The best restaurants offer a tiny serving of something interesting (also known as palate teasers) soon after you sit down, which ideally previews the cooking style of the restaurant. In some restaurants, it's also a way to present something luxurious to favored customers. In the United States we think of them as 'hors-d'oeuvre'. Customers regard them as tokens of appreciation. In this age of frequently getting less than what is expected, gestures like this make diners feel welcome and can promote customer loyalty.
History: According to the 1992 edition of Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Francais (Dictionary of the History of the French Language), the term originated in 1946.
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