Hors-d’oeuvres are small dishes that whet the appetite before a meal is served. They are an everyday staple at sit-down restaurants while you wait for your meal to be cooked or at fancy dinner parties when waiting for other guests to arrive. The literal translation means “outside the work/course”. They are light, not too heavy on the stomach, and have warm and cold options.
Don’t let the fancy French name put you off; they are also called appetizers or starters. They are present in other cuisines and cultures as platters with an assortment of bite-sized food to eat while drinking or waiting for the main food. So, does this mean you should add some to your menu? That depends.
What kind of restaurant do you have?
If you have a sit-down, reservation only, black-tie restaurant—then you most likely have them already. Appetizers are not just to excite the palate but are a part of the dining experience. They pique your interest in what the place has to offer, and act as a feast for your eyes as well. Classic examples seen in such restaurants are fresh oyster with lemon, canapes, and deviled eggs.
However, every restaurant can have their twist on starters that relate heavily to the ambiance and theme of the place. Mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers are some examples of how starters have evolved according to the setting. Though in these situations it can be a gamble. Do you have the time and human resources to add another type of dish? Will your current market base appreciate the options? Do you think that it can add to the dining experience?
Do you have space and time?
Going back to one of the questions mentioned in the beginning, do you have the ability to integrate them into your menu? You may have fresh ideas and feel like it is within your restaurant’s journey, but if you do not have the resources to do it, then it falls flat. You need to have a good supplier like www.kiril-mischeff.com. You need to have a balanced menu, with the right amount of options. Your kitchen staff should know how to juggle different courses without being confused. Without the proper resources, your appetizers will not become a selling point.
What kind of restaurant do you want to have?
If you are not happy with the current set up you have, ask yourself who you want to cater to and what dining experience you want them to have. Serving group meals, becoming a date destination, or opening at later times like brunch to early dinner means you must adjust the menu accordingly. These three scenarios focus on leisure, conversation, and intimacy. Appetizers give your customers a time to talk without disrupting the main meal too much.
You can rework the menu slowly over time, adding a starter and soups. You can add promotions or advertisements directed to your new target market. By doing so, you can see how well it is received before fully committing to the change. Or you can go big and close your shop. The time off to renovate the space and tweak the menu makes the rebrand clean and visible.
With these three questions, you more or less know if you should have appetizers or not.