The Holidays are for Brunching
Easy Ways to Step Up Your Holiday Brunch Game and Beat Competitors
Photo (above): Avenue in Long Branch, N.J.
It can cost $35 a person. Or $60. Or even $125. But when it comes to gathering family for a festive brunch during the holidays, people will pay for a memorable experience. That means you need to think more about how you pull together your brunch between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. It's more than just adding a few extra pastries, but remember not to stretch the boundaries too far that it ends up being unfamiliar.
“Experiment with different flavors up to a point, but try not to over complicate it,” recommends Josh Sauer, executive chef at Avenue in Long Branch, N.J. “When people go out for brunch, they typically crave comfort food, family-oriented food and food that brings you back to your childhood.”
Crosby's Kitchen in Chicago
Attract More Guests with a Brunch Buffet
You can do an a la carte menu, but offering brunch with various stations allows you to charge a set fee and drives in more people during that timeframe.
“In my experience, people love the buffet style because there's something for everyone,” says Dan Harris, executive chef of Ella Elli and Crosby's Kitchen in Chicago. “From a restaurant point of view, you get a higher check average from a buffet. As operators, we have an easier way to get to the end of a busy day for all of us.”
When doing a buffet, you don't need to overflow the tables with food, but make sure you have people in the kitchen constantly preparing more.
“We have assortment, so it looks like we have a lot, but put food in smaller dishes,” says Jeff Vucko, chef de cuisine at Travelle Kitchen + Bar at the Langham Chicago. “We keep replenishing as needed because people eat with their eyes at a buffet. That ensures the quality is there and we're pleasing our clientele.”
Vucko says while they have traditional tables like a seafood station with crab legs, live oyster shucking and a meat-carving station, they also embrace trends like ramen and poke stations, where cooks help guests pull together the perfect bowl.
Travelle Kitchen + Bar at the Langham Chicago
Make the Most out of Seasonal Ingredients, Leftover Thanksgiving Fare
Sauer says Avenue's a la carte menu embraces local seasonal ingredients like apples and pumpkin for pancakes and French toast. And Harris likes to offer a bakery board at Ella Elli with pecan tarts, mini pumpkin pies and doughnut holes made from pumpkin spice or apple cider glaze with cinnamon. “It's a perfect little bite and it resonates with the holiday season,” Harris says.
Thanksgiving also lends a way to not only drive people in for post-turkey day brunch, but helps you get rid of leftover fare while getting creative. Harris uses cornbread or stuffing to make strata for a base in eggs Benedict; uses leftover gravy and turkey meat to make poutine; mixes mashed potatoes with bacon, scallions and egg and fries up potato pancakes; and, of course, spreads a spicy chipotle mayo on bread for that delicious turkey sandwich everyone wants.
Seasonal ingredients also improve your holiday cocktail game. Sauer says Avenue does a ginger-apple martini; spiced pear cocktail and cranberry jalapeño margarita using fresh cranberry jam.