Breakfast is the perfect time to put distance between yourself and the competition
The nature of a successful breakfast service is speed and numbers, getting as many customers in and out as quickly as you can. Employing staff with the right attitude, offering friendly and unfussy service and providing good food will bring a little morning sunshine into your customers' day and that will be a great advert for the more profitable lunch and dinner.
Jaco Le Roux is Operations Director for the Great Eastern Hotel in London, which is launching a power breakfast in the hope that it will rival The Wolseley's institutional West End offering. "In this area there is a lot of demand for serious breakfast meetings and somewhere quiet and smart to have them. We have another breakfast service in a different restaurant in the hotel that's really buzzy, but wanted an alternative in Aurora, our fine-dining restaurant." This breakfast comes with more privacy, an elevated level of service and a different menu style. "Service is natural and easy, the guests aren't interrupted and everything is simple and quick." Aurora hired a completely new staff for the morning shift and worked hard to employ people who would come across as warm and easy. The menu is short and simple, and complementary teas are recommended, all with the aim of minimising the amount of time the customer has to spend choosing.
Walter Lecocq, General Manager of Gazette, a new French restaurant in London, is trying to instil the relaxed feel of a morning back home in France into the breakfast service. It's chilled out, there is a south-facing terrace, there are papers and the TV news is on quietly in background. "There are lots of businesses around here and we wanted to offer somewhere with a good atmosphere. You do initially make some investments: a proper oven for pain au chocolat and croissants, juicing machines; but I think we'll make the money back quite quickly. You need to do it if you're going to do this properly."
The people at the Bull in Highgate launched a new breakfast service this spring and gave themselves plenty of time to get used to it before the combination of a large terrace and the summer weather brings in the hordes. General Manager Marcelo Soares introduced two shifts starting at 6.30am and 9.00am to serve breakfast at the weekends. "We're in a residential area so I'm not convinced enough people would want to come during the week, though I may be proved wrong," he says. "I initially had people working the late shift on a Friday and then coming in for the morning but it just didn't work. Customers may be sleepy but the staff shouldn't be. Now I make sure the staff are fresh from Friday and the same people do both days of service."
When Luciano in St James' decided to introduce a breakfast service, General Manager George Perendes sacrificed his waistline in researching what the competition was up to, comparing prices, busy times and what was on offer. He decided to offer a full English without national twists, which a lot of other places had, because most of his clientele is English. He looked at the kitchen equipment they would need and appropriate tableware – bigger coffee cups, pots for jams etc. For Perendes it was all about getting the details right. "There were so many options, even just with toast. Use a lid, a napkin folded over, thick or thin, how to avoid it getting soggy… every element." Luciano expects the first week to be a learning curve and is hoping for feedback from its regular customers, putting notes on the menu asking for comments and in return knocking 50 per cent off the bill while glitches are ironed out. "We want it to be fast, consistent and good for everyone involved," says Perendes.