How To Overhaul Your Brunch

Many great restaurants around the world suffer from a lackluster Sunday brunch. As much as any facet of this business, brunch results tend to be about habits that are beyond the control of the operator. Brunch attendance tends to be about habit, convenience, and where friends or family members like to go. Brunch is less tied to schedule demands than any other meal. Decisions about where to have brunch tend to be equally casual. Brunch is often about just getting out of the house or recovering from a weekend, instead of having a great meal at a great price.

This is enough to make operators everywhere throw up their hands in frustration. It can be impossible to create a great brunch that is met with the enthusiasm it deserves. But this shouldn’t deter anyone from overhauling their brunch by using a few tried-and-true rules to guide the operation.


The brunch presentation must follow the formula used by your local Panera or any traditional bakery – there has to be an over-abundance of options. The brunch table should appear brimming with baked goods, fresh fruit, breakfast standards, lunch entrees, and mouth-watering desserts. This means half-full hotel pans get changed out and nibbled-at fruit trays get replaced as quickly as possible.

This is much easier said than done, and is why many brunch operators throw in the towel. A well-executed brunch knows that the secret ingredient is energy, and that energy level has to be the same five minutes before closing as it is five minutes before opening. Stop reading now if this sounds impossible. In reality, it’s not.

Make it Look Great

A profitable brunch requires some start-up, brunch-specific expenses to make it look great. This includes high-quality chafing dishes, cast iron display towers and eye-catching trays. A quality brunch varies the eye level with cans and boxes beneath linen table cloths and has at least one centerpiece. This could be a…

• Watermelon basket
• Chocolate fondue fountain
• Champagne glass pyramid
• Carving station
• Floral arrangement

Simple tricks can keep the buffet aesthetically pleasing, such as staggering chafing dishes, varying the colors of the fruit and desserts, and placing name cards around items that use fancy fonts and colors. Anything that varies the eye level and keeps guests surprised contributes to the look and feel of a great buffet.

Reduce the Price

Sure, it’s sacrilegious to consider. But overhauling brunch is about getting bodies in the seats, not about the bottom line. Think of brunch as a chance to reach new guests. Guests who love brunch are much more likely to come back for lunch or dinner, and a full dining room is inviting to prospective customers. Reducing the buffet price also improves the chance that too much will have to be discarded at the end of service.

One great way to accept a lower price without destroying food cost is to lower costs by making all desserts in-house and using cheap proteins and weekend leftovers.

Advertise it

Many great brunches start with prolific in-house advertising, using…

• Table tents
• Bathroom wall ads
• Email blasts
• Manager-issued coupons
• Easel displays
• Poster board ads

A brunch that really escalates usually has to be the pet project of the management team. Managers talk it up to guests, give away discounts, and get the message out in every way possible. A little extra signage out front can really make an impact.

Don’t Give Up

We all know that success in this business takes plenty of time, and success at brunch is no different. Doing all the right things is no guarantee that brunch fortunes will turn around. However, it is usually the right step to take before packing it in and watching football every Sunday.

A great brunch is worth the investment because it keeps people coming back. Good brunch habits die hard, so building a strong local following can reap great long-term rewards. A reliably great buffet is a tremendous way to cap a busy week, and maximize those weekly revenue numbers.