Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front- and back-of-house about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favourite establishments. For this installment, a server tells us exactly why brunch is the worst meal of the week.
To those that brunch,
This is an open letter from a brunch server on behalf of the service industry, directed to those of you that indulge in the meal that occurs every Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to whenever-the-fuck-you-feel-like-going-home-to-nap-face-down PM, otherwise known as brunch.
It's important to explain to you what exactly is going through your server's head while you are enjoying the weekend's last socially-acceptable indulgence before trudging headstrong into another Monday.
We are not enjoying ourselves. We don't share in your excitement. In fact, all of the things that you love about brunch are the things that make it the worst shift of the week for us.
Despite the many years that I have personally spent in the service industry, I didn't encounter brunch until a few years ago. Being from a distant foreign country where brunch is something that Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha and other wealthy socialites did every weekend, it appeared, from the outside, like a fabulously pleasant experience for the civilised classes that also used lunch as an adjective and defined their appointments by the time at which they occur. But I didn't realise until I stood at the side of a table in a Los Angeles restaurant on a weekend afternoon that brunch is a shambolic indulgence extended to every clown in America.
You love to slowly peruse a menu of comfortably familiar items and customise every element of every dish. You want to purchase one drink yet consume as many refills as you possibly can. You want us to be at the mercy of your gluttonous needs for the next four hours, yet leave the shittiest tip imaginable.
The very meal that defines brunch has its origin with a needy, entitled twat randomly customizing things to ease his hangover.
In your defense, the flagship brunch dish of eggs Benedict is believed to have been invented by an ageing, drunken stockbroker named Lemuel Benedict in the 1890s, who upon finding himself in the Waldorf Hotel in New York one morning with a chronic hangover started randomly suggesting some items.
"A toasted muffin, crispy bacon, some poached eggs, all slathered in Hollandaise sauce, and quickly please. I'm dying," he probably said.
His hope was that his frankenbreaklunch could hold a drink's scorn at bay, and in that moment a future brunch staple was created. But you see? The very meal that defines brunch has its origin with a needy, entitled twat randomly customising things to ease his hangover.
And here we are today, going boldly against everything that we've worked towards in contemporary food culture, abandoning the idea that the chef knows more about food than you do, and getting creative with eggs and sausages. The same simplest preparation of eggs and sausages that you can probably make at home, even with a toddler's cooking skills.
How do you want your eggs? Scrambled soft, medium, or hard? Do you want egg whites only? Cheese? How about goat cheese, gouda, or cheddar? Bacon or sausage? Pork sausage or chicken sausage? Tofurkey?
"I'm not sure, but I can check." Not really.
Fresh fruit, pancakes, or hash browns? Side of yogurt? Side of toast? White or whole grain? Jam? Nutella? Marmalade? Half and half? Soy? Almond milk? Cold or steamed? Sugar? Thank you!
"Oh, thanks for reminding again me about the Tofurkey. I'll check that right now!" Nope.
When your head shoots up and searches the restaurant floor for your server with a look of blind rage—thinly veneered with a passive-aggressive smile—we know someone fucked something up and we're responsible for it. Good job, you just slowed down every other diner's service time!
You treat us like your personal waiter for a buffet. But you do realise that the amount of time that we spend at our computer system, entering all of your modifications, is almost longer than it takes to cook the food? The dramatic extent of those variables is why a busy brunch shift has the propensity to bring an otherwise robust kitchen to its knees. And that's why your food came out late, and wrong.
When a runner puts your meal down on the table, they glance at you apprehensively as you silently roll-call every specific item you requested. When your head shoots up and searches the restaurant floor for your server with a look of blind rage—thinly veneered with a passive-aggressive smile—we know someone fucked something up and we're responsible for it. Good job, you just slowed down every other diner's service time!
Which is now the perfect time to break it to you: You're not getting the best staff at brunch, my friends. Given everything we've explained about the dreaded shift thus far, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that the good servers don't work brunch. They were up late last night making the restaurant thousands of dollars and are still sleeping soundly on their bags of tips, when you come stumbling in before noon, smelling like a donkey's ass. Don't get too offended, though—the brunch staff is often the most inept band of swines that the establishment can muster, too. At our restaurant, we refer to it as "C Team Sunday."
To make matters worse, the arduous duration of the meal prohibits us from flipping your table and getting some new customers—which, I'm sorry, is a priority as a food establishment.
There is no question that if we made more money on the brunch shift, then the better staff would want to work it. The problem is that the food is too cheap to actually make money, so it is not entirely your fault.
A plate at brunch will typically go for about half the price of a dinner entrée, and is served with a single drink that keeps miraculously refilling at the cost of our sanity and the blisters on our feet. A bottomless mimosa and an omelet might skin you for $30 before tip, while a rack of lamb and two glasses of merlot could come across the line at $70 or more. And shocker: the less you spend, the less we earn.
To make matters worse, the arduous duration of the meal prohibits us from flipping your table and getting some new customers—which, I'm sorry, is a priority as a food establishment. No matter how special your meal experience is going, know that you are just another set of buttcheeks out of a hundred or so that sit on your same chair on a weekly basis. You and your friends may sit there for hours, too, intermittently smiling and wagging empty Champagne flutes (the worst is when you wave empty ketchup ramekins, if you could only see your silly little selves while doing that), but rest assured that we are just patiently waiting for you to be half ways done with your plate and move you along.
And then, when we eventually drop the check on you, the sympathetic one among you that worked in a restaurant for three months in high school smiles awkwardly and asks to split the bill, across 14 credit cards. Well, fuck me pink.
We don't say any of this to be needlessly mean, man. Trust us when we that we do love you and your happiness, especially the money—as meagre as it may be—that it takes to accomplish that. We're just trying to help you have a better experience, because if we're happier then trust us, you'll be happier. If you tip a little more you'll get better servers. And if you get better servers, you get better service.
And if that isn't incentive enough, imagine dealing with you and your stupid hungover friends at that time of the day.
Lots of love,
Everyone in the Service Industry
This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in June 2015.