Menu focus

Focus on breakfast and brunch: rise and shine?

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

London bar Stories' brunch offer can dictate the rest of the day's trade, says general manager Dan Beyer
London bar Stories' brunch offer can dictate the rest of the day's trade, says general manager Dan Beyer

Related tags: Brunch, Sausage, Full breakfast, London

The first meal of the day is proving to be one of the fastest growing eating out occasions for those running UK pubs. Noli Dinkovski explores the subject of brekkie and brunch  

Separate the offer

Capitalising on the trend for big breakfasts and boozy brunches, London operator Drake & Morgan recently introduced a Sunday brunch offer in six of its eight venues.

According to operations director Dylan Murray, the idea behind the move was to separate the breakfast and brunch occasions.

“Breakfast is an everyday thing, whereas brunch is something special, strictly reserved for weekends when you have time to linger, drink and read the paper,” he believes. “Secondly, we wanted to create a menu where people can get all their favourites all day, whether it’s a steak at 11am or pancakes at 4pm.”

Coinciding with the new offer, the Folly, in the City of London, is currently hosting a Ketel One Vodka Kitchen pop-up. Running until September, the pop-up includes events such as ‘build-your-own-Bloodys’ through to mixology masterclasses. There are also four different Bloody Marys on the brunch menu.

“I’ve seen a lot of buzz about Bloody Marys lately, so I think we’re bang on-trend with the kitchen,” says Murray.

Appreciate the price-point potential

Having recently won the UK’s best breakfast for the second year running, Keith Gurney knows a thing or two about serving up the most important meal of the day.

His restaurant, the Tavern, in Liverpool, serves around 3,500 breakfasts a week – amounting to almost half of its turnover — helping it to become one of the busiest 200-plus cover venues in the city.

“Offering breakfast is a great opportunity to showcase the standards of food and service at a lower price-point and to entice customers to dine in the restaurant more frequently,” Gurney explains.

The winning dish at the British Breakfast Awards 2015 was the Full English Breakfast, which consists of Lincolnshire sausages, two rashers of lean-back bacon, fried egg, black pudding, grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms, baked beans and toast (£6.95).

New additions to the menu include smoked haddock benny with wilted spinach (£7.50), and bananas foster pancakes (£4.50), which Gurney describes as “flying out”. Another highlight is the chorizo scrambler – a combination of scrambled eggs, chorizo, sautéed onions, mushrooms and peppers with fresh chives served with toasted focaccia (£6.95).

“Offer a quality product, as people have realised that breakfast and brunch dining, when done properly, can be so much more,” Gurney advises. “Finally, be prepared to take a hit on your margins.”

Don’t be afraid to innovate

With a concept based entirely on dishes served from hollowed-out bread, it’s little surprise that Bunnychow was crowned Most Innovative Breakfast at the recent British Breakfast Awards.

The London restaurant, which opened last September, was co-founded by Atholl Milton, who was introduced to bunny chow when visiting South Africa – where it is popular.

“A bunny is a hollowed-out loaf of bread that is filled with various South African-inspired sauces and meats,” explains Lyndsay Anderson, who also co founded the business.

Each bunny is priced around £4.50-£5, and Anderson says a full breakfast menu will soon be launched to complement the full English bunny, which was responsible for the award win.

“Our full English bunny – filled with sausage, home-cured bacon, bobotie spiced beans, roasted tomato, mushrooms, homemade black pudding and topped with a fried egg – has become an icon in its own right,” Anderson says.

“The new breakfast menu will include lighter items such as samp porridge, which is made from a traditional South African grain,” she adds.

Get a full house with brunch bingo

When the ETM Group first looked into boosting morning trade at the Well, in London’s Clerkenwell, the company knew it would have to come up with a strong event. And, having just returned after an initial two-month period when it was almost fully-booked, brunch bingo has certainly proved its worth.

“While the brunch menu offer is strong at the Well, footfall in the area is very low in the period prior to lunch,” explains ETM Group marketing co-ordinator Victoria Hassett. “The venue used to do an average of six to eight covers during the Saturday brunch sitting, but this increased to around 42 covers when brunch bingo was held.”

Brunch Bingo Facebook

Two games of bingo are hosted between 11am-1pm on the first Saturday of each month, offering customers the opportunity to win cocktails, shots, and one of two main prizes — a bar tab for £50 or a complimentary meal for two at any ETM venue.

Players can choose from an extensive brunch menu, with Scottish smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (£9), and blueberry buttermilk pancakes with smoked streaky bacon and maple syrup (£10.50) the most popular dishes.

“Londoners are always looking out for something that keeps their dining and socialising experiences fresh and on-trend,” Hassett claims.

“Identifying what isn’t working in your business and replacing it with something innovative can make you stand out in a very crowded restaurant scene,” she adds.

