Why Mother’s Day is the most hated day in the restaurant industry
New York (CNN) Mother’s Day is one of the busiest days for the US restaurant industry, and presents a huge operational challenge for restaurants. Therefore, it gained a reputation among waiters and restaurant staff as one of the most tiring days on the calendar.
“Every server knows that working on Mother’s Day is hell. In fact, if I die and go to hell, I fully expect it to be Mother’s Day. 365 days a year,” wrote Darron Cardosa in his book “The Bitchy Waiter: I am very good at pretending to care.”[ads1];
What’s so bad about that? Restaurants hate this holiday season, from large groups that show up in waves (“most of us are here!”), to fussy kids to divisive check dramas and coffee cups. This year is expected to be particularly challenging as high inflation and rising menu prices give some restaurant-goers an added sense of entitlement.
“The anticipation alone can make you anxious,” said Joe Haley, an abstract artist who works as a server at an Italian-American restaurant in Quincy, Massachusetts. It will be packed. People call at the last minute to get a reservation, there are others who have made multiple reservations so mom could pick her and they never cancel… people who take their mom out once a year tell you ‘Nothing can go wrong !'” he said.
But it does. With large tables, a few late arrivals can throw a kitchen into chaos. “And every family has at least one black sheep or in-laws who can’t be trusted to save their lives. Mother’s Day: I dread it,” Haley added.
Chefs, servers and owners said this year’s guests have set their expectations high: Special-occasion meals at a time of rising food prices. In a post-pandemic world, luxury – or rather the appearance of luxury and excess – is “in”. Across the country, customers will be aggrieved if their $30 eggs Benedict aren’t topped with caviar on Sunday.
The taste has changed, literally, since Covid, said Chef Art Smith, who has been a personal chef to Oprah Winfrey and Jeb Bush. He will serve hundreds of Mother’s Day meals at his four restaurants, including his homecoming at Disney Springs in Walt Disney World.
The people who visit? “They’re drinking more. They want more carbs — if it’s mac and cheese, it has to be the cheesiest. But they want salads, and they want more vegetables, too. They just want more.”
A busy day for restaurants
The National Retail Federation estimates that Mother’s Day spending will reach $35.7 billion this year, with a record $5.6 billion spent on a meal or outing alone, up 6% from last year. It’s the second-busiest day in the restaurant industry, second only to Valentine’s Day, according to online reservation site OpenTable.
Mother’s Day presents “an operational challenge,” said Shawn Walchef, owner of five Cali BBQ eateries in the San Diego area. “It’s the busiest day of the year, and also the day guests have the highest expectations. He envisions a bit of commotion around the tables on the patio — “In Southern California, everyone wants to sit outside.”
For many restaurants, this is the first major holiday since 2019 that has not been overshadowed by the pandemic. “It’s a lot of people coming together who haven’t seen each other in a while,” said owner Binh Douglas, who opened Main Prospect in Southampton, New York, about 18 months ago.
He expects Sunday guests to spend about 40% more than usual and that a third of adults will add $19.95 “bottomless mimosas” to their meal. Fortunately, egg and seafood prices have come down in recent weeks, he said.
But inflation has left its mark on the Mother’s Day brunch. At the Breakers in Palm Beach, Mother’s Day brunch in The Circle restaurant is $250 per person (up from $160 in 2019) with unlimited champagne cocktails and a table-to-table harpist.
At the family-filled McLoone’s Boathouse in West Orange, New Jersey, also home to a waterfront buffet, brunch has gone to $54.95 from $49.95 in 2019.
Prices are sensitive. “Your Mother’s Day meal can’t be obnoxiously expensive,” said Derek Axelrod, co-owner of Manhattan’s Upper East Side T bar restaurant. Their Mother’s Day menu will likely be over $100 per person, but won’t make much of a profit, he said. They count on liquor sales to do that. Meanwhile, T bar adds touches like fois gras, cranberry and chicken parfait to the menu.
Servers and owners are also under pressure to “press the lobster”. Seven different restaurants at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas are serving Mother’s Day meals that include lobster (The resort’s summary of all Mother’s Day menus shows that a subsequent gondola ride costs an additional $39).
Ophelia, a rooftop restaurant near the United Nations in New York, solves the “luxury” problem nicely by offering a menu where Mom gets it all: fried quail eggs, lobster, filet mignon, waffles and smoked salmon – but be warned: it’s a $59 per person presentation of “petite bites.”
In Naples, Florida, the hamburger at the Veranda E restaurant on Sunday will be brought under glass, and a cloud of smoke will rise as it is uncovered. “It’s new for us,” says owner Mary Brandt, who will have four generations of women from her family at the restaurant.
To maximize profits and seating, chain restaurants are also changing. Ruth’s Chris Steak House, which has locations in about three dozen states, is opening more for breakfast or brunch on Mother’s Day; at the Fort Worth location, there will be wild blueberry pancakes. And some Red Lobsters are giving moms a coupon for 10% off their next meal — even including a discount on the ultimate endless shrimp feast.
So order now and tip your server. Of all holidays, Mother’s Day is considered so stressful for workers that the National Restaurant Association recommends that owners make sure their servers are “fed and properly hydrated” and should be given a “combat duty” bonus — especially the moms on shift staff.
Server Joe Haley, in Quincy, has a better idea: “Why can’t you guys just make breakfast for your mom?”