides include non-breaded vegetables, deli salads, fruit and beans at limited-service restaurants and pasta/noodles, other potato specialties (au gratin, hash browns, home fries, tater tots, etc.), fruit and rice at full-service restaurants.

The snack attack

For the past few years, consumers have been giving frozen snacks the cold shoulder. That is until the cold food industry transformed the coveted snacking occasion into an all-day affair.

In fact, researchers found that 50% of consumers view frozen snacks as a meal replacement—a quick lunch or easy dinner when they don’t feel like cooking—and that number jumps to almost 70% for Hispanic consumers, according to Women’s Marketing Inc., Westport, Conn.

Researchers also found that today’s kids are heavily influencing their parents’ purchases at the grocery store—children age 5-14 are believed to influence 78% of total grocery purchases.

And, restaurant-branded snacks continue to emerge as a popular and convenient option for consumers seeking to re-create the experience at home. Almost one-fifth of consumers who purchase frozen snacks indicate products similar to those on restaurant menus are an important factor when purchasing, while 39% indicate a familiar brand is important, says Women’s Marketing.

Even more, of all generations tested, Millennials maintained the highest preferences for frozen snacks such as pizza rolls and chicken wings, according to a series of posts on Millennial snacking from Industry Dive, Washington, D.C.

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