Not Just a Millennial Thing: The History of Brunch
Brunch isn’t just a millennial movement, even though they’re one of the target demographics. “Brunch culture” is trendy in larger cities like New York and Chicago; and smaller college towns. Brunch isn’t a new concept, per se, but the ideas of combining alcohol and breakfast foods are relatively new. At the most basic level, brunch is a bonding ritual or social pastime that helps to revive the “art of conversation.” Whether you participate in brunch or not, it’s a trend that’s growing increasingly popular. The history of brunch reveals that its serious business for your restaurant.
The History of Brunch
In modern times, brunch is a social gathering opportunity for young adults, families, and college students. But brunch wasn’t always like this. Initially, brunch was an opportunity for college-aged men to gather when they woke up late. During prohibition, brunch was an activity that people held inside their homes. Since drinking alcohol was prohibited, it wasn’t uncommon for hosts to mix the alcohol with juice and to create concoctions, which helped easily disguise the alcohol.
Today’s concept of brunch began slowly, the social factor has always been present, but brunch didn’t exist as a movement until the 1980s and then became mainstream as a “culture” in 2015. Today, you often see restaurants advertising brunch specials, which includes a package deal of breakfast food and bottomless or extremely discounted alcohol. Since consumer demand is shifting towards paying for social and memorable experiences instead of clothes and other materials, restaurants will benefit from considering serving brunch.
What’s the Deal with Brunch?
Brunch, like any issue, has two sides: those against it and those that support it. One of the first arguments for brunch came from Guy Beringer in 1985 when he wrote the article “Brunch: A Plea” in an 1895 issue of Hunter’s Weekly. In this writing, he argued for a meal served on Sundays between breakfast and lunch to make “life brighter for Saturday night carousers.”
Moving from that initial supportive argument and taking it at its foundation, brunch is a meal that provided another communal dining experience and gave diners the option to gather with friends during the day and participate in activities that would usually only happen at night and on weekends. Customers can have breakfast options and drink with enough time to recover from the outing with less of a chance of adverse effects the next day.
On the other side of the brunch story, some parties don’t see the point. For some, brunch isn’t as life-changing as Instagram, and others may have you believe. Brunch could be bad for your health in many ways, including:
- Skipping breakfast to save room for brunch may be bad for your health, increasing risks for obesity and heart issues
- Skipping breakfast can also lead to feeling “hangry” or experiencing feelings of fatigue and mood swings
- The brunch of today can come across as decadent. The drinks and food can get expensive if brunch is an activity that one participates in often as the drinks and food are overpriced
Of course, the decision about brunch is yours to make, whether consumer or restauranteur, you decide what works for you.
So, To Brunch or Not to Brunch?
From an operator’s perspective, brunch might create another channel of revenue for your restaurant. Consider a few things:
- 71% of Americans wish restaurants served breakfast all-day
- 87% of millennials will splurge on a nice meal
- 5% fewer adults eat breakfast during the week
- Per Technomic, 22% of consumers are more likely to visit full-service restaurants during the day
- 38% of diners between 18 and 34 enjoy eating breakfast foods that are associated with lunch or dinner
These consumer statistics may not sway you to serve brunch at your restaurant but consider the operations side.
On the one hand, offering breakfast hours can increase labor and food costs, mainly because there’s not a specific window in which to serve breakfast to customers. However, offering food that doesn’t cost the operator much, like eggs, and then selling those items at a higher price to customers can help make up the difference and increase revenue.
When it comes to brunch, or any menu really, customers are looking for a breakfast spin on traditional menu items available for lunch and dinner or brunch deals (boozy or otherwise). Remember, different ideas will work for various restaurants. Consider your traffic and customer demographics.
The Brunchier Picture
What the history of brunch tells us is that it’s a trend that is here to stay. Going out earlier for meals during the day has increased over the years. If brunch is an option for your restaurant, how can you draw customers? Consider using restaurant brunch strategies like creating an environment based on the seasons, live music acts, and unique cocktails. And remember, brunch isn’t only for millennials anymore.
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About the Author
Devyn Nance is the Marketing Coordinator at QSR Automations. She graduated from the University of Louisville with a bachelor’s degree in Communication and from Loyola University Chicago with a master’s degree in Global Strategic Communication. She considers herself an (amateur) profiler – trained solely from watching every episode of Criminal Minds. Outside of work, Devyn loves to shop, travel, hang out with friends and family, read, and watch shows on various streaming platforms.