Brunch Trends

The Brunch Revival

Brunch is, of course, a blend of “breakfast” and ” lunch” and is thought to have originated in Britain in the late 19th century as a hangover meal served on Sundays for people who overindulged on Saturday nights. In 1895, Mr. Guy Beringer extolled the virtues of brunch in an article he wrote: “Instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a post-church ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee. By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.”

Beringer was remarkable in envisioning that the meal could also be accompanied by alcoholic beverages, thus paving the way for the traditional brunch drinks like the Bloody Mary or a mimosa.

Today, brunch is a leisurely social occasion enjoyed in the company of friends and family and is popular among all types of diners. Brunch has a broad appeal and provides an incredible business opportunity for restaurants.

One of the challenges is staffing. Some chefs do not enjoy working a Sunday brunch service. Saturday night tends to be one of the busiest of the week. Suddenly it’s Sunday morning and they have to come in and cook eggs for church-goers. But now it’s time to wake up! Brunch can be just as creative,dynamic, and lucrative as evening service.

Brunch was typically associated with sub-par all-you-can-eat buffets. This morning fare wasn’t whetting appetites until chefs began taking brunch offerings to a new level with sophisticated preparations and high-quality ingredients.

Breakfast comes in a lot of shapes, sizes, ethnicities, flavors, locations, etc. So what’s hot? What’s emerging? What’s trending?

Here are a few facts about brunch from Technomic’s Breakfast Consumer Trend Report:

  • 30% of Americans, and 45-56 %of those aged 18‒34, eat brunch at least once each week either at a restaurant or at home.
  • About two out of five see brunch as a social meal that includes family and/or friends.
  • 46 percent of those aged 25-44 are most likely to say that a brunch includes family.
  • Half of 25- to 34-year-olds also see it as a meal that includes friends and is fun and exciting (48 percent).
  • For these consumers, a social experience that connects them with others sets brunch apart from breakfast.
  • Many people think of brunch as something that happens only on a weekend, but that’s changing. According to Technomic, 68 percent of consumers say they eat brunch on Sundays, 49 percent do so on Saturdays, and 24 percent are
    weekday brunchers. That’s one quarter of consumers looking for brunch opportunities between Monday and Friday.
  • Mimosas, bacon, and home fries are the top choices for brunch patrons, according to a survey of OpenTable users
    as part of its Diners’ Choice list of 100 best restaurants for brunch. A third of the reviewers order mimosas with their meal, and 43 percent enjoy bacon as a preferred side dish, while 37 percent choose home fries.

Other brunch factoids revealed by OpenTable include:

  • Brunch is usually a planned event, with 35 percent of  customers booking it a day in advance and 34 percent as much as a week ahead.
  • The most popular times to eat brunch are 11 a.m. (25 percent), noon (22 percent), and 1 p.m. (18 percent). Another 9 percent of customers get up earlier to have brunch at 10 a.m.
  • After mimosas, the most popular brunch quaffs are coffee/tea (25 percent), Bloody Marys (21 percent), Bellinis (11 percent), and orange juice (10 percent).
  • The most popular hangover cures include dishes involving bacon, egg, and cheese (40 percent), followed by breakfastburritos (23 percent), and pancakes (18 percent).

It is also important to understand the brunch clientele. According to the Egg Council’s latest Incredible Breakfast trends, the 80 million strong Millennial generation (ages 18-33) and their attitudes about food are sparking creativity within the breakfast segment. Millennial meals are not tied to traditional meal times or foods, their preference being to eat whatever, whenever. And Millennial attitudes represent a significant change in the way operators should look at and serve guests. Their priorities of natural food raised in a sustainable way and offered in social-friendly settings are reflected in the newest crop of restaurateurs.

The combination of all these influences has led to yet another response to the need for competitive advantage. The classic American breakfast has always been protein-rich eggs with a side of bacon or sausage, but today there are many more options. Many eateries have expanded their offerings from bacon, sausage, and ham to non-traditional breakfast proteins like shellfish, poultry, and all types of beef and pork products Per Datassential, the use of pulled pork on the breakfast menu is up 300 percent, prosciutto has increased by 159 percent, and lobster 72 percent. These proteins, among other formerly lunch/dinner ones, are finding a home on more morning menus and helping to differentiate restaurants.

As demand for more breakfast protein options grows, so does egg white menu penetration. Datassential found that 32 percent more restaurants offer egg whites than in 2009, resulting in 20 percent of breakfast menus featuring them. Growth has been strongest at QSR, driven by fast casual and large chains looking to compete with them.

Increased breakfast vegetable menuing goes along with  the consumer desire to eat leaner proteins, so breakfast operators have expanded beyond the ubiquitous tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, and kale are seen more frequently as multiple veggies are being used in items like omelets, frittatas, and Benedicts. Arugula, plantains, sweet potatoes, and poblano peppers have all at least doubled the number of breakfast menus they’re found on in the past four years, per Datassential data.

This new breakfast construction of leaner meats with more veggies is right in step with major Millennial interests in eating healthfully, staying strong, and performing well. More than 30 percent of this age group polled by Technomic said they’d like to see more vegetarian breakfast proteins offered, which has led to even more protein-rich eggs and cheese items appearing throughout the breakfast menu.

Brunch doesn’t have to be an elaborate Sunday-style event. You don’t want to offer the same service you offer during dinners and lunches. Brunch should be marketed as a fun, special, and social occasion that brings friends and family together. Make it less reserved and more of a party atmosphere. By creating a sense of event, operators can charge premiums for items slightly dressed up from regular breakfast or lunch menus, or even offer buffets to take advantage of faster table turnover and reduced labor costs.