We're considering doing a la carte brunch on Sundays with good execution and quality with minimal waste. There is another restaurant a few towns over who have been killing an a la carte brunch for a number of years. A much different set up than us (they're a much busier stand alone restaurant in a great location, we're an inn in the boondocks but both of us have good reputations and talented kitchens) but we feel as though if someone else in the area is doing it successfully so can we.
We've done a Sunday buffet brunch for 21 years with mostly break-even results. Guests were accepted by walk-ins or reservation, but most were walk-ins. Inconsistency was the biggest issue. Some Sundays 8 guests would show up, another Sunday we'd do over 90. Of course with a buffet we need to prep, staff and order expecting a busy brunch everytime when obviously this was not the case more often than not. When we'd staff/prep/order low expecting another slow brunch we would get hammered and a sh*t show ensued, EVERY time. The owners would of course tear kitchen management a new one on Monday meetings when things didn't go smoothly. It was a constant catch 22.
Because of these reasons, brunch buffets were cancelled altogether 2 years ago with the exception of functions and this has worked out much better. Some Sundays we have one small function, some Sundays none at all and others a sizeable function for 40+. Staffing, preparing and ordering are much more accurate when we know exactly what we're looking at with a BEO as opposed to the previous buffet brunch. Everyone is happy at this point.
Now, new management wants to attract more customers in greater numbers, they suggested a buffet and we told them why it was a problem and shockingly, they listened. We've settled on a la carte brunch were the quality and creativity will reflect the same product we put out for dinner service (the previous buffet brunch didn't reflect our standards at all, but what buffet does anyways?). We're actually excited about the concept since a flat top has been added, menu items are being tested (ricotta pancakes with poached figs, truffled omelette with local eggs, carbonara with sous-vide egg and house cured pork belly among other tasty things) and everything seems positive so far. Marketing will be new and heavy for the the brunch which we're thinking of launching around Christmas time.
We are hoping when word gets around coupled with the increased quality we can get reliable numbers every Sunday and execute the way we need to just as if it were dinner service. Does anyone have some thoughts or similar experiences?