5 Reasons Why Brunch Is the Worst Shift to Work as a Restaurant Server
A lot of people like to hate on brunch. The eggs are overpriced, the “special” is always something the restaurant is trying to get rid of, and the coffee is never quite right. Even The New York Times called brunch the “mealtime equivalent of a Jeff Koons sculpture.” But all these perspectives come from being a restaurant patron, and not a server. So let me tell you right now: Your server probably hates brunch even more than you do.
Here are five reasons brunch really is the worst shift to work at a restaurant if you’re a server. And to the commenters who will undoubtedly cry, “But you’re paid to do this! Stop complaining!” please tell me that you enjoy every last second of your paid gig. Working in a restaurant can be incredibly fun, but it’s not always enjoyable, and brunch is the best example of this fact.
1. Brunch attracts table hogs.
At one of the restaurants I used to work at, brunch was very popular. With few exceptions, you had to make a reservation if you wanted to get a seat. And that reservation system is based on a not-so scientific calculation of how long patrons will linger at their table. With dinner you might estimate that a patron would take about two hours for a meal. At brunch, you’d expect a little over an hour.
But there were always those people who would come into the restaurant, newspaper in hand, and sit at the table for three hours. Even worse, these same customers were the ones who would typically order a cup of coffee and maybe a pastry.
I get it: Enjoying a leisurely Sunday morning at a restaurant and paying less than $10 sounds very dreamy. But when people have reservations, and customers have to wait half an hour for a table because you wanted to take your sweet time, it creates a stressful work environment. Customers are mad, you get less of a tip, and you might end up having to ask that three-hour table-sitter to leave (which is never pleasant to do).
2. Cheaper meals mean smaller tips.
Brunch is usually considered a cash cow for restaurants. That omelette that costs $17 at a fancy brunch spot probably only cost $3 to make. This is great — for the restaurant.
Being a server during brunch, however, doesn’t usually translate to more money. Unless someone orders a bunch of fancy cocktails, the bill for brunch is going to be way less than the bill for a nice dinner. Sure, the turnover for brunch tends to be higher, but the larger bill for dinner still outweighs this fact. And the larger the check, the larger the tip at the end of a shift.
3. You’re working with the B-Crew.
Because tips are generally smaller for brunch (see #2) and people don’t like to get up early on a Saturday and Sunday morning, the back- and front-of-house positions for brunch are usually reserved for new or inexperienced restaurant staff. So, not only are you working in an incredibly fast-paced and high-turnaround environment, but you’re also doing so with people who don’t really know what they’re doing.
4. Everyone is hungover.
As a customer, brunch is pretty ideal when you’re hungover from the night before. You get to pay someone to feed you delicious food and serve you unlimited coffee while you recover from the night before. What you might not know, however, is that probably half the restaurant staff — both front and back of house — are also hungover.
This fact, combined with the fact that brunch shifts are given to the B-crew (see #3), means that brunch is even more of a disaster. The brunch shift tends to be understaffed because people call in sick (i.e., hungover). Or they show up but they’re snappier, slower, and just generally more forgetful. That extra side of bacon 20 minutes ago? Oops.
5. There are so many beverages.
Brunch usually involves lots of different beverages, and sometimes they’re unlimited to the customer. You have regular coffee, of course, but don’t forget all the lattes, cappuccinos, and other specialty drinks. There’s also tea, fresh juice, water (duh), and then the bevy of brunch cocktails.
Keeping track of what everyone ordered, making sure refills happen in a timely fashion, and hoping that the person manning the bar actually knows what they are doing is something every server has to deal with on Saturday and Sunday morning. Of course, this is on top of all the hungover customers and fast turn-around that restaurants demand.
Have you ever worked the brunch shift at a restaurant? Please share your horror stories in the comments.