Brunch isn’t a no-brainer for restaurants

You’d think every restaurant would cash in on the brunch crowd. Eggs and pancakes aren’t that hard to do, right?

Not so fast. In terms of service, preparation and staffing, brunch can be one of the most complicated meals a restaurant can serve.

Anyone can sympathize with the first reason a restaurant would choose not to offer brunch: the timing. You don’t like getting up early on a weekend after working late and neither do restaurant staffs. That’s why Sherman Outhuok, general manager and co-owner of Thally in Shaw, has not pursued a brunch menu.

“Our staff works late Friday and late Saturday,” he said. “With a small restaurant like this, we have to have the same people back the next day.”

If Thally ultimately ends up serving weekend afternoon meals, Outhuok says they would be more like lunch than brunch, starting later and designed as a pared-down version of the restaurant’s dinner menu.

Brunch is also tricky from a preparation standpoint.

“The items that you serve Saturday and Sunday, you have to really nail it every week. You don’t want any leftovers,” Outhuok said. “Your food costs are a priority you have to think about. You’re ordering food for two days. If something happens, like a snowstorm, you have a lot of unused food.”

Brunch can be less of a moneymaker for restaurants, because diners linger for longer at their tables, according to Mark Kuller, the owner of three Washington restaurants: Proof, Doi Moi and Estadio. Only the latter serves brunch.

“It’s less profitable in the sense that revenue is less,” Kuller said of Estadio’s brunch. “We generate less revenue per hour than we do at dinner.”

Brunch can be more difficult for servers and hosts, too. Instead of pacing diners throughout the course of several hours, the bulk of brunchers arrive between noon and 12:30 and crush the kitchen with simultaneous orders. If those orders are slow to arrive, hungover people can be mean.

“People are hungrier, they’re grumpier,” said Saied Azali, the owner of Perry’s and Mintwood Place. “Five minutes to them is 10 to 15 minutes. You have to make sure you put the food out very fast . . . But an omelette cannot come so fast, a poached egg cannot come so fast. You  have to poach it to order.”

Even though brunch dishes have gotten more exotic, some restaurants have found that brunch is a difficult fit for their cuisine. Kuller said Doi Moi, a Southeast Asian restaurant, is working on opening its patio this spring before it plans to introduce brunch, which may not come until September.

“In a place like Doi Moi, you have to be creative,” Kuller said. “I don’t think people are going to eat spicy curries for brunch.”

Read more: Brunch, the most important meal of the day

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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