Get More out of Snack Time

May 2019

Just when you thought breakfast, lunch and dinner were the only dining opportunities for foodservice, a fourth daypart has begun to emerge: snack time. It’s very common—80% of consumers say they snack no less than one time each day, and 57% graze two or more times every day. Retail stores have long served as the place for guests to grab something light, but foodservice is also attracting those who look for options between meals.

With 75% of consumers munching in the afternoon and 42% in the evening, restaurant operators face changing appetite needs. They can take advantage of the predinner snacking occasion by appealing to patrons who want to get a bite with coworkers before heading home. In addition to serving appetizers, the sports bar chain Yard House has a menu with separate sections for snacks, including deviled eggs with bacon, as well as street tacos. With selections such as Turkey Chorizo Street Tacos and Turkey Taco Tostones, diners can enjoy mini meals while unwinding with friends.

Because food is an increasingly important social experience, options that guests can share are more and more popular. Casual-dining chains are taking advantage of this trend—Houlihan’s renamed its appetizer section “Social Snacks,” while Buffalo Wild Wings uses the label “Shareables.” Consider serving these Banh Mi Turkey Wraps or Turkey and Swiss Sliders for meals that are easy to split with a group.

Adding snacks to the menu can inspire creativity. It’s a chance for chefs to get playful with bold tastes, as with this Grilled Sesame Turkey Kebab. Snacks are a great way for guests to sample adventurous flavors without committing to a full portion, and trying new foods together is a fun experience for diners. Offering smaller sizes of preexisting menu items is also an easy way to serve little bites.

After dinner, guests are looking for something to nibble on when their choices may be limited. As more consumers seek late-night delivery options, chains including IHOP and Denny’s are focusing their efforts to appease bedtime cravings. If operators have the ability, they can extend their delivery programs to reach consumers who feel peckish at late hours.

Turkey is a light, versatile protein that can meet hankerings outside of the usual dayparts. Snacking shows no signs of slowing down, as millennials and Gen Zers are choosing snacks over meals more frequently. With a few additions to the menu, restaurants can satisfy all appetites and perhaps become regular after-work spots that inspire new memories.

Does your restaurant menu snacks? Let us know on Facebook or LinkedIn. For more meal inspiration across all dayparts, visit our Culinary Center.


Cobe, Patricia. As snacking rises, here's how to lure snackers' attention through the menu, Restaurant Business, April 2018.

Snacking Is Here to Stay, Technomic, 2018.

Thorn, Bret. Chefs bring the fun with shareable snacks, Nation’s Restaurant News, February 2019.

Romeo, Peter. Snacking is here to stay, Restaurant Business, December 2018.

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