Baskets, platters, small plates, tapas, whatever you call them, sharing options are becoming more popular
Generally, when you go out for something to eat you’ll sit in one camp or another – you’re either a sharer who is more than happy to dip in and out, or you’re wholly possessive and fiercely guard your plate.
It seems the sharers amongst us are winning as more restaurants and takeaways go down this route, enabling customers to enjoy the social aspect this brings as well as the opportunity to try new foods and flavours.
The Chip Inn in Huthwaite, Nottingham, has taken sharing to the extreme by adding what it calls The Codfather to its menu, a 20-inch pizza box containing four battered cods, three portions of chips, eight sausages, four fishcakes and ten different sides and sauces. Designed to feed six adults, it enables customers to enjoy a sharing experience – just as they would if they were to order a pizza.
The brainchild of owners Megann and Erdal Altinoz, the response has been surprising.
“We started with small 10-inch boxes and people were buying multiples of them, so we went bigger, from 10 inches to 12 to 14 to 15 and now we are on 20 inches,” says Megann.
“Initially it was just a gimmick, we filmed the first box and it went viral overnight. We wish we’d thought of it before! We’ve got people coming from miles and miles away, Cornwall, Scotland, London. They take photos and videos and say they’ve had a box.
“It’s something different, it’s on trend, people can share it so they can have a bit of everything.”
Costing £40, part of the attraction is its value for money, as bought separately the items would cost over £50.
“During January and February, which are usually quiet for us because people are on diets, they are spent up from Christmas or paying holidays off, these boxes kept going strong.
“Some nights, we sell mostly the boxes, instead of fish and chips on their own. Although we don’t make as much profit as if we sold the items individually, we weigh that up against how much custom it’s bringing in.”
Megann is mindful of ensuring the boxes work for the takeaway too, adding: “We’ve had ideas to do other items but we thought if it just gets ordered once in a while, where are we going to store it all? So we stick to what we sell and just package it up differently.”
Mario’s Fish Bar in Bristol has also introduced a sharing option to its menu but rather than go for giant boxes, owner Jorge Brazao has opted for seafood baskets. Comprising six items including panko prawns, breaded wholetail scampi, and salt and pepper squid, plus a wedge of lemon and prawn cocktail and tartare sauces for £5.50, it offers customers choice and value for money.
“The first weekend we added them to the menu we sold out straight away,” says Jorge. “Right now, it’s all about offering good value for money, and when people hear sharing, they think value for money because one price feeds two people.”
It’s also an effective way for Jorge to hit his profit margins, adding: “With our salt and pepper squid, we do eight pieces for £4.50 which the average fish and chip customer might think is expensive, but in a sharing basket you only need to give away two of those chunks so your profit margin automatically jumps up per piece. It works out more value for money if you break down two or three items rather than selling one item on its own. I work out the gross profit on the whole meal instead of just the one item.”
As well as profit, Jorge is also thinking about what works best operationally, adding: “We are extremely busy at the weekends and don’t want to be putting loads of different baskets in, so we select things that all cook at the same time. If you get a few orders hitting at once there’s no way you can be consistent if you’ve got different items cooking at different times.”
Also seeing the appeal of sharing options but taking yet another angle is Eric’s Fish & Chips in Thornham, Norfolk. It has introduced 15 different small plates, ranging from £2.25 for a potato scallop to £7.50 for halloumi and spinach arancini.
Owner Eric Snaith comments: “We love the idea of always creating new dishes and the social idea of sharing foods, so thought this would be a great way for people to try new flavours they perhaps wouldn’t normally try.”
Whilst Eric doesn’t believe sharing is becoming the norm in his shops – most of his customers still love traditional fish and chips – he certainly gets the sense that they like
sharing and trying new food. “Some customers will want the small plates as a side dish to their main fried fish, others will mix it up and just have a selection of them. As we’re not an average chippy, I thought it was a great way to be fun, creative and to experiment with sharing small plates.”
If you’ve been inspired and fancy trying a sharing option on your menu, Eric believes familiar flavours or dishes are always the most popular. He also advocates using quality ingredients and adding a little twist to improve them and make them even more memorable. “For example, we just introduced a pea fritter but we’ve added some beautiful smoked cheese which makes all the difference!” he adds.
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