Brunch differentiates from breakfast in that it’s much more than a meal, it’s a unique social experience and a national pastime. As a result of changing lifestyle patterns in how Americans eat, live, and interact with each other, brunch has become more popular than ever. However, just because it’s booming, doesn’t necessarily mean starting a brunch program is the right move for your operation. With the proper strategy and plan, starting a brunch program can increase revenue and profits and enhance your restaurant’s brand. But, brunch is a major initiative and if not done right, the opposite can happen resulting in your business being negatively impacted. If you’re considering brunch service, you should ask some hard questions about your restaurant to ensure your operation is prepared.
Start by Strategizing
There’s a saying that you have to “get better before you get bigger.” Who are you as a restaurant currently and what is your brand? Knowing your restaurant’s value as a brand is key to evaluating whether a brunch program will be successful at your operation. It will help you determine if brunch addresses a portion of the market that you don’t currently reach and assess whether the consumer demand exists in your area. Keep in mind, often times you can’t simply replicate the same service you offer during lunch and dinner – there needs to be a more casual, upbeat vibe and your brand needs to be able to support that.
Next, and equally as important, is determining if your business can rebound from Saturday service to properly execute Sunday brunch. Will you have the support and commitment of your staff? If not, stop right there… you’re about to leap off of a steep cliff. Without the buy-in of everyone, brunch becomes another obligation for your already overworked staff that will breed negative attitudes that spill into your other areas of service. Make sure you have qualified, dependable cooks, and servers ready and willing to work the brunch shift. If these team members are on-board, brunch can be a hugely successful venture for everyone.
If your staff and market can support brunch, take a closer look at every aspect of your restaurant. Are you operationally sound enough to embark on this endeavor? If not, you may double-down on your ability to lose money. If your business is already suffering during other day parts, then it’s probably not the most opportune time to expand your service into brunch. If you’re stable or successful in other areas, then yes, it should definitely be considered!
Lastly, do some research on your local competitors. Do you think you can create a more compelling brunch experience? That’s a must if you want to play in this space. Otherwise, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Creating a “share-worthy” brunch ambiance and menu will help generate buzz among Millennials and Gen Z who use social media to discover the hottest brunch locations as you get started.
Implementing Brunch Service at Your Restaurant
After you’ve strategized and evaluated that brunch service is the right move, a great place to start when planning your menu is by looking at your inventory. You should not have to bring in more than half the items you plan to serve at brunch – they should already be part of your inventory. Creative cross-utilization is imperative for a successful brunch. Take a look at your lunch and dinner menus and carefully consider how ingredients can be repurposed on your brunch menu. Maines can help you strategize how to keep your menu limited yet specific to best capture your return on investment.
Since a limited menu is best, before adding an item, ask how far will it go in defining your restaurant’s brand. Will it impact only a few of your customers occasionally or all of your customers all the time? If it’s the latter, then this may be a good item for your menu, but otherwise, scrap it. Progressive, contemporary à la carte menus are the way to go during brunch service because you can choose a few items that you know you do really well. A good brunch menu needs to be rooted in the familiar but still deliver a wow factor. Seasonality is an easy way to keep your menu adventurous and to incorporate regional flavors. Be sure to give local farmers credit on your menu to truly market the experience. Customers are also willing to pay a premium for the perceived value that comes along with local and organic foods.
If there is a popular dinner dish that your clientele loves – make a breakfast version of that dish and it should go over equally as well. Customers want to see a mix of both familiar and unfamiliar foods. For example, in a brunch market study by Technomic, standard breakfast meats like bacon, sausage, and ham are the top choice for consumers, but creative egg dishes ranked higher than simple egg dishes. While customers may not be as adventurous during brunch as they are during other day parts, you still need a menu that is large enough to convey abundance and it shouldn’t look the same as the competition’s.
There’s a lot to consider before starting a brunch service from the opportunity in your market, to the readiness of your staff, to menu strategy. Brunch has an extremely broad appeal and can be a real moneymaker if executed carefully, but before going “all in,” you must be sure that it is the right move for your business.
5 Steps to a Successful Brunch Service
1) Keep it Comfortable
Brunch should have a vibe that it can accommodate everyone. Whether it’s the post-church crowd, young professionals, or a family get-together, your brunch service should feel comfortable and not stuffy.
2) Preparation is Key
Getting organized in advance can make your brunch service that much easier. Figure out what can be prepped the night before and make sure you have all the ingredients for each dish so that you don’t get caught off-guard.
3) Proper Time Management
Have your A-team in place to get tables turned quickly and efficiently. Filling coffee, running plates back and forth to the kitchen, and setting tables takes time and these things can’t be done in advance.
4) Find a Flow
Optimize your brunch service by observing your customers. Some like to get in and out and others like to dine and socialize for hours. Find the right flow so that you accommodate all of your customers’ brunch preferences.
5) Management by Menu
A creative menu is important but make sure you keep it simple and focus on what your guests like and grow those areas. Familiar favorites like skillets, breakfast sandwiches, and Bloody Marys are must-haves but you need to differentiate from the competition. Keep and eye on Fresh Ideas for many new ideas to better manage your brunch menu.