OAN Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 2:12 PM – Sunday, May 14, 2023
One of the busiest days for the American restaurant industry is Mother’s Day, which reportedly poses a significant operational burden for eateries. Because of this, the holiday has earned a reputation as one of the most difficult days of the year to work, among servers, chefs, and other restaurant staff.
Restaurant workers reportedly detest the holiday due to the large parties that arrive in waves, children who are ‘picky’ eaters, check-splitting squabbles, family arguments, and coffee-cup lingerers. Given the high rate of inflation and the increasing cost of menu items, this year is anticipated to be particularly difficult.
“The anticipation alone can make you anxious,” said Joe Haley, an artist who works as a server on the side at a Quincy, Massachusetts, Italian-American restaurant. It gets “jam-packed. People are calling at the last minute for a reservation, there are other people who made multiple reservations so Mom could have her pick and they never cancel… “People who take out their mother once a year tell you, ‘Nothing can go wrong!’” he said.
A kitchen can become chaotic if there are many tables and a few tardy guests.
“And every family has at least one in-law or ‘black sheep’ who cannot be trusted… I dread Mother’s Day,” Haley said.
This year, according to chefs, servers, and owners, customers have high expectations for special occasion dinners at a time of increasingly rising food prices. Customers will become irate all throughout the country if their $35 brunch dish is not absolutely perfect on Sunday.
According to Chef Art Smith, who has served as Jeb Bush and Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef, food tastes have also changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. At his four restaurants, including his homecoming at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World, he will be serving hundreds of Mother’s Day dinners.
“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 veg sides, too. They just want more.”
According to the National Retail Federation, spending on Mother’s Day will total to about $35.7 billion this year, with a record $5.6 billion going to dining out or other outings. This is an increase of 6% from the previous year. In terms of restaurant business activity, it is only surpassed by Valentine’s Day, according to online reservation service OpenTable.
Shawn Walchef, the owner of five California restaurants in the San Diego region, said that the holiday presents an “operational challenge.”
“It’s the busiest day of the year and also the day guests have the highest expectations. He foresees some fuss over tables on the patio. In Southern California, everyone wants to sit outside.”
Restaurant owner Binh Douglas said, “It’s a lot of people getting together who haven’t seen each other in a while.” Douglas launched Southampton, New York’s Main Prospect, around 18 months ago. About a third of adults will add the $19.95 “bottomless mimosa” to their lunch, and he anticipates that visitors on Sunday will spend roughly 40% more than typical. Thankfully, he continued, prices for eggs and shellfish have decreased recently.
However, inflation has impacted the Mother’s Day breakfast. Mother’s Day brunch at The Circle restaurant at the Breakers in Palm Beach costs $250 per person (up from $160 in 2019), and it includes endless Champagne cocktails and a harpist who moves from table to table.
“Your Mother’s Day meal can’t be obnoxiously expensive,” said Derek Axelrod, co-owner of a Manhattan Upper East Side restaurant.
Chain restaurants are also evolving in order to maximize sales and seats. On Mother’s Day, numerous Ruth’s Chris Steak House locations, which have establishments in approximately three dozen states, will be open for breakfast or brunch. Additionally, some Red Lobster locations will provide moms with a coupon good for 10% off their subsequent dinner.
The National Restaurant Association advises operators to make sure their waiters are “fed and properly hydrated” and should be given a “combat-duty” bonus, especially the mothers on staff who work the shift.
The day can also be depressing and difficult for many servers, chefs, and restaurant staff who have lost their own mothers.
“Bleh, I hate Mother’s Day. I mean, I’m glad it exists, and I’m happy that people are honoring their mothers. But I lost mine when I was a teenager and it always kind of hurts to see everyone out and happy with theirs. She has missed every milestone of my adult life,” said an anonymous server.
Former President Donald Trump sent out a post regarding Mother’s Day on Truth Social, his social media platform.
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