Arguably the most important meal of the day for both health and also business reasons, John Wood looks at some key points to consider if you are currently, or are planning to serve breakfast within your establishment. Getting it right, could mean a profitable breakfast time for your business.
What does breakfast mean for your business?Hotels typically will either have a ‘breakfast chef’ who is not one of the strongest culinary-skilled cooks in the brigade, or the shift is swapped around in the kitchen so there is a different person each week. There is usually very little attention to this meal period and normally no senior member of the kitchen team starts his or her shift until this meal period is over. As a chef when I started at a new hotel the first meal period I addressed was breakfast as it was always the one that needed the most attention. Customers will judge a hotel’s Food and Beverage offering on their breakfast and most of the hotel’s guests will experience this meal period more than any other you offer. Studies have shown that guests are usually at their most critical in the morning, the palate needs something good to start the day with and guests are not normally in their best moods. Guests that are choosing between 1-2 hotels that are similar in cost and offering will normally be persuaded by the quality and the choice you offer at breakfast. Give them a bad breakfast and they will not come back. Especially with city hotels there is a danger that many of your guests may choose not to take your breakfast and wander to the nearest branded coffee chain, therefore it is more critical that you not only offer a superb and interesting offering, but also that the price point is right to encourage customers to stay with you. Even when you have a captive audience and most of your customers will take breakfast you still need to review, upgrade and modernise your breakfast offering on a regular basis. Even to ensure your customers are getting a varied, creative and exciting breakfast to make them come back and stay with you next time. Breakfast helps drive room sales!
Cooking a great breakfastMost of your guests will be able to cook a decent breakfast so to stand out you need to do something special and cook each of those items extremely well. Therefore your breakfast chefs need to be exceptionally well trained and educated on how to deliver a great breakfast offering from simply frying, poaching or boiling an egg CORRECTLY, to making more complicated dishes like Kedgeree, Omelets, Corned beef hash. Raymond Blanc famously asked chefs when they wanted a job with him to fry an egg. Frying an egg with passion and ensuring the white is just set and the yellow is runny without the egg being fried crispy on the base and with a little salt ONLY on the white would tell him he had a passionate skilled chef in front of him. Try it – ask all your chefs to fry an egg for you…you will be surprised! Even more interesting is to see how many of your chefs can make an omelet!
Breakfast is breakfast isn’t it?I spend over 150 nights a year in hotels and the breakfast offering can be really varied in both quality of product, execution, menu creativity and choice – even at 4 & 5 star hotel level. However more often than not I am disappointed in the offering. There are 3 main areas that chefs need to pay attention to:
- Execution: as mentioned culinary skills are usually very low in this area and training needs to be addressed in basic cooking, presentation, seasoning and general care.
- Innovation and choice: there are some fundamental basics that are going to be expected which you will need to offer, but nowadays even most motorway/highway service stations offer this. You need to consider healthy and interesting offerings that set you apart from everyone else.
- Know your customer: this will vary not only weekly and seasonally but in some cases this will change daily. As a chef you need to know who your customers are and when they change. This does not mean that you have to change your offering everyday, but ensure that you offer a wide enough choice to satisfy your entire customer base. However if there is a time when you have lots of families and children staying with you, you may wish to offer a children’s breakfast.
Be smartRather than just making your breakfast menu bigger and having more work and more mis en place (Prep) to do, think about your other menus that you offer during the day and using some of these ingredients and prep to create new dishes. Also consider developing dishes for breakfast that elements can be used on your daytime menus.
- Fruit juice blends with other items such as honey, vanilla, almond essence, goji berries, vegetable/fruit juice blends, herbs and spices.
- Smoothies with use of super-foods healthy berries, spices and seasonal fruits.
- Fruit salad with varied dressings such as orange, pomegranate, passion fruit, mint, vanilla, coconut water…
- Blend your own yoghurts with fruits and flavourings, syrups and purees.
- Roast your own granola, cereals, nuts.
- Infuse honeys with nuts, berries, herbs, spices, offer honeycomb.
- Flavour or stuff thick cut French toast with flavours through your egg mix.
- Offer different breads to toast, banana bread, muesli bread, sour doughs.
- Look at interesting international breakfast dishes ( e.g Kedgeree, Huevos Rancheros, Thick buttermilk coconut pancakes, coddled eggs, Poor Knights of Windsor, fried eggs with tomato salsa)
- Warm filled croissants, warm breakfast sandwiches, breakfast wraps toasted
- Breakfast bread and butter pudding, deep-fried soft-boiled eggs, Full breakfast omelets, breakfast burgers and vegetarian breakfast items.
- Consider Gluten-free, soy milk, and nut free dishes as dietary intolerances are on the increase and many people are choosing to eat this way for health reasons.
- Make your own fruit compotes, they are very easy to make and have a good shelf life. Put a little twist into them to make it more personal ( e.g summer berry/ mint and orange, plum and almond/ prune, earl grey tea and lemon/ Rhubarb, ginger and apricot, orange and beetroot…)
- Review where your customers are from – if you have a delegate group in from Japan offer Japanese pickles, steamed rice and miso soup for them (they will really appreciate the gesture).
Don’t be obsessed with how much you sellWith some of your new items, do not just remove them if they do not sell well as there is a level of encouraging and training your service staff to get customers to try some of these items. It is also about positioning yourself as an interesting and innovative food and beverage operation. You will still sell mostly the key breakfast items, but guests will recognise that you are different and appreciate the effort you have made. We used to get great feedback from all our innovative items we had on the menu from guests, hotel inspectors and regular guests, especially people that stayed in hotels a lot, but our main sales were still the fundamentals, but they were cooked with more care and skill and presented better. Go on – take your breakfast to a whole new level and pay as much attention to it as you do the rest of your menus, if not more!
- Improve skill levels on breakfast
- Good breakfast drives room sales
- Know your customer
- Be brave and INNOVATE
- Serve good quality products – customers know the difference now
- Train and educate service staff.