Chains Think Small: Small bites. Small price.

Chains Think Small: Small bites. Small price.

Food & Drink

Chains Think Small: Small bites. Small price.

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By Cari Martens

With the economy still gasping for air, some of the country’s leading casual dining chains are offering downsized menu items at down-to-earth prices in an attempt to drive traffic to their restaurants.

Sharable, tapas-style small plates are being introduced, often with price tags that are smaller, too—less expensive than appetizers in many cases. With lots of consumers still clinging to the idea that they can eat more cheaply at home, chains such as Houlihan’s, California Pizza Kitchen, and the Cheesecake Factory are trying to lure customers back with small plates that can be passed around the table and shared.

CPK’s White Corn Guacamole & Chips

‘This is how the next generation is eating,’ says Bob Hartnett, CEO at Houlihan’s, which just introduced 23 small-plate items in several test markets. Some of the items include Truckstop Fries covered in chipotle cheese priced at $3, and a 4-ounce filet mignon with Parmesan garlic sauce for $10. The hottest seller: slider-style burgers for $3.50.

To highlight these new offerings, the chains are often presenting them on a separate promotion-style menu, as reported by Bruce Horovitz, writing for USAToday.

California Pizza Kitchen introduced its ‘small cravings’ menu in March and claims it’s driving business and bolstering check averages. The little cravers are priced at from $4 to $7, and include things like an Asparagus & Arugula Salad, White Corn Guacamole & Chips, and Buffalo Chicken.

Cheesecake Factory was first to the party with its ‘small plates and snacks’ menu, rolled out one year ago. It features such selections as Chicken Croquettes and Stuffed Mushrooms. Priced at $3.95 to $6.95, the items have added incremental sales, says marketing chief Mark Mears.

If you’re a little hungry and have a tiny budget, these small plates may be just the taste you’re craving.

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