With snacking becoming its own meal category and restaurants popping up as makeshift offices and social gathering spots, the appeal of all-day concepts is growing. If time is money, then keeping your kitchen closed for breakfast, midday snacks or even late-night bites may be leaving potential profits on the table.
In a 2017 Datassential study that asked respondents what college-town concepts interested them, 41 percent chose 24-hour diners and 30 percent selected late-night dining options. Add customers’ growing interest in breakfast after 11 a.m. and the rationale to extend your hours becomes rather compelling. Three operators share their formulas for success.
Think like a hotel, operate like a hybrid
When In Good Company Hospitality opened Trademark Taste & Grind in Manhattan’s Executive Hotel Le Soleil in 2016, it didn’t function like a typical hotel restaurant. It operated as a hybrid coffee bar and New American restaurant that focused on serving two things diners crave all day long: good coffee and classic comfort food staples.
From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., the concept’s boutique coffee bar, Trademark Grind, pairs daily pastry selections with brews from Four|Coffee. Down the hall, Trademark Taste, In Good Company’s 84-seat New American restaurant, serves a full breakfast until 11 a.m. in an intimate, clubby space, which draws in the power breakfast crowd, hotel guests and tourists alike.
Instead of creating a division between lunch and dinner, Trademark Taste offers a single all-day menu of steaks, seafood, sandwiches and salads. During lunch, a special $21 three-course prix-fixe special gets Manhattan’s business crowd in and out the door quickly, while providing value in a city known for high-ticket dining. To cater to guests visiting during a sporting event or concert at Madison Square Garden, the kitchen stays open until 11 p.m.
A single kitchen fills orders for both Grind and Taste, along with room service orders, which puts cross-training to use. Food runners can handle room service orders, while pastry chefs can fill in on the line as needed. Between the peaks, the staff has a chance to restock and reset.
The approach is faring so well that Sean Dillon, In Good Company’s director of operations, says the concept of Trademark could be replicated anywhere. “This concept has the ability to fit in a small boutique hotel or large-scale standalone venue,” he says. “We have found ways to connect with every type of demographic and do a pretty good job of keeping them happy.”
Create a boozy diner
One of McGuire Moorman Hospitality’s latest creations, June’s All Day in Austin, Texas, may be a true first: a wine bar-cafe hybrid that pairs eclectic all-day offerings with wines and cocktails curated by restaurant namesake and master sommelier June Rodil.
True to its name, June’s All-Day stays open from 8 a.m. to basically midnight Monday through Friday, acting as a one-stop shop. Breakfast until 11 a.m. Light lunch in the afternoon. Craft cocktails or a glass of wine after work. And dinner when the sun begins to go down. But to reduce food waste and allow for more flexible kitchen scheduling, June's offers only a single menu.
“Our spaces rely on easy walkability and succeed in historic established neighborhoods,” says General Manager Alice McGinty. But unlike a traditional cafe, June’s highlights its beverage list, which hits every price point from inexpensive draft beers to pricey bottles of wine. Menu staples such as smoked salmon Nicoise salad, bone marrow Bolognese and matzo ball caldo upend tradition and were created specifically to pair with Rodil’s beverages, instead of the other way around.
In terms of logistics, the front- and back-of-house staff is roughly divided into a.m. and p.m. shifts. “We train our staff to ensure guests at all price points and occasions feel well provided for,” McGinty says. “We have many guests who visit our restaurant more than once a day or a few times a week.”
Sometimes, it takes a neighborhood
Beloved Atlanta Chef-entrepreneur Shaun Doty didn’t commission a feasibility study when he opened his first Bantam + Biddy, a casual family-style diner that dishes up chef-caliber roasted chicken and classic Southern blue-plate specials. He simply saw a need, and filled it.
Two B+Bs later, with a fourth on the way in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Doty says looking out for gentrifying neighborhoods with a dearth of affordable, dependable eateries is a good place to start. Whatever the location, it’s critical to give diners “a lot of reasons to go there,” especially if you stay open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.
Unlike many old-school diner operators, Doty understands the value of saving customers time. His takeout menu includes convenient $52 family meal packages, which come with a whole roasted chicken or meatloaf, sides and iced tea.
Reconfiguring the all-day diner model to fit modern tastes, he provides guests the flavors and personal attention they expect, along with moneymakers like a full bar, espresso drinks and gluten-free options. “It’s a convivial, accessible, all-day meeting place that I see as an amenity for the neighborhood,” Doty says.
His biggest challenge is staffing, specifically finding enough team members who are willing to start early. Fortunately, servers have learned how to quickly cover large stations and hustle to earn healthy tips, which average about 80 seats and rely on high volumes to profit.
When one Bantam + Biddy proved too casual for an affluent neighborhood, he replaced it with The Federal, a pocket-sized bistro and traditional American steakhouse that’s open virtually all day, closing only a few hours to reset the tables. “I’m very committed to the idea of all-day (dining),” he says.
Three Ways to All-Day Profits
❱ Adopt multiple personalities. Neighborhood hangout, a takeout spot, power lunch destination or a romantic dinner option? An all-day restaurant might need to take on all those roles to attract a steady flow of traffic.
❱ Take small, manageable bites.Try debuting with breakfast and lunch, adding dinner service later. “Open with what you can manage,” says Stephen Lipinski, president of Stephen Lipinski Associates in Ithaca, New York. “People will come in with expectations, and they don’t care if it’s your first day or week.”
❱ Beware of all-day breakfast. Consider how all-day breakfast profits match up with your price points on the lunch and dinner menus. “If you need to run a $35 check average at dinner, and you sell breakfast for $9, you’re giving up too much margin,” Lipinski says.