This article originally appeared in the Gordon Food Service Foodscape publication.
Brunch is a place where cross-utilization and comfort foods combine. It’s an enticing way to satisfy breakfast lovers and the lunch bunch, calling on a small, easy-to-execute menu of elevated classics.
All-day dining and brunch menus enjoyed popularity before the pandemic. That appetite continued during the past 22 months, according to a 2021 Harris poll. Nearly four in five Americans ate breakfast foods outside of the traditional breakfast meal.
This suggests an opportunity for restaurants to lean back into brunch business, with an eye on creativity, labor capability and ingredient cross-utilization.
“Having 600 items for brunch … those days are gone,” said Gordon Food Service Consulting Chef Nicholas Gonring. “You can have 10 really good brunch items and create a really great value for customers.”
Play with your food
Enhance the experience with brunch innovation. Incorporate global flavors. Surprise guests by swapping out a traditional ingredient. Add a sauce to elevate the dish. It can be accomplished by calling on items used elsewhere on the menu.
“Brunch is an awesome option to take things you serve for lunch and dinner and use them for breakfast,” he said. “You can turn your inventory over faster and customers won’t see any redundancy in presentation because they are so different from your entrée items.”
He reimagined three brunch menu staples—crepes, bennies and bowls—to include global ingredients, zesty sauces and plenty of space to use playful ingredients:
- Dosas. This Indian version of a crepe is made with rice and lentils, providing a tasty vegan option that can be a carrier for many fillings.
- Bennies. Eggs Benedict go Mexican by subbing braised birria meat for the traditional ham. Blend some birria sauce into the hollandaise for a pop of color and flavor.
- Bowls. This versatile menu star takes a healthy twist with rice, grains, legumes, beets and a potato churro, or include eggs (any style) with global condiments.
Set your brunch apart
To make brunch stand out, Gonring urges menu differentiation. “Everybody knows what a crepe is, but a dosa is thinking through things with a global approach—it’s more unique than a crepe, so it sets you apart. But in the end, it’s just a carrier you can fill any way you like and market it as global, healthy, flavorful.”
Don’t let dosas be your only handheld. Brunch burritos are customizable for brunch, and sandwiches can be built using muffins, waffles or pancakes as carriers. All of these can include unique, authentic or seasonal ingredients.
Differentiation doesn’t mean abandoning brunch mainstays. Incorporate the nachos from your appetizer lineup into brunch by adding eggs, bacon or sausage to a pile of chips, cheese, onions, peppers, sour cream, avocado slices and salsa.
This formula calls on ingredients you already stock to create options consumers enjoy. Flavor & The Menu reports breakfast nachos are up 124% on menus over the past four years. Tostadas have shown 72% growth on morning menus.
Brunch with benefits
A well-planned brunch menu helps in other ways. When offered during specific days and times, brunch builds a following. Combined with a Bloody Mary menu, there are bar profit possibilities. Brunch items also can be portable with the right packaging and presentation.
Most of all, you can create an exciting brunch menu and execute it with an eye on making labor more effective. Don’t spend hours peeling potatoes or chopping salad ingredients, Gonring explained, because it doesn’t get noticed by customers.
“If you’re going to invest in labor, do it in a way that comes back to enhancing the dining experience,” he said. “Use your time and labor to make something different. There’s no sense in spending time on thoughtless labor that doesn’t get you ahead of your competitors.”
Ask your Gordon Food Service Sales Representative about operational and culinary strategies, as well as recipes to make your brunch menu stand out.