It's Bad Etiquette To Order Brunch Like You're At IHOP

The undisputed consensus among service industry workers, front- and back-of-house alike, is that brunch is the worst shift to work. Staff has to arrive much too early, work at a frenetic pace, deal with unending business, receive less in tips because of the lower priced items, and serve a menu based on one of the most notoriously finicky items to cook — the humble egg. For some reason, brunch seems to bring out the worst in restaurant guests. Maybe it is because the whole world is a little hungover. Maybe it has something to do with the alchemy of orange juice and cheap sparkling wine combined. Maybe it is because the only people that attend brunch are people that have never worked brunch. Maybe brunch highlights to restaurant workers how much they wish they could have a Sunday off like once. Who knows why brunch can be so miserable — it's just an unfortunate cosmic reality.

The good news is that as a customer, you can help keep things running smoothly simply by what you order. The main rule of thumb is to stick to the menu. Don't a la carte your server to death. Brunch can have a really fun vibe, but can be ruined by mistakes, delayed orders, or cold food — all of which are more likely to happen when the kitchen is already pressed, and you want to order a little of this and a little of that.

Why is it bad etiquette to order brunch items off the menu?

You might see a pancake dish, a plate with sausage as a component, and an eggs benedict and think, "Why can't I get a short stack with extra butter, a side of sausage, and two poached eggs?" That is because the kitchen is set up to maximize efficiency with different people assigned to different components for a dish. 

For a simple breakfast sandwich, one cook may be responsible for grilling the Texas toast, another for frying the side of French fries, and one more on the sauté station cranking out scrambled eggs. When you substitute sunny-side-up eggs and ask for the sourdough that you know you've seen on the menu before, the cook at the range has to make a separate pan of eggs and send the grill cook running back to the walk-in cooler to grab the bread they've stashed for dinner service. There is prep work, kitchen organization, and a division of tasks, and all are meant to make the process run smoothly. When you ask for modifications outside of this workflow, it can throw a wrench in the whole system.

What should you order at brunch?

Brunch food is delicious, and it feels like a treat to enjoy your weekend fully instead of succumbing to the dread of the impending work week. Waffles, chilaquiles, hash browns, and egg-topped burgers paired with something fun and boozy are undeniably tempting. Even the most hardened service industry workers can probably admit they have enjoyed a brunch outing or two.

The best thing you can do is trust that the menu that the restaurant offers is well thought out. Go outside your comfort zone, and try the caramelized banana crêpes, even if you are usually a pancake and maple syrup purist. If you have legitimate allergies and dietary considerations, ask the questions you must ask, and be patient while the server and kitchen communicate. Consider calling the day before to speak to a manager about your specific needs so that you already have a plan for brunch. 

Ultimately, the restaurant staff wants you to enjoy your experience — it might take a little extra time to get everything situated when they are slammed for brunch. Allergies aside, if you're just being extra particular, do everyone a favor — follow the direction of the restaurant and order from the menu. Save your short stack and sides order for your neighborhood diner that specializes in that type of specificity, or better yet, customize to your heart's content out of the privacy of your own kitchen.