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Huge Portions/Small Plates?

Editor Mike Sanson lamented in his last editorial that too many restaurants are promoting small plates on their menus, but the portions that arrive are huge. More than a few of you weighed in on the matter.

I loved what you had to say about the current trend of offensive portion sizes in many restaurants. I'm sure you know this problem is even more abundant in the Midwest. Dining should not be about the amount of food that you can fit into your body; it should be about experiencing what the chef of that particular restaurant has to offer, while enjoying the company at your table.

All too often friends and families dine out and spend the dinner hunched over mountains of food, smart phones in-hand, eating food that has been prepared with little to no care or artistry. You also make a great point about restaurants not sending plates out when they're ready because it would inconvenience the restaurant staff.

Michael Lowe
Bella Luna Cafe
Wichita, KS

I have been trying to convey the idea of small plates as a fun, adventurous and a healthy way of dining for years. My first restaurant, Avalon, is a concept where you can tour the menu with four smaller portions coursed out — antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci. My newest restaurant, Avalon Pasta Bistro, is a tapas-style restaurant featuring rustic Italian cuisine. Everything is served in portions four-to-eight-bites style.

I have had a very hard time getting customers to understand that they need to order two to four plates (even though my servers clearly explained the concept to them). I started noticing a large amount of online complaints, saying how beautiful and delicious the food was, but that the portions were way too small and too expensive and that patrons were leaving the restaurant hungry.

After doing some investigating, I noticed the complaints were coming from people who were ordering an appetizer and a pasta with the expectation of a full meal. Two weeks ago I changed my menu format to prix fix only. There is no longer ala carte pricing on the menu. The minimum to sit down is $35 for four small plates. This forces people to enjoy the concept the way I see it. The response thus far has been great.

John Brandt-Lee
Avalon Pasta Bistro
West Chester, PA

Yes, the policy of sending out full orders only is to save the restaurant ink, paper, confusion and to make the servers' and cooks' job easier. The practice of making each plate a buffet is just sad. People talk health, but demand large portions. Yes, it is sad. Yes, it is growing and if you put that much food on a plate quality must suffer somewhere to make up the dollars needed to run a successful business. I do not have an answer; I am a sad observer watching portions overtake the plate.

Ted Wild
Executive chef/f&b director
Holiday Inn Buena Park Hotel & Conference Center
Buena Park, CA