If you live or work in a city and belong to a certain class, brunch is a familiar ritual. The eggs benedict, the mimosas, the weird takes on biscuits and gravy or granola… Brunch is expensive, but it’s also something that’s kind of, well, omnipresent.
I recently came across an interesting book. Canadian author Shawn Micallef wrote a new title called The Trouble With Brunch that’s all about how brunch ties into social status and leisure.
That’s just a fancy way of saying that lots of people use brunch as an excuse to spend a weekend afternoon with friends at a restaurant, and are happy to pay lots of money for the pleasure.
Brunch And Sundays
Except for there being cars around, it was like this pre-modernity, where commerce didn’t happen on Sunday.
But of course we find this brunch place, because it was in the guidebook. You could see a block away that it had all the tropes of a North American brunch, with the lineup and the well-dressed hipster-type people. I reluctantly went on that walk that day, because the person I was with really wanted to go, and I was like, okay. And I’m so glad I went because it made a chapter in the book. I think many people would call brunch in that part of Buenos Aires — Palermo I think it was, Palermo Soho, which is the hip neighborhood of Buenos Aires — as being the authentic Buenos Aires. But it was as authentic as the Starbucks in Buenos Aires was. It almost matched — the elements matched North American brunches.
There’s a point there: Brunch is almost a ritual. If you go to brunch, there are certain elements that are expected (Alcoholic drinks, a primarily breakfast item-based menu, a handful of lunch items thrown in for balance) and a template restaurants skew to. The brunch experience, honestly, isn’t too different from Buenos Aires to New York to Berlin. Or in Minneapolis, for that matter.
How To Save Money At Brunch
Brunch is also expensive. At restaurants, brunch items are typically more expensive than they would be during breakfast. You also pay more money to drink with friends at brunch in a restaurant than you would at home or a bar.
Here are a few tips on saving money when getting brunch at restaurants:
- Avoid hashes or things like steak salads: They’re how restaurants reuse meats and vegetables left over from prep for the previous night’s meal service.
- Avoid pastry or bread-centric items: That delicious croissant? Brothers and sisters, you can buy it much more cheaply at the bakery down the street. As a matter of fact, the restaurant probably did too.
- Go for the most cooking-intensive dishes: Complicated, fancy-sounding dishes on the brunch menu? Odds are that’s the restaurant selling a dish they’re trying to promote at a lower price point at brunch in hopes you’ll come back for dinner. Do it.
- Skip the alcohol: Restaurants make most of their brunch margin from drinks like bloody marys, mimosas, bellinis, and greyhounds. Get that gin and tonic at a bar with friends instead; it’ll be cheaper.
- Or… just go all you can drink: If you see an all-you-can-drink brunch special at a restaurant, that’s a loss leader they’re offering to get you in the door. Loss leaders are your friends, but be forewarned: Restaurants usually include less alcohol in their all-you-can-drink drinks than in typical drinks ordered from servers; it’s that whole loss leader thing again.
- Brunch prices are typically lower than dinner services for restaurants. If you’re choosing the brunch restaurant, consider it an opportunity to try out a restaurant that would be a financial stretch for dinner (But, you know, isn’t for brunch).
Why Restaurants Love Brunch
Restaurateurs love brunch because, in many markets, it makes sense to them. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, high-end Chicago restaurants typically make 3% more profit yield on brunches versus dinner. This is because diners are more likely to order alcoholic drinks (which make more money for restaurants) at brunch, and because brunch items typically reuse ingredients sitting around from the prior day’s lunch and dinner services.
Tables turn around at brunch more quickly than at leisurely dinners as well, which is one more reason why restaurants love them.
I thought an interesting perspective from the restaurateur’s side showed up in Restaurant Hospitality, a trade magazine. Here is what Paul Fehribach of Chicago southern restaurant Big Jones had to say:
Many do brunch to bring in some extra money. If you staff it sparsely to protect margins in the early stages of a brunch promotion, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot because people want efficient, quick service. If you don’t deliver from the get-go, it won’t work for the long haul.
The other key is menu—people love lots of choices, but you have to be careful not to look like everyone else, yet you can’t do food that’s too strange because people aren’t super adventurous at brunch. You need a menu that is large enough to convey abundance and a staff large enough to execute it.
In other words, brunch is a science. Restaurants do brunch services in a particular way to get a particular set of results–squeezing extra money out of a storefront that would otherwise be empty.
So What Does This All Mean, Anyway?
Almost Millions’ philosophy is centered around one thing: Having fun with your life, while not being a miser. We’re not going to suggest skipping brunches or restaurant meals altogether if you have money to pay for them. That’d be stupid.
But when you do go out to brunch: Be smart about it.
Loveless egg benedicts at an over-crowded cafe with a surly waitress and weak coffee is the worst thing in the world. But using brunch as an excuse to save money eating at a high-end restaurant and to order the items you always wanted to try? Go for it.
And save a bloody mary for us.