Brunch can be a peculiar meal. Not quite breakfast and not quite lunch—but needing to satisfy the requirements of both—brunch challenges chefs and operators to create menu items that are both comforting and innovative.
Not that long ago, brunch was thought of by those in the foodservice industry as a necessary evil. “Cooks hate brunch,” wrote Chef Anthony Bourdain in his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential. “Brunch is punishment block for the B-Team cooks, or where the farm team of recent dishwashers learn their chops.”
But today, brunch is a much different story, with operators all over the country giving the same amount of care and attention to the first meal of the weekend as they do later on at dinner. And diners, in return, are showing their satisfaction through increased brunch traffic and sales.
If your operation isn’t taking advantage of the brunch brigade, it definitely should be, says Trip Kadey, director of culinary for The French’s Food Company. “It’s not seven nights a week, so some operators look at brunch as an afterthought and don’t want to put the effort into it,” says Kadey. “But brunch is a wonderful opportunity.”
And for those still on the fence, consider this: While brunch check averages may be lower than those at dinner, tables turn more quickly at brunch.
Here are a few best practices for conquering brunch.
Think outside eggs Benedict…
While brunch menu standards such as omelettes and pancakes are still in demand by diners, that doesn’t mean they won’t try something a bit more on the exotic side. “You might not have the guts on a Friday night to risk your whole entrée on a chipotle duck breast taco, but if you see it on a brunch buffet you might grab one,” says Kadey. “It’s like how people used to look at the appetizer menu.” For operators, that means that menuing brunch dishes with unexpected or adventurous ingredients is key.
…but remember, it’s a family affair.
At brunch, unlike at dinner, you’ll often find parents with small children in tow. “You’re less likely to get a babysitter for brunch,” says Kadey. “Brunch is more of a laid-back, social event.” In other words, satisfying the daring diner is important; however, operators also need to offer items for those with less-experimental palates.
It’s a small world, after all.
Overall, diners have gotten more adventurous when it comes to trying dishes and ingredients from other countries. “Global cuisine is huge,” says Kadey. “If you’re using Sriracha, people know what it is.” Kadey also suggests incorporating proteins other than breakfast sausages. For example, instead of pairing waffles with fried chicken, why not top them with pulled pork, honey butter and hot sauce? “It can be one or two tweaks to the presentation, and you have something that feels like it’s perfect for brunch,” he says.
It’s not just the food.
Brunch customers want more options when it comes to beverages. That means in addition to coffee and juice, creative cocktails need to be part of your menu too. Generally, brunch-goers are looking for drinks that are lighter in alcohol but stronger in flavors. Thus, creative riffs on classic brunch cocktails such as bloody Marys or mimosas can generate consumer excitement. For diners who want flavor without the booze, include several alcohol-free mocktails on the menu.
Keep ‘em coming back.
“I often say what makes people go back to a restaurant is when they leave knowing there are six things on the menu they still want to try,” says Kadey. “People really like to see things on menus that are interesting and different. And brunch is no different.”
This post is sponsored by The French's Food Company