Fish and chip shops wanting to capitalise on the growing breakfast market could learn from Brunch in Whiston, Liverpool. Owner Sharon Carline explains how she runs the breakfast takeaway on tight margins while still operating sustainably and taking advantage of growing trends such as delivery
How did Brunch come about?
I’ve always wanted a wine bar/bistro as I love cooking, I’m a bit of a blind chef so I can pull anything out from a cupboard and make a meal. I don’t measure anything, even my pastries, pies and cakes are all done by eye.
So why a breakfast takeaway?
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and everyone forgets that. Looking at the takeaway market, to me, it had become quite stagnant and I wanted to do something that was more versatile. Brunch meant I could create a breakfast menu but also do healthy options as well as a special of the day that would get people in. There are lots of great breakfast eateries around but they don’t get the exposure like the rest of the takeaways. I wanted to show people that breakfast is up there with the other cuisines.
Are you purely takeaway?
No, although takeaway is about 70% of our business. We opened in 2013 with six covers and we are now up to 12 but we have taken the lease on upstairs and by the Spring we hope to have converted that into a little bar. We’re also clearing the back so we can have an all-weather garden where people can eat alfresco. It should take us to 30 covers comfortably. Our margins are extremely tight so we have to save for everything we do and it just takes time.
Is the breakfast market growing?
Yes, massively. Yesterday we bought about 120lb of sausages and we sold out by 2 o’clock! When we started that would have done us all week. We’re averaging about 280 breakfasts on a busy day now.
And you’re now doing breakfast deliveries?
Yes, I always wanted to do deliveries but everyone said it won’t work, people won’t want a breakfast delivered. In 2015, I signed up with Just Eat and I proved them all wrong! It really has put the breakfast cuisine out there and we are now doing 70-80 home deliveries on a Sunday with an average order value of £12.75, that’s massive for a small cafe like us. If we refer to Just Eat, we are up 160% year-on-year. Without it, would we have that level of business? Probably not.
What’s the most important element of a breakfast?
The sausage, that’s what makes a breakfast. We struggled with ours at the beginning because we wanted the best sausage that we could get, something a bit extra. I found Hogans, a local butcher, who helped build the sausage that we now have.
How have you tackled healthier eating?
We offer smaller portions, so our breakfast is available in small and large, but we mix in healthy options. Our deli counter has 25 different salads and vegetables every day and we are always increasing more vegetable and salad options into our dishes. Everything is cooked on the griddle and all our beans are reduced sugar and salt content. So we’re telling everyone you can have an English breakfast and you can make it healthy.
A Brunch breakfast costs £5.50
You mentioned tight margins, how do you manage these?
There’s lost of areas to consider. For example, you can get really good ingredients if you work closely with your suppliers and manufacturers to get the best possible quality you can but not a premium price. We buy wonky veg instead of straight, they might not look the same but they are still an A grade product, just not kind on the eye! We have no food wastage either so if there are tomatoes left from the day before we turn them into a special the next day. We also up-cycle everything, we don’t buy new because we believe in protecting the environment and sustainability. Everything in our kitchen has been reconditioned and the tables are from a restaurant in Southport that were going to be thrown away.
What about your packaging for your breakfasts to go?
I’ve always been conscious of serving our breakfasts in a pretty box but at the same time thinking about where it’s going to end up, so it is an area in which we do pay a premium for. We use two types for our food, one is plastic, but it’s three times recyclable, which means it can be made into plastic up to three times - and it’s not single use so we tell all our customers don’t throw it away, it can be used multiple times. It can be washed up, microwaved, used for the kids’ lunches or for freezing food at home. The other item we use is black polystyrene which is 100% recyclable and from a UK company. And finally, the drinks cups are made from corn starch and the dye used is all vegetable-based, so they are fully biodegradable but also they’re not single-use either. So again, we encourage customers who have a tea or latte to go, don’t throw your cup, just rinse it, use it again and then put it into the recycling or compost bin.
Are your efforts recognised by your customers?
Yes, our customers love what we do and that’s why they come back and back again. We’re on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and we continually talk to our customers. We even talk through the cooking process on social media, so we’ll show the ingredients at the start of the dish, in the middle and then the end dish. You need to engage with customers, and you need to be transparent with customers, it’s so important in the food industry.
Awards Brunch Bistro has won:
The Good to Go Award at The SRA's Food Made Good Awards 2018
Best British Takeaway restaurant in the 2018 British Restaurant Awards
Best Takeaway in the North West at the 2015 British Takeaway Awards