Brunch. We love to eat it but hate to work it.
Sure, there are some oddball servers and cooks who actually enjoy coming in on a Sunday morning to grind non-stop for four hours, but they’re about as rare as a double yolk egg. Mostly, staffing brunch can feel like pulling teeth, but it has become an important service in this era. Weekends on Instagram were made for pictures of gorgeous egg dishes and mimosas. And with so many younger consumers working non-traditional hours, brunch can sometimes be their only dining-out experience. You have to give these guests the same knockout service your dinner patrons get to earn repeat business.
Brunch Has Evolved
Brunch was long thought of as a way to get rid of product at the end of the week. But the days of “throw whatever’s from the walk-in into a frittata” are over. That’s not to say there aren’t ways for brunch to put a big band-aid on some of your food cost boo-boos, but today’s guests are more discerning when it comes to their weekend meals.
Today’s brunch menus need to be carefully curated; they should be a focal point rather than an afterthought. With that said, there are a few classics that you can update while still repurposing unused product to create moan-worthy dishes that pad your bottom line.
Your Restaurant’s Brunch Menu Should be Familiar but Unique
Hash may be the quintessential brunch dish. You pretty much can take whatever you want, smash it all together, throw a couple of sunny side up eggs on top of, and watch the orders come flying in. As long as you hold to a central theme, the dish can feel composed and deliberate instead of haphazard. A root vegetable hash built on a base of potatoes, yams, carrots, and other earthy veggies can accommodate a number of other ingredients while thrilling your non meat-eating guests.
Of course, there are plenty of carnivorous ways to build a hash, too. Corned beef hash and other brisket-based dishes have been done to death. Building a dedicated brunch crowd starts with giving people something they can’t get elsewhere. If you have any braised meats on your dinner menu, they can easily find their way to a skillet on the weekend. Short ribs and pulled pork, in particular, will catch your guests’ eyes and captivate their taste buds. House-cured meats like chorizo, linguica, or Porchetta will instantly get people talking about your brunches.
If you really want to knock your guests’ socks off in the summer time, a lobster hash can give them a luxurious ending to their weekend. Combining the meat from the claws, knuckles, and tail with red bliss potatoes, celery, sweet onions, and corn will give you an early morning version of a New England lobster bake.
One of the earliest and most well-known culinary instances of repurposing, French Toast is known in France as pain perdu, or “lost bread.” The dish was originally created as a way to use stale bread and it can serve that same purpose for you. Your possibilities are endless when it comes to this simple dish, starting with the bread itself. Nearly any bread can be turned into a crispy, egg-soaked piece of heaven. Obviously richer breads like brioche and challah will give you a bolder starting point, but even your sourdoughs can make a great French Toast.
What about other bread products that don’t necessarily lend themselves to dipping and frying? Blow your guests away with a bread pudding. Any house pastries like muffins and croissants (and even leftover burger buns) when drenched in an egg mixture with cinnamon, cardamom, and chocolate will transform into a beautifully golden dish combining sweet and savory.
No matter how your bread finds its second life, be sure to use it as a vehicle for any fruit nearing its judgment day too. Sugary berries, poached apples, and lemon curd are all great toppings that can put an exclamation point at the end of your sentence.
As Always, Don’t Forget About Your Brunch Drinks & Cocktails
Now, not all of those fruits and veggies in your walk-in have to end up on a plate. Food is only half the reason people come to brunch, and half might be generous. Mimosas, bloodies, and bellinis are what really get people in the door. Experimenting with flavor combination to build vibrant and unique brunch drinks can lead to a loyal following. Fresh blood orange juice and ginger syrup will easily set your mimosas apart from your rivals, as will caramelized peaches in your bellinis.
Bloody Mary garnishes have become almost a sub-culture in the United States. There are places that will practically serve a three-course meal balanced on the rim of a pint glass in the name of quirkiness. While that trend will hopefully come to an end sooner rather than later, there are creative ways to utilize your product to accentuate your drinks without crossing over to the absurd. You don’t want a cocktail shrimp or a cheeseburger in your drink, but spicy pickled vegetables will never go out of style (or go bad in the walk-in, for that matter).
By putting your own spin on a few classics, while also taking some risks with menu ideas, you can show your brunch guests that you care just as much about catering to them as you do the nighttime crowd. Don’t think of brunch as a chore; see it for the opportunity it is.