Balancing Brunch Menus

By | February 22nd, 2017

Whether it’s a special event or a monthly occasion, clubs are now featuring a variety of classic and modern dishes for the breakfast-lunch combination.

gyros-breakfast-skilletAs club dining skews more casual, brunch has also evolved into a bold and boozy, less-formal dining occasion. Fittingly, menus for meals designed for this breakfast-lunch combination now feature modern spins on classic fare, sided by traditional dishes, to satisfy all cravings.

At Innis Arden Golf Club (Greenwich, Conn.), which does more than $3 million in annual F&B and serves up a number of special-occasion brunches throughout the year to its more than 1,200 members, menus include seasonal dishes alongside more common morning foods.

“We try to offer a lot of variety, so a member looking for something traditional can find it,” says Executive Chef Kevin Patrick Sullivan. “But we also try to have something new, too.

“For example, our caprese salad is really popular,” Sullivan explains. “So we serve it near a more modern dish like a wheat berry salad made with walnuts and cranberries, or a butter lettuce salad made with Marcona almonds, sundried cherries, and apples.”

Sullivan also offers twists on classics. In his version of eggs Benedict, he swaps in applewood-smoked bacon for the usual Canadian bacon, because he prefers its rich flavor and crisp texture. “It’s still familiar, but it’s slightly different—better even,” he says.

Even with new and inventive dishes, typical brunch foods abound at Innis Arden GC with carving stations, made-to-order omelets, waffles, pancakes, pastries and desserts.

“You don’t want to eliminate any cornerstone brunch foods,” says Sullivan, who has been with the club for 21 years. “But you can subtly introduce new dishes like a fish of the day or a pasta that might pique members’ interest and push them a little outside their comfort zone.”

To make the meal run smoothly, brunch prep at Innis Arden starts three days in advance, because the staff knows there will be very little prep time on the morning before it’s served.

“We’re like a floating duck,” says Sullivan, “It’s smooth and serene out front, but in the back of the house we’re paddling like crazy.”

The biggest challenge, he adds, is the amount of members who show up at the exact same time.

“There is only so much real estate, so we have to make sure we’re constantly refreshing, preparing and replacing,” Sullivan says, noting that dishes are served on a buffet, family-style. “Members eat with their eyes, so it’s important that all of our dishes, especially the ones that might be new, look appetizing and delicious.”

For Smoke Rise Country Club (Stone Mountain, Ga.), brunch had been a weekly occurrence for years. But the club’s new General Manager, Robert Sabat, now sees more potential if the club shifts to a monthly brunch schedule, with events featuring a greater variety of dishes that are both new and traditional.

“Years ago, the club offered a big monthly brunch, and members begged for it to become weekly,” Sabat explains. “As the novelty of the weekly event wore off, participation declined. Instead of reevaluating, the club scaled back the menu until consistency wavered, and members simply didn’t trust that the value would be there.”

Depending on the season, participation ran anywhere between 30 and 60 covers each week. Going forward into the new year, Sabat and Smoke Rise’s Executive Chef, Alex Monsalve, plan to leverage brunch as an occasion, to drive member usage and increase satisfaction.

“Making brunch special again will require a lot of work,” says Sabat. “But we need to earn back our members’ trust by consistently offering outstanding food and service. We’ll do that during our monthly brunches through engaging, chef-manned action stations; seasonal and fresh menus; and family-focused accents, like a dedicated kids’ buffet.”

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