Nine of 10 consumers plan to celebrate Mother’s Day, and will spend nearly $19 billion to do so, according to the 22nd annual Brand Keys Mother’s Day survey. Of those consumers, 80 percent plan to dine out for brunch, lunch, or dinner—a 10 percent bump from last year’s survey.

Mother’s Day dining is an amalgamation of several trends, such as farm-fresh food and international influences. It also presents restaurants with a multitude of challenges: cooking for bigger parties than usual; offering diverse options for the range of tastes and ages; and refreshing buffets or choosing to offer dishes à la carte; and creating an unforgettable experience that makes guests want to return post-May 11.

The challenges are well-worth the rewards, though: restaurants serve upwards of 1,000 guests, and executives anticipate Mother’s Day to be one of the top five profitable days of the year.

Chefs are also well aware the holiday requires keeping all diners happy—but one diner in particular. “If mother is not happy, then no one is happy,” says John Castro, executive chef of Winston’s Restaurant at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky.

Keep it Local

As one of the busiest and biggest days of the year, “Mother’s Day is an endurance run,” says Executive Chef Derek Dollar of Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails in Milton, Georgia.“It’s a lot of prep for us, but it’s gratifying when it’s all over, everyone is fed and had a good time, and there are no complaints.”

Milton’s typically serves between 900 and 1,000 people on Mother’s Day. Located in a historic farmhouse in the middle of horse country, Milton’s Mother’s Day brunch include Sticky Toffee Pecan Beignets, Southern Fried Chicken Breast, and Petite Filet Mignon.

Excessive preparation is necessary, as “this is one of the top five days every year for revenue,” says Larry LaValley, assistant general manager at of 3800 Ocean at Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa, on Singer Island Riviera Beach in Florida. 3800 Ocean’s Mother’s Day brunch offers a seasonal menu and family focus.

“We usually book solid by the week before and try to leave the outdoor seating area available for walk-in guests if the weather is good,” LaValley explains.

Parallel Post at the Trumbull Marriott Merritt Parkway in Trumbull, Connecticut, incorporates local, natural, and healthy seasonal ingredients in its a brunch menu that reinvents family favorite breakfast and lunch items, enhancing them with upscale flavors and presentation. “A lot of fusion was put into these items,” says Executive Chef Chris Molyneux.

The menu includes Heirloom Tomato and Strawberry Salad with pepper cress, walnuts, and burrata cheese and Crispy Duck Leg with Belgium Waffle. To ensure all goes smoothly, the kitchen typically starts organizing and prepping items on Friday. On Saturday, items are formulated into groups, based on what the menu items will be.

“We double-check our flavors and texture and presentation,” Molyneux says. “We also ensure the staff is aware of the new items and each has a duty and production. On Sunday morning we begin prepping early in the morning, and getting all of our items in place and ready for brunch service as soon as breakfast ends.”

At Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill in Miami, “[Mother’s Day] is not very different from a back-of-the-house perspective, but from the front it's very important to us to engage and welcome all the mothers joining us for the day,” says Timon Balloo, executive chef and partner.

Inspired by international influences and the spirit of South America, the restaurant focuses on lighter dishes for Mother’s Day, menuing fish and vegetables for its brunch. Items include Local Catch and Shrimp Seviche Jalapeñoand Pan con Lechon Garlic Mojo.

Buffet v. Family-Style Feast v. À la Carte

Developing a menu for Mother’s Day is not without its challenges, as there needs to be options for a diverse range of age groups and tastes. For some restaurants, the solution to this conundrum is in how the food is served.

In Louisville, Kentucky, Winston’s Restaurant is offering its first Mother’s Day brunch buffet. “Some of it needs to be familiar and comfortable, but we throw in a few things that are different,” says Executive Chef John Castro. “This is the one holiday that all the different generations come—from boomers to Millennials. You have to hit all the marks.”

The buffet is an “interesting spread,” with French toast with dark chocolate and raspberries to omelets, eggs, and waffles made to order; Not Brown Shrimp;and Grilled Chicken with rosemary garlic cream.

Meanwhile, Found restaurantin Evanston, Illinois, will offer a family-style feast inspired by the meals Executive Chef Nicole Pederson and proprietor Amy Morton enjoyed as kids. On the menu are an array of rustic American dishes like Fried Macaroni & Cheese with cheddar cheese fondue and Spicy Italian Sausage & Fresh Mozzarella Lasagna.

Yet another method of offering Mother’s Day items is à la carte. Soon to be celebrating its fifth anniversary, Baker & Banker Restaurant, located in the historic San Francisco neighborhood of Pacific Heights and housed in a former Victorian apothecary, is offering an à la carte Mother’s Day brunch menu.

Chef Jeff Banker’s seasonally prepared dishes honor Lori Baker, his wife and mother of their two sons, as well as co-owner and pastry chef. In turn, Pastry Chef Baker is serving her own treat for dining moms: Cinnamon and Sticky Buns.  

One restaurant attempting a rare experience for guests is McCoy's Oceanfront, located within the Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa in Pompano Beach, Florida.

“We have a live omelet station in the restaurant where guests can order straight from the chef,” says Taylor Hall, director of food and beverage. “We also do a live carving station so the guest can not only choose their meat, [but also] interact with the chefs. There is nothing more real than having the ability to talk with the people who have cooked your food for you.”

McCoy’s Oceanfront offers the same menu for Mother’s Day as it did for Easter, which “was well-received,” Hall notes. It also offers healthy options for diners who are trying not to over-indulge, such as egg whites at the omelet station.

By Joann Whitcher

Industry News, Marketing & Promotions