Monday, September 23, 2013

Rant: The Importance of Side Dishes

Peruse a restaurant dinner menu and your entree choices may include chicken, pork, beef, seafood and more. Which do you select for dinner? The succulent roast chicken, the hearty pork chop or the seared scallops? You might suspect that the decision is primarily based on which entree is most enticing to you that evening, however there is another important factor which probably doesn't receive enough attention. In fact, many restaurants may not realize, and should, the value of this other relevant factor.

Side dishes.

Think about some of the last times that you visited a restaurant. When you viewed the menu, did the accompanying side dishes of an entree play a part in your decision to opt for that entree? I will admit that it has happened to me before, and I have also decided against certain entrees because I didn't like the accompanying sides. I even had a brief discussion about this matter this past week while dining out with some new friends. I am far from alone in my views on sides.

Technomic Inc. has published a new survey report, The Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report, which details the importance of side dishes in consumer's choice of entree. 36% of consumers stated they selected an entree based upon the accompanying sides, and 46% stated they were less likely to order an entree if it came with an accompanying side they disliked. In addition, about 45% of consumers prefer familiar sides over unfamiliar sides. Sides can make or break an entree.

These statistics point to the importance of sides, and restaurant owners and chefs need to pay attention. They might be more concentrated on their entrees without considering how the sides might affect consumer choices. They shouldn't just be an after thought and as much attention should be given to side dishes as entrees. Poor side dish choices could be a reason why an otherwise compelling entree is not as popular as much as expected. And good side dish selection might sell an entree which normally wouldn't be as popular.

What are some of your favorite side dishes?


Frederick Wright said...

I choose more than just my main course by the side dishes, I generally choose the entire restaurant itself based on the care and attention given to the 'garnitures'. Personal favorites are any kind of roasted root vegetable but I've also got a weakness for creamy polenta.

Jane Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jane Ward said...

It's also important to choose sides and entrees that complement each other and create a well-thought-out meal rather than something that feels disjointed.