How to boost restaurant sales by catering to America’s passion for snacks

By Rieva Lesonsky

If you want to bring more diners into your restaurant—at all times of the day—think snacks. Technomic, a restaurant research firm, says more people are eating snacks these days—51 percent of Americans admit to snacking at least twice day.

Before you wonder how you’re supposed to make money just selling bowls of chips or pretzels, the definition of snack food has apparently changed. According to a report on Restaurant Hospitality, an analyst with The NPD Group, foods such as burgers and tacos, once considered main dishes, are now often considered snacks.

The key to making money from snacks is to think about what your customers want. One restaurant owner in Napa Valley told Restaurant Hospitality that customers didn’t want a formal dining experience after a day of wine tasting. So they offer a “tasting menu” of snacks and half-size entrees instead.

It’s also important for your snack menu items to use food ingredients you already feature on your menu. And of course, snacks need to be things that can be executed quickly.

Even the big chain restaurants, like Applebee’s, are serving up snacks. Jason Reeves, Applebee’s senior brand manager, told Restaurant Hospitality “snacks are popular with Millennials” who are willing to try the menu items because they’re less expensive. “Snacks speak to the heart of what consumers want: more choice, more variety, more excitement and more adventure,” Reeves adds.

Snacks are not just the nibbles found on bar menus anymore. Be creative, as long as you keep prices $10 and under; that price point seems to be key. One small restaurant chain CEO told Restaurant Hospitality snacks sell best from 4 pm to 6 pm and after 9 pm.