What do you get when you mix breakfast and lunch? Brunch.
And what do you get when millenials meet the weekend? Brunch.
Brunch has become a weekend norm for the youth of today, just as much as the Sunday Roast is to the generations above us. It’s as if as soon as Friday descends, the line between breakfast and lunch blurs and people across the nation flood to the most up-and-coming restaurants to feast on eggs benedict and sip on mimosas. The word brunch was actually first seen in the US in as long ago as 1896, describing it as a ‘drawn-out and elaborate affair strictly for the wealthy’. Now immensely popular in most Western societies, with cookbooks dedicated to the cause and specially designed menus on offer, I question why the trend has spread like wildfire and wonder whether the evident demographic shift means this original definition is in fact more accurate than ever.
If you were to observe a restaurant between the hours of 10am and 2pm at the weekend, you’d be most likely to find the most common resident between the ages of 18 and 35, dining with friends and staying put for a good few hours. This represents the shift we have seen in society where there are an increasingly large number of young professionals populating towns and cities nationwide, with children (and even responsibilities as a whole) way off of their radar. Our weekends are completely free to do with as we please (pretty much), and the social brunch experience therefore becomes not just about the food but acts as a free pass to forego the morning meal and ultimately eliminate the need for any of us to wake up early. Once we have risen, we are encouraged to make use of our favourite restaurant’s breakfast menu and perfectly nurse our hangover with what is most likely to be poached eggs on sourdough bread.
Google Trends data shows how searches including the term ‘brunch’ have been rising steadily since 2004 when the trend leapt across the pond, peaking on Sundays and also around Mother’s Day. This means therefore that despite being profoundly accustomed to the youth of today, it is in fact enjoyed unanimously across society. With most mums proclaiming to have non-stop lives, and most children promising to let their mums ‘put their feet up’ on Mother’s Day, it’s no surprise brunch is attributable to this day each year, the one time Mums get a free pass to do sweet F.A. (or so they say).
As the original definition implies, brunch is expensive for what is actually just a glorified pair of eggs, and you’d assume enjoyed exclusively by those with more disposable income. But when comparing it to being wined and dined over an evening meal, brunch is considerably cheaper and hence during a time of economic hardship people are choosing their social eating wisely in order to keep more pennies in their pockets. Restaurants are recognising the successive general trend of declining overall restaurant visits and are subsequently seeking ways of generating more of an income, particularly if their small and independent. By opening their doors earlier at the weekends, restaurants are able to increase the bills put through their tills and brighten up their balance sheets. Any additional costs are minimised, firstly by employing part-time school-goers on minimum wage, each as desperate to clock up the hours at the weekend as the next person, and secondly by the very nature of the food we so fondly associate with brunch. We all know eggs cost next to nothing but if their stacked alongside our favourite smoked fish and smothered in the “oh-so-difficult-to-get-right” hollandaise sauce, they seem to warrant the huge premium we see on the face of our menus, one which we don’t hesitate to swallow because…well because it’s brunch I guess?
The face of the restaurant industry is changing and breakfast is just as much of a recognised option to eat out as lunch and dinner. It has become necessary to celebrate an eatery that serves breakfast into the early afternoon and even the most surprising of places are offering this service. McDonalds are quite literally widening the window of service, announcing that no longer do you have to rush at 5mph through the drive through at 10:28am in order to secure your suspiciously round Egg McMuffin, instead you can now enjoy these dubious buns at any hour of the day.
But the movement is far from celebrated by all. Agitated by the mass of millennials, a lot of people choose to avoid eating out at this time of day, perhaps frustrated by our apparent free time or out of fear that our boisterous youthfulness will not be family-friendly. Big towns and cities are slowly becoming millennial abundant and in some cases driving people away. Julian Casablancas (the lead singer from the Strokes) upped and left NYC purely because he wasn’t sure “how many white people having brunch I can deal with”. Little did we know, as we so charmingly make our way through eggs and slurp on our Bloody Marys, many are behind closed doors, sitting out the storm and waiting for civilisation post-2pm.
As a regular brunch goer, I’m a proud follower of this cult and with eating out an integral part of my social calendar; I will happily spend my weekend mornings on the hunt for the next best poached eggs in town. As it was described in 1896, taking the place of breakfast, brunch is indeed a drawn-out and often elaborate affair, but being strictly for the wealthy? I’m not convinced. Inevitably it’s a mark-up from cornflakes, but brunch is perfectly illustrative of a social shift in Western society and when you’re next asked “how do you like your eggs in the morning?”, you won’t be alone in saying you’d rather it not be morning at all – how about midday?
Pictures are not my own.