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The Bacon Diaries: Making Brunch Work For You.

Well, the groundhog didn’t see his shadow, and that can only mean one thing: it’s time to start planning for springtime! (Praise the Lord: I am sick and tired of this cold and gray nonsense.) One of my favorite things to do in the spring and summer is to stake out a café (ideally one with a sun-drenched patio and charming jazz band) and make it my official home for lazy Sunday brunches.

As a restaurant professional, I suspect that you have fairly strong feelings on the subject of brunch: you either love it or you hate it. I get it. Once upon a time, I was a line cook, and as a line cook, I hated brunch. After a full week of late nights, you expect me to be at the restaurant at what time?? To make. . . scrambled eggs and bacon?? I truly believed I would always feel that way, but I’ve aged out of my old line cook position, and I finally understand why offering brunch is a no-brainer. It is the most cost-effective meal a restaurant can provide, customers adore it, and it only lasts for a few hours. Whether you are creating a brand new brunch concept or looking for ways to improve upon the one you’ve already got, I’ve compiled a list of pointers to help you on your way:

  1. Be Creative: In no way does brunch have to mean boring. Think about it: you get to straddle the line between breakfast and lunch: anything goes! Sure, the basics might remain relatively constant, but the variations are virtually endless. Encourage your staff to think outside the box and I promise that you and your guests will be thrilled with the results.
  2. Be true to yourself: it’s always important to incorporate your restaurant’s general theme into your brunch menu. If, for example, you are operating a chic little French bistro, offering an array of crepes would compliment your theme, while setting you apart. Conversely, adding a breakfast burrito to your menu would seem utterly out of place. Get it?
  3. Don’t forget drinks: Surprise! Most people love brunch: not for the Eggs Benedict, but for the booze. As you know, restaurants that serve alcohol make a majority of their profit on drinks sales rather than on food. Brunch is also the one time that people feel perfectly free to order drinks before noon and not feel like complete degenerates. Brunch is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of these facts. Your bartenders will appreciate the opportunity to come up with new cocktails, and it’s a great way to give their enthusiasm a boost.
  4. Advertise!: Mother’s Day and Easter are going to be here before you know it, and for restaurants who serve brunch, these holidays are virtual gold mines. But, no one will know about your incredible new menu unless you get the word out!
  5. Reward your staff: Let’s face it: brunch is hard on your team. Most of them probably worked late (for you) the night before, and for brunch they have to get up extra early to deal with toddlers, old folks, and the dreaded egg-white omelet. Find ways to let them know how much you appreciate them. A box of doughnuts and a pat on the back is really all it takes, but you may find that your new menu is so profitable that you can actually afford to give your staff a little pay bump on days that they work the brunch shift. If that doesn’t say “thank-you,” I don’t know what does!

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you serve brunch? Does your staff hate it, or have you found ways to make it more enjoyable for them? Have you found, like many, that brunch is your most profitable meal of the week? Please feel free to leave a comment below.