Introducing an innovative breakfast menu to your venue can result in a new sector of customers, according to breakfast advocates Josh Niland and Peter Conistis
Smashed avo on toast, açai bowls and flaky pastries typically come to mind when you think of the current breakfast landscape. Anyone can fry an egg and there’s an overflow of venues serving the same old menu, so it’s essential to diversify your offering and be original. Josh Niland from Saint Peter and Peter Conistis from Alpha are two chefs doing breakfast differently.
Venturing into breakfast territory
There’s much to gain from playing the breakfast game. But most importantly, it’s an opportunity to create a unique offering that differs from lunch and dinner.
For Conistis, the choice to offer breakfast was a natural progression. “We have always served coffee and breakfast-inspired filo pies and pastries from the Alpha food store at the front of the restaurant, but we realised our customers wanted more choice,” he says. Alpha serves a breakfast menu on weekdays to mostly cater for a corporate crowd.
On the flip side, weekend brunch was always part of the plan for Saint Peter when it opened just over a year ago. “There’s too much potential in brunch to miss out on the opportunity,” says Niland. Along with this venture came a little trial and error, with the venue originally starting the weekend offering at 10am, but soon pushed it to 11am after the team “worked out Paddington didn’t wake up until 11”.
In order to obtain new customers while catering to an existing consumer base, designing a menu that is creative but remains true to your food offering is key. At Saint Peter, seafood is the only protein used — just as it is on the dinner menu — but has been tweaked to fulfil breakfast ideals.
The restaurant has fast gained a reputation as one of Sydney’s leading brunch destinations thanks to cult dishes such as the sea urchin crumpet, marron scrambled eggs, the eel hash brown and the bacon and egg English muffin. “The bacon and egg muffin is inspired by Macca’s, so it looks familiar, but the bacon is fish,” says Niland. “We have made the fish taste exactly like bacon and you would be hard pressed to figure out it is swordfish belly and not pork. Everything is derived from a memory and is synonymous with Australia. I just think it’s clever to incorporate fish into breakfast dishes we have always looked at with meat. You can turn it into fish and it should have been fish all along.”
Alpha’s breakfast menu focuses on light and fresh dishes that are only available in the morning — with the exception of spanakopita, which makes an appearance on all of the restaurant’s menus. “The breakfast dishes are quite different to what we serve for lunch and dinner,” says Conistis. “You’ll find fresh figs with Greek yoghurt, rose geranium honey and walnuts and Alpha’s version of smashed avocado on toast with broad bean hommous, feta and tomatoes. We also do tofumi, which features our house-made tofu prepared in the same way as grilled halloumi.
“All the dishes share a certain Greek richness and many feature specific Greek ingredients, whether that’s Manouri cheese, rose geranium honey, Kalamata olives or the barrel-aged sheep’s milk feta we import from Greece.”
Coffee, juice, smoothies and mocktails are the beverages of choice in the morning, opening up another avenue for a restaurant to explore. Coffee is big at Alpha, in the form of espresso and “heart-starting” Greek coffee for those who are up for it. “It’s the usual suspects for drinks,” says Conistis, “Will & Co espresso and T2 teas, but we also offer Greek coffee, Nescafé frappé, mimosas, bellinis and bloody Marys. We will soon launch our iced mountain tea, which has a green tea base [hand-foraged wild tea from Mount Hymettus in Greece] with elderflower cordial, lemon juice, watermelon and mint syrup.”
Saint Peter offers the same wine list available at dinner, but put more emphasis on cocktails and cordial-based drinks which are created by Ronnie Gorman. “There’s more expression through drinks during the weekend, and if some are overwhelmingly accepted, they’ll make their way on to the dinner menu,” says Niland. “We deal in a premium line of seafood, so that attracts a certain customer, and some don’t drink a lot of alcohol, so we need to have a beefed-up alternate offering. We have gone to more effort with cordial-based offerings so we can pick up any slack.”
Saint Peter also provides filtered coffee from Artificer. “We only use Artificer coffee,” says Niland. “I think their black coffee is the best in Sydney and I wanted to have filter coffee because it saves room on the counter — I don’t want a machine on the bench. I think it’s a nicer, cleaner more unique offering than a latte.”
Attracting new customers
Thanks to Alpha’s prime location in the Sydney CBD, a breakfast offering opens the venue up to a whole new client base. “Alpha is in an ideal location for breakfast and we wanted to attract corporates for breakfast meetings and locals from the new apartment developments,” says Conistis.
Saint Peter has a steady stream of customers who strictly come for brunch and wouldn’t attend the restaurant for dinner, says Niland. “Brunch-wise, we get people who come weekly, which is really lovely,” he says. “Then there are some people who leave three to four weeks between visits and are excited to see new things. We have a lot of regulars now.”
Niland also continues to change Saint Peter’s brunch menu due to seasonality and keeping things moving. “You need a repertoire of dishes that are slightly interchangeable,” he says. “The dishes will come on when the product is available. I change the menu a lot, but when the urchin is here and in the whole shell, it should be on the crumpet. That’s the challenging part — you don’t want to let people down and you don’t want people to have booked a couple of months ago for the sea urchin crumpet and then we don’t have any. So you need a bit of balance and to educate and reassure the customer that everything else will be fantastic.”
Saint Peter also creates a unique dining atmosphere in the morning that differs from dinner service. “At night, the feeling of the room is darker, there’s uplighting on the walls and it’s more glamorous,” says Niland. “During the day, there’s natural light and the door is open. We don’t use white linen, we use brown paper napkins, and we try to differentiate the two experiences. The music is different and the vibe is lighter.”
A breakfast menu is an ideal opportunity to gain a new customer base, diversify your offering and explore untapped creativity.
Image credit: Nikki To
This article originally appeared in Hospitality’s March issue. Subscribe here.