The Next Big Bar Night Starts in the Morning

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Some in the industry are predicting that the next big bar night may begin in the morning hours.

Carnivale, a dynamic destination dining experience in Chicago, has bet big on brunch. It seems the restaurant is onto something.

Visit the website, scroll down a bit, and you’ll come across the restaurant’s menus, the first of which is for their Signature Carnivale Brunch. Read the copy above the menu and you’ll see that Carnivale hosts a buffet-style brunch 6 times per year.

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At this year’s National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, Carnivale’s presenters explained that they estimate 55 percent of their brunch guests consume beverage alcohol. Of that 55 percent, roughly 70 percent are younger legal drinking age guests.

“The next night out is actually in the A.M. hour.”

Of course, older guests also enjoy brunch. Carnivale representatives said that their brunch is popular with guests in their thirties and forties as well, and the majority are women.

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In March of this year, Carnivale introduced four new cocktails to help drive brunch: the Hemingway Daiquiri, Brunch Punch, Michelada and Spanish Coffee. The drinks appeal to current alcohol consumption trends: they’re either bright and citrusy or low-ABV and savory.

Another seemingly small but innovative approach to brunch cocktail offerings is allowing guests to customize their Mimosas, an undeniable staple of brunch service. To stay competitive, Carnivale lets guests choose between three styles of Champagne for the traditional brunch beverage: brut, rosé or cuvée.

Operators seeking to do something similar can offer guests choices between Champagne brands (Moët, Veuve, Perrier-Jouët), sparkling wine styles (French Champagne, American sparkling, Cava, Italian sparkling), and juices (tangerine, watermelon, cranberry). Today’s guest appreciates the opportunity to customize their order.

Perhaps Carnivale’s greatest brunch innovation comes in the form of their punches. Guests like punches, and summer practically demands that this cocktail category appear on beverage menus. Creating feature punches that rotate each week is an easy way to keep a beverage program fresh.

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Maxx Kleiner, Carnivale’s manager of mixology, says punches are a great way to burn through slow-moving or dead inventory. Take a look at what’s not moving and create punches that complement your food.

“The next night out is actually in the A.M. hour,” says Kleiner.

When betting on brunch—which certainly seems like a wise roll of the dice at this point—remember that it’s supposed to be celebratory and fun, attracting large groups. Carnivale’s thought to name their daypart(y) event creates the guest perception that this brunch is different than everyone else’s. Doing so makes for great social media marketing engagement, so operators who follow suit should create unique hashtags to promote their own brunch events.

“Always be innovative, always change, always do something new and fun,” says Kleiner.

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