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Fasten Your Menus: Dessert Flights Take Off

Dessert Flights

47% of millennial survey participants are interested in dessert flights.1

Whoever said you can’t have your cake and eat it too never experienced a dessert flight. Dessert flights offer it all: variety, value, flavor—even portion control. These dessert concept compilations allow consumers to sample a range of tantalizing treats in small portions that keep costs and calories low. While bold flavor experiences and experimentation may seem at odds with curbing calories and costs, dessert flights help satisfy all these requirements.

Dessert flights inspire menu innovation and make it easy for adventure-oriented and socially minded millennials to mix, match and share diverse concepts and flavor profiles. Bear in mind that for many consumers sharing extends to social media, where likes and shares can skyrocket if a dessert flight is impressive or unusual enough. Thirty-seven percent of consumers aged 25 to 35 surveyed by the foodservice market research firm Technomic often share photos of wow-worthy desserts on social media.2

Small-portion offerings can be a big help in piquing consumers’ curiosity and keeping them coming back for more. Similar to antipastos, which allow diners to sample a mix of items that lead in to the larger meal, dessert flights let them try many tastes in moderation and discover new favorites.

Share and Share Alike—a Lot

While 51% of Technomic survey participants say unique and signature dessert concepts motivate them to visit specific restaurants,3 34% are more likely to order dessert when smaller-portion options are available.4 Dessert sharing seems to be gaining momentum, with consumers surveyed reporting they share desserts 32% of the time at limited-service restaurants and 43% of the time at full-service restaurants, where larger parties tend to dine.5

Research from the market intelligence agency Mintel finds that while 43% of Americans surveyed have a positive economic outlook, consumers remain value-driven, regardless of where they fall on the economic spectrum.6 Dessert flights allow foodservice operators to bring greater value to the table with exploratory taste experiences that enable consumers to determine their preferences from an eclectic assortment of options.

What’s more, these shared dessert compilations enable consumers to split the cost and enjoy a few nibbles that offset the number-one deterrent to ordering dessert—being too full to partake.7

As Justin Leyvas, general manager of Sushi Roku in Pasadena, Calif., pointed out, “Sharing a dessert makes people feel like they are eating much less, so they are more inclined to order it when they are looking to cut back on desserts.”8 Leyvas cites the Japanese restaurant’s Zen S’mores, an interactive concept that serves four and presents all the fixings for s’mores as a Zen garden, as an example of dessert flights that “satisfy the sweet tooth without the guilt of overindulging.”8

Because they’re designed to serve the whole table, dessert flights eliminate any uneasiness about being the only one in your party to order dessert. That’s an important consideration, since a quarter of consumers surveyed will partake only if other people they’re dining with do too.9

Dessert Flights Explore New Flavor Horizons

With half of millennials surveyed expecting restaurants to offer signature flavors and 40% agreeing that they should frequently introduce new flavors,10 foodservice operators may want to give dessert flights consideration as a cost-efficient solution for testing new pairings and flavor profiles with groups of consumers.

Dessert flights may also appeal to Affluent Socializers, the 12% of the population sampling that values dining out as entertainment.11 Like the female consumers in the Foodservice Hobbyist group (14%),11 these upper-income male baby boomers seem well-suited to savor the added enjoyment of assorted treats to cap off their dining experience. While Foodservice Hobbyists are value-driven and Affluent Socializers are more price-flexible, the lure of variety has appeal for both.

“We want people to try a lot of different flavors and share with friends, so the experience is like a journey,” said Mark Lee, managing partner at Spot Dessert Bar, whose dessert flights tend to be flavor excursions that combine culinary influences from east and west and balance dissimilar elements, such as warm and cold, as well floral and chocolate notes.4

Whether you’re offering a flight of puddings from different countries or a medley of confections à la mode, dessert flights can serve up many advantages. Conversation starters. Buzz generators. Sales engines. The sky is the limit with dessert flights that capitalize on consumer demand for value, variety and flavor.

1 Mills, Anne and Yonke, Bret, Dessert Consumer Trend Report: Custom Webinar, Technomic (2017), at p. 29
2 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report (2017), at p. 81
3 Mills, Anne and Yonke, Bret, at p. 20
4 Sweet Street Desserts, “Sweets Take Flight,” Restaurant Business (2016: Jun. 4). Retrieved from
5 Mills, Anne and Yonke, Bret, at p. 16
6 Mintel, North America Consumer Trends 2018 (2018), p. 14
7 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report (2017), at p. 9
8 Glazer, Fern, “Restaurants lure customers to indulge with shareable desserts,” Nation’s Restaurant News (2017: Jan. 4). Retrieved from
9 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report (2017), at p. 65
10 Technomic, 2017 Flavor Consumer Trend Report Infographic (2017). Downloaded from Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report (2017), at p. 117

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