Brunch, the Most Important Meal of the Day
By Piet E. Jones
Brunch. Ask any of your staff, front of house or back, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: They hate it. The problem, as a restauranteur, can you afford to ignore it? Like it or not, brunch is a hot trend that shows no sign of letting up.
Take Richmond, Virginia, one of the culinary hotspots on the east coast. Brunch is a huge thing. If you don’t make a reservation, sometimes weeks in advance, your choices as a diner are severely limited. Hot places are turning people away and even old standbys that haven’t updated their menu in years have lines out the door. Every. Single. Week.
The Competition is Fierce
With competition so fierce these days, and razor thin margins, a good brunch service can more than make up for a middling Tuesday or Wednesday night. Sure, your price points might not be as high, but eggs and waffles have low food costs and customers quaffing a few craft cocktails on a day where you might get two or three quick turns on your dining room could send you into the black for the week. Even if your turnover isn’t quite that high, brunch can be good advertising to build your dinner business. Brunch creates buzz, Monday morning around the office coffee maker, and is the perfect vehicle for people who want to try your restaurant but aren’t quite ready to commit to the expense of a full dinner.
The key to making it a successful service, and using it to sell your dinner offerings, is to ensure the menu makes sense. If your dinner menu is featuring house cured charcuterie using meats from local farms, a brunch menu that is little different from the nearby greasy spoon might not be the way to go. Sure, you want to offer a basic egg breakfast but elevate it a bit with your own house made sausage or at least one from a local artisan sausage maker.
As a matter of fact, your dinner menu could be your source for inspiration. That popular duck confit on your dinner menu? Fry up some potatoes, peppers and onions and top with a perfectly poached egg and you’ve got an amazing duck confit hash. Maybe your raw bar is rolling in some amazing oysters. Try deep frying a few of those mollusks and ratchet up your hollandaise with a little Sriracha for an unforgettable spicy oyster benedict.
Regional dishes and ingredients are another way to generate excitement on your menu. Grits are quintessentially Southern but have been creeping out of their territory for a while now. Cold smoke some trout fillets and serve with some Gouda cheese grits and a slow cooked egg to add richness. Further north you might find a curious thing called a pork roll. Mainly from New Jersey, this processed pork product similar to bologna has high nostalgia value and is showing up on some of the more trendy menus around - often made in-house. Perfect to chop up and add to an omelette or grill for a luncheon sandwich.
Of course you don’t want to ignore people’s propensity to have something sweet for brunch. You might not have the staff or space to make pastries but setting up the night before to make a creme brûlée bread pudding or a couple of trays of cinnamon rolls to rise for the morning can do the trick. Pancakes and waffles are also endlessly adaptable and can run the gamut from simple to decadent with toppings, whipped creams, and candied nuts and fruits.
Don't Forget the Drinks
Your craft cocktail list might see some action but some may waver when a drink is the same price as their brunch entree. A few coffee inspired drinks along with Mimosas or Bellinis (prosecco with a little fruit juice and fruit puree) might offer a lower price point that will get the people drinking and the check average increasing - you could even offer the sparkling wine drinks by the pitcher. There is a trend, especially in restaurants that have sparkling wine/prosecco on tap, to offer bottomless Mimosas - basically all you can drink for a set price. First, check with your local liquor laws to see if you can. Second, be wary. Sure, that bottomless Mimosa might get people in your door but they might not leave quickly enough, making it impossible to turn those tables for the next seating.
Time to Execute
The restaurant business is tough. Leveraging every service to its maximum potential can help ease that pressure. Brunch might be something that can add to your bottom line or help to create new regulars to fills those tables at night. If you’re brunch service is new, or simply lagging, don’t forget to promote it on all your social media channels. People are sure to get excited about the evening specials you post on Instagram or Facebook, just make sure you’re including a few posts about your brunch service as well. Proper timing is also key; someone seeing a photo of this morning’s fresh biscuits and gravy right as they wake up to check their feeds might turn and say, “Hey, hun, why don’t we go check out brunch at….”