Offer summer surprises

The philosophy at Stories — a bar in Hackney, east London — is that brunch dictates the rest of the day’s trade, so getting the mood right is key.

And while the Mothership Group-owned site offers brunch throughout the year, there will an added focus on seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as cold and warm salads, as the summer approaches.

“Something we are really looking forward to is the Green Breakfast Bowl — soft boiled eggs, asparagus, spinach, parsley and beetroot leaves topped with a herb and spice crumble made up of flaxseeds, wattle seeds, chives, rosemary and thyme,” explains Dan Beyer, general manager at Stories.

According to Beyer, the brunch menu’s staple item is avocado on sourdough toast, with lime, red pepper flakes and watercress salad (£5). “The key to this dish is keeping it fresh, and with no distractions,” he suggests.

Another item proving popular is the bar’s take on Mexican dish huevos rancheros (£7).

“This brunch dish flies out, and with a pulled pork option, we can attract those who are seeking something to soak up last night’s hangover,” Beyer explains.

“We’re also starting to offer a wider variety of vegetarian and vegan options, and we’ve already had some positive feedback,”
he adds.

Make use of back-room space

Part pub-owner, part bakery-owner, Carl Finn was always going to be in a strong position to offer the people of Birmingham a decent breakfast and brunch.

And earlier this year, he decided to marry the best of both businesses by moving the brunch offer from his bakery, Peel & Stone, to the Church – his pub in the city’s Jewellery Quarter.

“We moved our offer, Backroom Brunch, to the Church because we have better facilities at the pub, it’s cosier and we’re able to show classic moviesand TV shows while people are tucking in,” explains Finn, whose company, the Soul Food Project, also owns the Hare & Hounds in the suburbs of Kings Heath.

“Having brunch at the Church means we can make use of our back room and have that part of the pub open two hours earlier on the weekend without affecting the setting up of the main bar,” he adds.

By far the most popular item on the menu, says Finn, is the pulled pork bun with kimchi and drippy cheese (£7), with most customers asking for an egg on top for an extra £1.

“The old marriage of pork and egg is just as too popular to mess with,” he suggests. “Be adventurous, don’t be afraid to try new flavours and ingredients — especially when it comes to spicing up a classic. And, if in doubt, add an egg!”

Cater for the night-before crowd

One proven way to increase breakfast and brunch sales is to target those people who have been out the night before.

Birmingham-based bar operator Bitters ’n’ Twisted has taken just this approach, with a new brunch menu that includes American-style pancakes (£4), croissant d’oeuf (£4) and a breakfast bun (£4.50) across its eight sites. Served between 11am and 3pm, brunch can be washed down with the likes of a Bloody Mary (£5), fresh orange juice (£2.50), or even a Berocca (£1).

“We really want people to sit down for a few hours and come back to life with plenty of food, hot drinks, rejuvenating coolers and Bloody Marys,” explains marketing manager Vicky Liner-Douglas.

“Pancakes are the biggest-seller, whether topped with maple syrup and bacon, or just buttered. Previous menus have included scrambled eggs with avocado and Wiltshire ham stuffed in a croissant — and they’ve gone down a treat too,” she adds.

Prices are kept low on the brunch dishes to encourage customers to add extras to the meal.

“By doing this, you often find that people spend more money than if you charged more in the first place,” Liner-Douglas says.

“My other advice is to make sure you get the food out quickly — there’s nothing worse than a hungry, hungover group left waiting for their food!”

BPEX Cumberland Sandwich

Premium pork products

“The breakfast occasion remains one of the largest drivers of pork product consumption,” says Keith Fisher, butchery and product development manager at BPEX. “Therefore, choosing quality assured and premium varieties of sausage and bacon is an important consideration.”

Fisher says publicans need to view breakfast as a way to tap into a new demographic for their business, which — if done well — could go a long way to convincing breakfast customers to return with their families for a lunch or evening meal.

He adds: “Chefs making more innovative use of quality pork products in ‘breakfast-to-go’ menus will stand out. Aside from the ever popular sandwich — which itself can be premiumised using artisan breads and homemade sauces — sausages and bacon, as well as ham and cured meats, can be used to add flavour, texture and interest to a wide range of dishes.”

Some of the dishes Fisher suggests testing these ideas out with include Spanish omelettes, baked tortillas, savoury filled pancakes, croissants and muffins.

He recommends making brunch a snack-style offer with breakfast-inspired pies, pasties, Scotch eggs and quiches served with a choice of accompaniments. “These have the added benefit of regional interpretations,” he says.

“Operators can maximise interest in local recipes and ingredients as well as promoting them as being ‘home-produced’ wherever possible.”

Related topics: Menu Ideas, Food trends

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