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The Cantonese-American restaurant Bonnie’s is one of the most popular dinner spots in New York City. That remained the case after adding brunch earlier this year, with lines going down the block each weekend morning. So why did owner Calvin Eng eliminate a consistently packed brunch service after just two months?
“It was a logistical nightmare,” Eng told Eater NY.
Adding brunch can be an excellent way for restaurants to drive additional revenue during hours when they are typically closed. But brunch may not be right for every restaurant right away. Here are five ways to avoid the classic pitfalls that can sink a brunch operation, and what to check to see if adding a brunch service is right for your operation.
1. Thoughtful staffing
Weekend brunch services can quickly take a toll on your front- and back-of-house staff if you’re transitioning from a dinner-only operation. Some tips and key things to be mindful of to set your restaurant up for success:
- Doubles and close/open shifts: Sometime working brunch/dinner doubles or doing the quick-turnaround from a late closing shift for dinner into an early opening shift for brunch is necessary, especially if a team member calls out. But making that a consistent aspect of your brunch operation could lead to staff burnout as well as a dip in the quality of your food and service. Before beginning brunch, try building out a mock schedule that works for you and your team, being mindful of having employees available to step in and cover these new shifts. It’s also important to note that in many states, working a double shift will require employees to clock out for a 30-minute break.
- Spreading out desirable shifts: If your brunch shifts are starting out with lower check averages than dinner, consider how you can evenly distribute valuable dinner shifts for your brunch crew to make up the difference, and where your most valuable FOH employees are used best.
- Prep time: Another thing to test out before you get up and running: How much time does your kitchen need to get set up before brunch opens each morning? What about front of house getting the dining room set up? How long will the brunch-to-dinner turnover take, and will you stay open during that time? Answers to these questions will help you nail your scheduling.
- Hiring: Are you overstaffed already or will you need to hire additional team members to make brunch work? Locking in those new employees and training them before opening can help you nail brunch from the start.
2. Cost-saving and space-conscious menu choices
You may be adding a brand new brunch menu, but your walk-in is staying the same size and you still need to be ready for dinner service. Consider which items already on the menu make sense for brunch and what the margins are on those dishes. Is it profitable to serve them all day? Additionally, look into how you can re-work sauces, stocks and other staples across new dishes for brunch, saving you space and prep time for your kitchen team.
3. Alcohol sales and additional revenue opportunities
If your dinner operation relies on alcohol sales to drive high check averages, expect the same at brunch. Do you need to create a new brunch-centric cocktail menu? How are you marketing the drinking experience to go along with the food? Brunch margins can be finicky, so ensuring you have revenue coming in outside of food sales — while keep food costs down — can be essential to brunch success.
4. Careful monitoring of analytics
Are you spending tons of prep time on a dish that isn’t selling? Despite opening at 10:30am, does business not pick up until noon? Are sales low in the afternoon before dinner service begins?
These are the kinds of questions to monitor as you find the right way to fit brunch at your restaurant. It will take some time and fine-tuning. Thankfully, Square Dashboard can help, with a complete picture of your brunch services and how it’s affecting the rest of your sales.
5. Consider the whole operation
Even if customers snatch up reservations and love the experience, it’s important to make sure you’re setting your team up to thrive long-term. A key piece to the puzzle there: Making sure you have the right tools to keep all of your orders and energy flowing. Learn how Square empowers restaurant owners to feed restaurant lovers at all hours.