Dining All Day

Lately I’ve been noticing that some of the most popular new restaurants in town are keeping their doors open morning, noon, and night—the better to function as neighborhood gathering spots whenever customers are hungry or thirsty, from college students to shoppers to local office workers. They may serve the same menu all day—a day-to-night roster of on-trend breakfast items, grain bowls, sandwiches, pizza, and seasonal entrée specials—or a carefully curated selection that ebbs and flows throughout the day, but they’re designed to serve all comers, throughout all dayparts.

According to Datassential, consumers—especially Millennials and Generation Z—are eating and drinking away from home throughout the day, from early morning (before breakfast) to late at night, from lighter snacks to full meals.

Food and beverage venues with continuous service tap into the consumer’s increasingly busy lifestyle. This all-day approach often means that patrons can more easily customize the dining experience they want to have, including the option of taking a healthier approach to portion sizes. Vegan, vegetarian, and plant-forward items add to the flexibility, along with choices for those who are paying attention to gluten and other dietary issues.

In addition, all-day menus can also help operators maximize profits while serving casual, and often less pricey, food. In fact, a single all-day menu can be a godsend for the operator. If you can pull it off in terms of consistent traffic, daylong service is great for productivity and product usage, menu costing, waste control, and staffing and training.

Unlike the all-day diners of the past, however, these new-generation venues aren’t offering 40 or 50 different items, from Greek omelets to lasagna to fish and chips. Instead, the menu is focused on a dozen or so carefully edited specialties, executed perfectly, with themes and variations that make them appropriate for daylong service. The kitchen can focus on performance and consistency, and the customer gets something they love. Seasonal swaps and daily specials keep things fresh and interesting for both staff and patrons.

Gertie, a popular restaurant in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY, is a case in point. From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the same pared-down menu is available, featuring an egg plate with greens and toast, an egg sandwich with optional add-ons, smoked salmon and bialy, housemade baked goods, and granola, plus soup of the day, two salads, and six simple but quality-focused sandwiches (such as smoked fish and a cold cut deli special). Dinner service, which was added more recently, adds veggie-based small plates and such simple mains as rotisserie duck, chicken, and pork, and grilled fish.

I recently enjoyed a meal at Radhaus, in San Francisco’s Fort Mason, which takes a slightly different approach. The menu is divided into eight different parts, most of which are available throughout the day: Second Breakfast, Brunch, Snacks, Luncheon, Brotzeit (traditional Bavarian specialties), Supper, Dinner, and All Day Morsels.

The most interesting part, to me, is how effectively several of the signature ingredients are cross-utilized throughout the menu. Traditional wurst sausages work in snacks, plates, and a meat board. Sauerkraut appears in an eggs Benedict variation, on a burger, and as an accompaniment to entrées. And the Pretzelina pretzel, is served as-is with mustard, as a dunk for dip, in dumplings, as a salad crouton, and even in a bread pudding dessert.

Take an inventory of your menu items and prep to determine if they can work in multiple dayparts. For instance, do you have recipes that can be modified for all-day utilization—such as a braised short rib for dinner that can be pulled for a morning hash or sliced and served in a sandwich?

Source: Datassential/IFMA Consumer Planning Program 2018/2019

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