Industry Trends

The Revolution of Brunch in NYC

By Antasha Solomon

Illustration of diners raising brunch foods into the air

New York City brunch is a weekend rite of passage for people from all walks of life, including nocturnal prowlers, starving artists, and sleep-deprived parents in search of alcohol-induced, daytime-approved escapades.

Brunch in the Big Apple has gone through a Darwinian evolution. It has transformed from simple egg-based breakfast dishes (que Eggs Benedict) to complex, multi-ingredient masterpieces like bacon seared duck confit Belgian waffles served with an oyster and shrimp Bloody Mary.

Times have changed and restaurateurs and chefs have embraced brunch in order to increase profits and grow their customer base.

A Shift Away from the Norm

Traditionally, brunch menus have featured simplistic breakfast-meets-lunch blends such as egg-based dishes, pancakes and waffles, fruit, greens, pastries and burgers. These dishes, alongside a plethora of caffeine, juice, and booze have been the brunch narrative for years. But, a shift began to take place when chefs and restaurateurs realized they needed to get creative with brunch items in order to increase turnout at brunch and entice chefs to work early mornings.

Why Has Brunch Become Such a Big Deal?

Running a restaurant in New York City is really expensive. If restaurants here don’t make a profit of at least 10% they will be forced to close their doors. And this isn’t an easy feat; between rising labor costs, expensive real estate, and higher food costs, a lot of independent restaurants struggle to get by.

In fact, only three out of ten restaurants will survive their first three years of business in this city, so chefs and restaurateurs are developing more interesting and creative brunch menus to entice customers into their venues during previously slow times – Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Why Customers Love Brunch

New Yorkers love brunch because it represents a rare time where the overall focus of life is based on slowing down, sharing stories and relaxing. Here in the city, brunch is arguably the trendiest meal around. Publications such as The New York TimesEaterThe Huffington PostThrillist and thousands of foodies dedicate articles, social media posts and hashtags to brunch regularly – namely, what’s new, what’s trendy, and what’s hot on the brunch scene.

Who’s Doing It?

At David Chang’s famed Momofuku Ssam Bar, brunchers are served lettuce-wrapped pork ribs with a side of Kimchi in place of a traditional egg sandwich. Hold the Bloody Mary and instead pair the wrap with a ginger and basil-infused beer.

Josh Capon’s Lure Fish Bar serves Mahi Mahi tacos with a side of lobster mac and cheese. Oh, and sushi – lots and lots of sushi.

David Burke’s Kitchen, which boasts a high-end, mouthwatering brunch menu complete with upscale twists on classic dishes. Brunchers can start with a caviar and tots appetizer topped with herbed sour cream and finish with pork belly, oven-baked eggs and vegetable hash.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

The newly implemented Brunch Bill was signed into effect by Governor Andrew Cuomo on September 7th. This means that restaurants are now permitted to serve alcohol at 10 a.m. – that’s two hours earlier than previously allowed. Three cheers to that!

Another benefit of inventive brunch menus is the ability for restaurants to lessen their food waste and therefore save money by utilizing bits of food that would have otherwise been discarded. For example, vegetable and meat ends can be cooked into sauces and served on top of a new egg dish or as part of a brunch special.

Of course, like all things, brunch will continue to evolve as the demand and market shifts. But one things is for sure: this leisurely weekend meal presents an excellent opportunity for chefs to experiment and create new masterpieces impacting the restaurant’s bottom line in a positive way.

Love brunch?

Photo of Antasha Solomon
by Antasha Solomon

Antasha is a Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she spends her days advising restaurateurs on their point of sale systems and her nights writing hospitality-related content. A veteran bartender and server, Antasha enjoys bringing her industry experiences to life through blogging. Her three-year-old son and BFF, Elijah, is her self-proclaimed muse for all things creative.

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