By Brian Murphy, Foodable Contributor
The desire for all-day breakfast foods has the brunch demand blowing up. There are so many options that it's become just as dizzying for the operators offering the brunch as it is for guests enjoying it.
The days of “special occasion only” brunches are not over. They are alive and strong but are now competing with a pack of brunch-providing establishments that aren’t asking for the hefty buy-in. No longer are brunch-goers needing to strategize the location of expensive proteins at the buffet in order to justify the price of admission, because while that brunch still exists, there is another world waiting to be gobbled up — late morning and often on any day of the week.
Sunday is Still Brunch Day
Saturday is fighting, but Sunday remains in the lead as far as volume of brunch business goes. This seems like a safe day to start offering brunch for that very reason, but potential oversaturation should be a serious consideration to those starting a brunch program. Research of competition should happen on a variety of levels, of course, but a starting point could include a search to see what days neighboring restaurants offer brunch.
Should you find that there is a virtual brunch desert on Saturdays, perhaps daring to be different could pay off. Also, narrowing your target guests should also drive brunch decision making. Menu design, beverage program, staffing, and other factors all need to be modified as a result.
From “Special Occasion” to Making Brunch Feel Special Every Occasion
The growing pains of a new establishment attempting brunch service will likely require many months of savings just to build the business. Within the brunch market, there are many versions that appeal to different people. There will always be demand for the special occasion brunch, which is often higher-priced, buffet-style, and found in hotels and larger venues capable of pulling off quality from top-to-bottom.
However, brunch has moved beyond that. Among the plated brunch venues, there are more options. Sometimes brunch simply means a breakfast that starts later with a few lunch items on the menu, but that doesn’t make the guest feel special in any way. So, what does a well-executed brunch do?
Brunch requires a hook. (Meaning you can’t just offer a wider variety of last night’s savory items on the Benedict menu section, as you get too many regulars who swung by the night before. They’ll be able to taste the kitchen’s lack of creativity.) Maybe offer complimentary coffee on the days brunch is offered, with a station set up outside while people wait. You can make it more special than an airpot and foam cups — throw in some different flavored sweeteners or syrups to set the town.
Also, operators, be wary if you want to go the baked-goods-and-fresh-fruit buffet route. This could lead to waste and unnecessary cost increases. If your kitchen’s pastry game is strong, a better option could be to offer fewer, freshly baked items for a nominal fee and treat that as a shareable appetizer for the table.
Champagne and Bloody Mary’s are good starts, but require some thought. Bloody Mary accoutrements can make the eye-opener a meal, so decide if you want them to be eye-catching as well. A Bloody Mary with skewers of tastiness also help convey that brunch is special.
Sparkling wine is another requisite item that can have brunch resulting in a headache. Steer clear of the ultra-bargain bubbly, as it will only cheapen the experience for the guests who choose to not make it a mimosa — or for those who had several glasses. There are many affordable, decent bottles out there that allow operators to offer a “free-flowing” option and not be embarrassed to forego disguising it with orange juice.
A chat with a quality wine rep will help solve this issue. Better yet, increase quality a bit more and charge for the free-flowing bubbly. Sure, you may have the occasional hero who attempts to drink their weight in sparkling wine because they have paid for it, but most guests will find solace in having a few glasses and then leaving fulfilled when the time is right.
Know Your Audience
Understanding who is eating and drinking at brunch is a huge key to success and will drive much of the decision making. Will brunch be built around young people in the industry, who may have been out too late and are now looking for a little hair of the dog? Fine, dial brunch in that direction. Start later, have brunch items with decent amounts of good grease and carbs, and definitely have quality bar options.
Should that be the crowd, staffing can be trained to handle things a bit differently, and maybe there is something else that makes it special in some way. Finishing off the brunch shift with a complimentary shot of something is a play that helps word-of-mouth — and hopefully garner return customers. (That move wouldn’t be as well-received if your guests are grandma and children coming straight from Sunday service, however.)
No matter the clientele or location, putting more thought into brunch than originally anticipated will only help. Brunch is taken seriously, as it can account for the better part of guests’ day, so deliver the goods.