Dubai: After their total eclipse during the lockdown phases, some restaurants are back with the buffet brunch – but with drastic changes in the way it is served up.
The food is shielded behind glass panels and served by chefs with double masks and clear face shields on, as well as the mandatory gloves. In a way, the revised buffet concept is working. But will restaurants be able to push the buffet back to being the volume generator it once was?
“Brunch is not the most profitable business model - but in Dubai where brunch is an institution, it makes it almost mandatory for a venue of the size of ours to offer brunch on Friday,” said David Lescarret, General Manager of Ce La Vi at the Address Sky View Hotel, which serves a 10-course brunch starting from Dh390.
“I personally think that despite the profit being minimal on brunch, due to unlimited house beverages, it still remains a great marketing tool to allow new guests to experience our venue and our cuisine.”
Pandemic imposed menu change
No one should be offering traditional buffets any longer. Both F&B operators and consumers have moved quite some distance away from the traditional buffet set-up.
Chefs are reporting that guests have rejected the buffet approach where large areas of food are on display in the open. Additionally, with people becoming more aware of sustainability will avoid buffets as they are one of the leading causes of food waste at hotels and restaurants.
Restaurants are now preventing food waste - or as much of it as possible - through “controlled buffets”. As a result, a diner still gets the buffet experience, but when someone else is serving, there is less chance of overdoing on the quantity piled up on plates.
Build on the brunch
On the other hand, casual dining concepts with more accessible tariffs like Lucky Voice use the momentum of the brunch hours to fill the venue later in the day. Starting from Dh200 a person for sharing platters, a set menu and unlimited beverages, it’s an attractive option for those who prefer a party vibe.
“The profitability of brunch is much lower than normal service, but there is a definite value in it if you evaluate the whole day’s revenue,” said Tomas Dundulis of Lucky Voice. “It’s a great activation to fill the venue early and manage to pull a good after-brunch crowd.
“What’s missing right now are our karaoke booths, as these are the biggest selling point. But in the meantime, we are doing crowd karaoke.”
Some venues, like Distillery Dubai, have opted to host more than one brunch a week. “Our Friday brunch is doing well, but we made the decision last week to move our Saturday brunch to a Wednesday evening as it wasn't gaining the traction we had hoped for,” said Brian Voelzing, Group Executive Chef of Lincoln Hospitality.
“We introduced a gents' night deal on a Saturday instead. Moving the brunch to Wednesday has increased our sales and it’s performing well so far. I believe with the current market situation, offering something towards the end of the week that is competitively priced is very appealing.” (The Wednesday night brunch at Distillery starts at a wallet-friendly Dh149.)
A beverage-free brunch may sound like an oxymoron to some, but brunches at unlicensed venues, where the focus is more on food, will not have many problems with profitability. Tulum’s chef, Andrés Aguilar-Águila Loustaunau, said: We actually fly all our food in from Mexico each week, so having a brunch means a lot of the food is used up on that day. That’s really what our focus is on.”
Treat it as an event
One entrepreneur even launched a luxury events company - Secret Parties - that works with existing Dubai brunches to enhance the experience. As the name of the company suggests, they enhance brunches with entertainment features.
Throughout the week, these take place at different venues, without ever having to own a space. “For us, brunch has always been a good revenue generator,” said Chris Wright, founder of Secret Parties. “Unfortunately, it’s been tough with our concepts because of restrictions of dancing and distancing with guests. [Even though] the average spend per guest after brunch hasn’t been the same, it has still been profitable.”
Secret Parties’ brunches range from Dh299 up to Dh700 depending on packages and the venue.
With so many brunches around, many will do whatever they can to stand out. Themes, shows and music all help to draw the party starved back.
With the F&B industry going above and beyond to fill up Friday afternoon, why not give the brunch a chance?