More Americans Snack at Restaurants

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Fast food chains and other restaurants are catching on to consumers’ snacking habits.

The number of items on menus that are described as “snacks,” “snackers” or “snackable” has risen 170% since 2007 according to market research firm Mintel. And that appears to mean better business during the hours when restaurant sales are usually fairly slow.

“By innovating menus with various snacking options, restaurants can boost sales throughout the day and drive guest traffic during non-peak hours,” according to Mintel’s research.

Consumers appear to prefer their snacks between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., just ahead of the usual dinnertime rush, though many still seek out small portions in the mid-morning or early afternoon. Consumers spend about $3.79 on snacks at any given time, according to Mintel.

And even beyond the McDonald’s (Stock Quote: MCD) Snack Wraps or the KFC (Stock Quote: YUM) Snacker, fine dining establishments are offering snack items as well, Mintel reports. Some restaurants have even re-branded their appetizers as snacks, which makes a small plate of ceviche a fairly healthy standalone dish between meals.

And snack items aren’t always unhealthy. Small plates of fresh foods like tapas and hors d’oeuvres have been around for hundreds of years – long before fast food became a staple for many households – to encourage bar patrons to drink more, according to Cooking Light.

And in other efforts to make munchies a bit healthier for snackers, movie theater chains have also been widely considering less sugary and fattening treats, as MainStreet previously reported.

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