I imagine Starbucks brought the term Day Part into the forefront of culinary conversation when Howard was sitting around in a marketing meeting wracking his brain on what to sell after the morning coffee rush was over. It appears he figured that out.
For those not familiar with the terminology, a day part refers to a specific segment of the day and what is served during those hours. There are three major day parts, breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are also two snack periods placed between lunch and dinner and dinner and closing. Howard, presumably created those while brainstorming and blending his menu.
Restaurant owners constantly grapple with the day part dilemma. It isn’t easy to conquer. Restaurateurs that delight in the singular day part of dinner have certainly given thought to opening for lunch. And, that is fine. And, most breakfast aficionados, who open for lunch but serve “breakfast all day", have considered expanding the menu and entering the dinner arena.
The catastrophe enfolds when the dinner guy decides to add breakfast to the menu. A nightmare develops when the twain meet. If you thought you had witnessed confusion during that 400 person dinner rush when the electric went out due to the tornado that struck down on the trailer court three miles south of your restaurant, open for breakfast. Oh, yeah. Breakfast.
Breakfast is the toughest day part known to man. Overcook a steak, a customer gets disgruntled. Overcook eggs, a bear emerges for the table in the window. Believe me. I have experienced this, first hand. I would have had a better chance in Yosemite with a bag of peanuts.
Often, the dinner dandy walks into an uninhabited kitchen, lights dimmed with the hum of the hood filling the air. He looks around, thinks for a moment and then proceeds to his office to analyze the night´s receipts. A few bucks less than he imagined. The solution; open for breakfast- the crew has to come in to prep early for diner anyway. Right? Wrong, so very,very wrong.
The art of mastering the day part, that segment of the food day that you best fit into is something a new or future owner must give extensive thought to. Do not get caught in the trap that you can be all things to all people. Howard is a genius. Let him sit in the Day-Part-King throne forever.
As a soon to be new owner, it is imperative that you focus on mastering the day part you are most comfortable with. If you have a great vision for dinner, do it well and be happy. If you decide to eventually add lunch, that’s fine. But remember, it is difficult to prepare breakfast and diner in the same kitchen and maintain the quality level you wil need to achieve to become ultra successful.
Of course some restaurateurs have accomplish this, but it takes years of experience and practice. Successful eateries, the ones that are busy throughout the day, are few and far between. The French Quarter in West Hollywood and The Kettle in Manhattan Beach have both mastered the art of the day part. Both locations serve bountiful breakfasts along with phenomenal dinners. The service exceptional.
Diners, known for "Breakfast All Day" also top the list of day part mastery. They have carved out their day part, it´s breakfast. That territory, whether it belongs to Mickey´s in St. Paul, Mel´s in San Francisco, Donny´s in Dallas, or the Empire in New York, belongs to the fading diner segment of the industry.
And, unless you have a fondness for stainless steel and aluminum dining cars, the twain should seldom meet.
Pick a day part you enjoy and master it. Pack the house. Develop a wait at the door. If you do that nightly the receipts will allow you to spend a splendid, almost sacred moment in your kitchen, peacefully alone. Just you and the hum of the vent.