Brunch Finds a Home in Fine Dining

La Stanza's do-it-yourself doughnut bar is a hit with guests during its popular brunch service.
La Stanza's do-it-yourself doughnut bar is a hit with guests during its popular brunch service. La Stanza Ristorante

The breakfast-lunch rush can be a boon for fine-dining restaurants ready to turn Sundays into another popular dining-out day.

It’s just a tick after noon on a December Sunday, and La Stanza Ristorante, a classy, one-year-old restaurant amid Chicago’s high-end Magnificent Mile strip, is a flurry of smiles and activity.

There are live jazz music and patrons sipping Prosecco, servers crafting tableside mimosas, and diners munching on delights from a do-it-yourself doughnut bar.

While many of Chicago’s fine-dining spots remain dark, La Stanza’s festive brunch is capturing diners and revenue, turning one of the 110-seat restaurant’s most challenging days into a crowded time.

“We’ve made every Sunday an event,” La Stanza owner Rich Labriola says of the brunch his restaurant launched in November. “People don’t see this type of brunch often, and they’re glad we have something different to offer.”

Among its fine-dining brethren, La Stanza isn’t alone in tapping into surging consumer interest in the breakfast-lunch occasion.

At Little Alley Steak in Roswell, Georgia, executive chef Tony Manns Jr. presents a brunch menu that includes Brioche French Toast punctuated with caramelized apples and candied pecans, as well as a Chicken & Waffles dish featuring maple bacon gelato.

In Dallas, Fearing’s, one of the Texas city’s most heralded eateries, offers an ambitious brunch highlighted by Dr Pepper Braised Short Ribs, a Wagyu Flank Steak marinated in Deep Ellum Stout, and Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp on Brazos Valley White Cheddar Grits.

Brunch has been a staple at the upscale Briarwood Inn in Golden, Colorado, since the restaurant’s 1979 opening. Today, the Briarwood Inn offers its $35 plated brunch on weekends—owner Lisa Paterson added a Saturday brunch in 2013 to complement the existing Sunday service—and provides a pastry tray and Champagne alongside classic brunch favorites.

“Prime Rib and Eggs Benedict never go out of style,” Paterson says.

The Briarwood Inn’s brunch flourishes particularly with the female clientele and on holiday weekends. On Mother’s Day weekend, for instance, the restaurant will serve upwards of 850 guests.

“The weekend brunch is an opportunity for guests to enjoy our restaurant without the big-ticket price or formality of dinner,” Paterson says.

At La Stanza, Labriola sees his brunch fulfilling two purposes: First, offering guests a differentiated experience that allows them to celebrate a special event or—in the case of Millennials, in particular—cap off the weekend; and second, to expose a greater subset of consumers to his upscale spot.

Having brunch provides us some wonderful exposure and can definitely serve as a gateway to future visits,” Labriola says.

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