Slow Restaurants Get Brunchy
Baldamar’s Champagner costs $90 a person and provides unlimited food and drink for two hours. Photos courtesy of Baldamar

Slow Restaurants Get Brunchy

In the pandemic, restaurants chose to cut hours rather than fight for business. That may be changing.

In the service industry, an empty table is a lost opportunity, but during the pandemic, many restaurants cut hours, never to restore them. Finally, though, the industry is again getting creative in an effort to stand out and generate business and buzz.

Baldamar, a Roseville steakhouse, had one slow shift. “Our lunches are busy and thriving, [but] we go into Saturdays and it was our slowest,” says general manager Michael Symons. To change that, he came up with the idea for the Champagner, an unlimited food and drink brunch held in a private dining area.

All-you-can-eat brunches have a sketchy reputation, conjuring images of steam tables laden with dry scrambled eggs and lukewarm home fries, bottomless mimosas of cheap sparkling wine and reconstituted O.J., and limited service (if any). The Champagner is not that. The $90-a-head experience offers no Wagyu or caviar, but it’s serious food. Alcohol options go far beyond mimosas. The experience is full service, not a buffet, and the menu is expansive. The one rule: Two hours and you’re out.

“[During] our third week we sold out of the first [seating]; then the second [seating] was about three-quarters full,” says Symons. “We want it to be more of a celebratory experience.”

Much of the Champagner’s allure lies in the vibe, according to Symons. “You walk into a private dining room and there’s different music playing, an upbeat jazz. There are fresh flowers everywhere. There are bottles of Champagne up on the hutch. We want [customers] to experience something like no other.”

“Our lunches are busy and thriving [but] we go into Saturdays and it was our slowest.”

—Baldamar General Manager Michael Symons

Monday closures became prominent in the pandemic, as a result of little to no traffic and available employees; the day became part of the de facto weekend for service industry workers. Minneapolis restaurant Pivo Riverplace took note and came up with a promotion of its own: Industry Brunch.

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“The intention was to attract industry folks who typically have Mondays off [with] a promotion to get those folks in,” says Christy O’Keefe, Pivo co-owner. “As people are more aware that we’re open on Mondays, it’s been picking up.”

MN restaurant
Interior of Baldamar restaurant in Roseville

Situated on historic Main Street in Minneapolis, Pivo is also using other avenues to promote the restaurant, which most people still remember as Wilde Café and Spirits. “We have a game trivia night, we’re starting date night on Thursdays, trying to get live music on Fridays,” says O’Keefe. “So just trying a lot of different things to see what sticks.”