Stepping Up Your Snack Menu


When it comes to patron dining habits, it’s no longer hip to be square (meals, that is). While restaurant traffic at traditional dayparts has slowed or declined, snacking continues to grow. According to The NPD Group, for the year ending in September 2016:

  • Restaurant visits during snack occasions grew 3%
  • Lunch fell 2%
  • Breakfast grew 1%
  • Dinner growth was flat

Afternoon and late-night snacking represents a huge opportunity for the foodservice industry. I’d like to share some ideas for how you can differentiate your offerings and cater to the needs of your guests by presenting signature snacks on the menu.

Tip 1: Change up portion sizes
The easiest way to boost sales is to downsize! Offering smaller portions of your already popular menu items at non-meal times is a great way to dive into the snacking trend. For example, in the field I’m seeing many sandwich chains offer minis or sliders as a way to build traffic during the 2:00-5:00pm time period. These smaller portions are perfect for patrons looking for a more healthful snack than, say, cookies or potato chips.

37% of consumers want more restaurants to offer mini sandwiches they can eat as a snack

Tip 2: Take it to go
Convenience is a key component of the snacking trend. The majority of consumers say that portability plays a role in choosing what to purchase as a snack, so grab-and-go items are essential. For inspiration, look to global street food. From bacon-wrapped Sonoran hot dogs to Turkish doner kebab, Shanghai-style dumplings to Venezuelan arepas, there’s no shortage of tasty ideas that can be modified to meet the preferences of your patrons.

Portable twists on nostalgic American favorites are also making a big impact right now—think Burger King’s “Mac and Cheetos” or Taco Bell’s “naked chicken” nacho chips.

57% of consumers say portability is an important factor when choosing a snack

Tip 3: The more the merrier
Especially when patrons are looking to graze with a group, operators can offer sampler platters to capitalize on the popularity of snacking. Flights of protein-rich snacks such as chicken wings or meatballs, especially when matched with beer or wine pairings, will boost check averages and encourage patrons to try a variety of items.

With chicken wings, the flavor possibilities are endless. Mix up your coatings and dipping sauces to create a delicious assortment:

  • Breadings: tempura, ancient grains or pretzel crumbs
  • Technique: dry rub, marinade, fry or roast
  • Sauces: Korean BBQ, Parmesan-garlic, coconut curry…you name it!

Tip 4: Revitalizing retail snacks
The retail snack market is especially strong right now. The “alternative snack” category, which includes meat snacks, is expected to grow 4.7% this year. Operators are optimistic, as consumers demonstrate a rising interest in healthy offerings, bite-sized snacks, protein and innovative flavors. Think “grown up” versions of childhood meal kits, with premium cheeses, herb-crusted meats and artisan crackers or mini flatbreads.

Snacking means different things to different consumers—an excuse to treat themselves, a necessary way to eat during a busy day or as a means of trying a variety of items, to name a few. So don’t think of snacking as a one-size-fits-all trend. But by crafting a unique snack menu you’ll give patrons a reason to spend their food dollar at your operation, versus buying snacks at the grocery store or preparing them at home.

As your partner in protein, West Liberty Foods can develop custom snacks that range from healthful to indulgent. From on-the-go offerings to c-store meal combos to satisfying shareable items, we can do it all. Get in touch and we’ll create solutions that meet your operational needs.

– Chef Aliza

“Consumers increasingly vary their sandwich orders at restaurants,” Technomic, April 28, 2016.
Danielle Romano, “The 2017 forecast for snacks,” Convenience Store News, January 23, 2017.
Fern Glazer, “Restaurants rethink menu strategy as snacking spreads,” Nation’s Restaurant News, February 3, 2017.
“Healthy snacks sales growth outpacing overall food and beverage market,” Packaged Facts, July 18, 2016.
Lizzy Freier, “3 snack trends curbing appetites,” Restaurant Business, June 5, 2017.
Patricia Cobe, “How operators are snagging snack traffic,” Restaurant Business, November 14, 2016.