Beyond Chips & Salsa and Bread

For most people, going out to eat is fun. Many different components make dining at a restaurant enjoyable. Besides waiters who wear flair, walls/ceilings covered in memorabilia, and white paper table cloths that you can color on, there is something else that enhances the restaurant experience: that complimentary item served right when you sit down.

Mexican restaurants serve chips and salsa, Italian restaurants pass out baskets of garlic bread, American pubs slam down buckets of peanuts at the end of the table. Down here in the South, seafood restaurants offer delicious hushpuppies. These tasty snacks served the moment you sit down scream VALUE and FUN. Who doesn’t like eating something that is yummy and essentially free? Who doesn’t like scooping salsa with a chip or throwing peanut shells on the floor?

When it comes to my thought process, if I have to choose between two restaurants, I am going to select the place that gives us something just for sitting down in a booth.

So what about those other restaurants that don’t treat customers to piping hot bread or egg drop soup just for showing up? I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they don’t participate because of the cost. I am sure most businesses want to make a profit. But what if there was another reason? Perhaps some restaurants just don’t know what an acceptable food item is to dish out while people browse the menu.

I thought it would be fun to offer five ideas!

* BACON – If you want to save time, just stop reading now because this is the best idea I got. Why hasn’t any restaurant done this yet? A party sits down at a table and immediately a sizzling plate of bacon is put right in the middle of everyone. Not only is this an affordable option but it hits right at the most popular food obsession in our country. Honestly, this is an idea for a major well-known casual restaurant chain to take over and exploit!

* Apple Slices – From the onset, apple slices might not seem like something that you would want to nibble on before a nice dinner but hear me out…

How cool would it be if you were delivered a tray of fresh Washington apples with caramel and peanut butter dipping sauces? Talk about something that would distinguish your business. This is such an original and fun idea. Best part is, most businesses could afford apples for days. Applebees….I am thinking of you.

* Silver Dollar Pancakes – When you go out for breakfast, you rarely expect any type of free appetizer to be brought to your table. I am calling on any breakfast house in the nation to step up and change this (and I will give you the idea too). I think it would be genius for a restaurant such as IHOP, Denny’s, or even one of the hundreds of breakfast places in Myrtle Beach to offer silver dollar pancakes to all customers. Not only would this be a great way to start the day, it would also allow folks to sample the different syrups that most of these places offer. Again, this is all about being fun and creative!

* Cheese Puffs – Mexican restaurants have the monopoly on tortilla chips so your average American restaurant probably wants to do something a little different. My big idea is to convince a diner or casual chain to offer homemade cheese puffs the moment customers sit down. They would make these in-house and they would come out warm. Cheese puffs are easy to eat and would be perfect to snack on while you customers wait to put in their food order. I would double down that there isn’t one restaurant on the planet that has thought about this yet. Sure some restaurant furnishings might become orange-stained but I think it would be worth it.

* Bubble Gum – I am rolling over laughing with these ideas! I am advocating the offering of BUBBLE GUM at restaurants as a way to deter those people who don’t want to eat free snacks or appetizers prior to their meal. Restaurants would offer big gobs of gum in addition to a legitimate snack in the middle of the table. If you want to munch and enjoy yourself, then take the apple slice or piece of bacon. If you want to resist temptation and not ruin your dinner, then pop in a piece of gum and blow bubbles. Of course the gum would have to come in different bold flavors and be covered in a wrapper with the restaurant’s branding.

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Even if you don’t like these specific ideas I put forth, can you at least agree that we need dialogue on how we can liven up the standard chips and garlic bread options? Please, give me your feedback…but pass the bacon first. Don’t Blink.