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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Managing Sunday Brunch

The number one decision in managing your Sunday Brunch operation is the size of the staff for a given forecast. The staffing should include one or more people at the host stand. If your patrons know each other, you should consider seating people close to one another by opening zones in your dining room. Dining patrons will tend to spend more time in conversations thereby giving their digestive system ample time to send the "I'm full!" signal.

Generally, people will behave differently around their friends and neighbors vs. a crowd of strangers. There are no statistics to back me up but I think they will eat somewhat less if they are surrounded by people they know.

You will also staff the food stations and the dining room. In the dining room, the number of servers will be significantly lower than a typical dinner shift. Most of the service will involve drinks and condiments. One area you should adequately staff are the stations with meat and seafood selections. If you are comfortable letting patrons empty your pans of bacon and sausage, you should at least consider someone who can portion roasts and grilled items.

Some restaurants have a featured item which requires a ticket. Generally, the serving size for this one-time item is generous. The theory is twofold. First, the patron is limited to one generous portion. They will tend to build their experience around this menu item. Second, the portion is generous and will help limit consumption of other menu items.

When we were traveling with my first employer after college, our group always hit a great brunch in a hotel on Sundays. We were allowed to stay on the road vs. flying back home on the weekend. We were loyal to a hotel brunch with three drawing cards: fresh baked rolls, a great salad bar and prime rib (one serving per patron). None of us ever had any room for bacon and sausage. We paid at least 25% more than the local competition charged for the fresh baked goods and the large portion of perfectly cooked prime rib.

I'd recommend a baker in the kitchen if the volume justifies the expense. These pros can put people in your seats. Since many bakers work at night proofing the dough, you could finish the bread and rolls during the shift.

Clearing plates from the table seems to be art form many brunch operators have mastered. If someone is around to offer coffee and suggest a fresh pastry, you could save the expense of seconds at the meat and seafood stations. Placing pastries in conspicuous niches helps to get guests discussing dessert before they even begin their meals. The cost of a coffee and a slice of cake is lower than seconds on shellfish and steak.

Finally, I recommend costing each pan or plate sent from the kitchen. You need to know the cost per serving ahead of time in order to properly orchestrate the brunch in the dining room. If you have a main draw with terrific fresh baked goods, you can still charge a premium and save on mass consumption of ancillary items.

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