Small Indulgences: Exploring the Appeal of Mini-Desserts


Mini-desserts are still a hot trend, even if they don’t represent a brand-new blip on the radar. According to a article in QSR Magazine, mini-desserts have been on the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot” list every year since 2006. However, there are three great reasons to believe that the mini-dessert trend is here to stay, at least for a few years: they are highly appealing to customers, they are profitable to restaurant operators, and lastly, they still contain great potential for growth and adaptation.

So, what makes mini-desserts so attractive? Their long curling lashes? Violet eyes? Let’s start with what makes them appealing on the consumer-end of the spectrum. There are three main reasons mini-desserts have selling-power for today’s diners:

Customers Want To Indulge (at least a little)

In the land of increasing health-consciousness, mini-desserts offer customers a way to get their sugar-fix and keep calorie counts low at the same time. Mini-desserts don’t have to be made from broccoli for customers to consider them an acceptable addition to their healthy regimens. For many consumers, portion control is the key to achieving better health, both mentally and physically.

Customers Are Still Feeling Cash-strapped

Although it seems the worst part of the recession is over, consumers are still feeling cautious when it comes to spending. During hard times dessert can be seen as an unnecessary extra, but mini-desserts provide customers with the opportunity to practice thrift without having to forgo an after-dinner treat.

Customers Want To Be Adventurous

Dessert is one category of food that tends to stay pretty close to the traditional. In another article by QSR, Chef Kirk Parks of the Atlanta-based restaurant Rathburn’s says that when choosing entrees consumers enjoy experimentation, but when it comes to dessert they yearn for the familiar, saying, “‘What did my mother make? What did my grandmother make?’” Mini-desserts, however, offer them the opportunity to expand their adventurousness to the dessert category without taking on too much risk.

Dessert Marketing Mini-Lesson: Mini-desserts are great, but they aren’t a failsafe addition to your menu. When Scala’s Bistro of San Francisco introduced mini-desserts to their menu, they printed their offerings in a separate column next to the full-size desserts. As a result, full-size dessert sales plummeted. Not only that, but customers weren’t expecting their orders to be so small and many complained. Scala learned from the mistake and now puts mini-desserts in the same column as full-size desserts and marks them with an asterisk which explains their size. (Source)

The appeal of mini-desserts does not end here. We all know that what’s good for the customer is not always good for the restaurant. When it comes to mini-desserts, though, the results are: win, win, win.

Here’s a look at a few reasons why chefs would be wise to add mini-desserts to the menu:

Mini-Desserts Increase Dessert Sales

After Rathburn’s introduced mini-desserts to their menu they saw dessert sales soar. Now, a few years later, 80 percent of their customers order dessert. This is highly unusual, as Chef Parks told ACF Chef in a recent write-up, “ Every other restaurant I’ve worked at averaged about 30% dessert sales.”

Mini-Desserts Drive Incremental Sales

In addition to driving dessert sales, operators find that these bite-sized sweets increase sales in other after-meal items as well. When customers are only spending a few dollars on dessert, they are more inclined to indulge in an after-dinner glass of port or cappuccino. Learn more about how coffee can increase restaurant profits.

Mini-Desserts are Getting Easier to Make

In an interview with QSR, Chef Sheryl Aronow says, “Because of this trend, manufacturers are producing so many tools to help bakers. They have many different baking pans, as well as presentation options.” When the mini-dessert trend started, the pioneers had to figure out clever ways to construct teeny tarts and stunted savarins, but these days a multitude of products are available to make mini-baking a cinch.

And to help you along the way, here is a sampling of the petite baking products offered by

While appealing to customers’ tastes and restaurants’ bottom lines, mini-desserts remain a hot trend because they show further potential for growth. Though they have been featured at fine-dining establishments for years now, chefs still have plenty of room to experiment with daring new flavors, constructions and combinations. In the quick-serve and fast-casual segment, mini-desserts are just starting to catch on. From Starbucks’ Petites to Dairy Queen’s Mini Blizzard, industrious quick-serves show that mini-desserts are by no means limited to the higher end of the industry. No matter the style of food service you operate, mini-desserts can easily be leveraged for increased profits as well as consumer satisfaction.


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Sara Henderson

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