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The Quad: A look at the economics behind the growing brunch culture

Brunch is growing in popularity, but its significance is higher among the middle class.
(Public Domain photo via pixabay)

By Aneesh Gowri

June 2, 2017 3:48 p.m.

Eggs Benedict, Belgian waffles and mimosas? To some, that might just sound like a list of unrelated breakfast options. But to millennials, that sounds like a pretty great brunch.

In recent years, the midmorning meal has evolved from “Brunch?” to “Brunch.” To many, going to brunch is less of a question and more of a weekly staple – a perfect way to start a relaxing Sunday.

But don’t just take my word for it. Google searches for brunch have been steadily increasing in Los Angeles since 2012 and peaks during holidays, especially Mother’s Day and around Christmas. The same trend can be seen nationally.

Today, more people search for brunch places in LA than they do for breakfast places. Restaurant Business Magazine says adding a brunch menu is one of best ways to expand a restaurant’s business and Forbes named “Brunchfast,” fast-casual brunch characteristic of LA’s Eggslut, one of the Top 5 Food Trends to see in 2017.

Brunch has become a national phenomenon and the effects of brunch culture can be seen from the bourgeois restaurants of New York to our very own dining halls.

When you delve into the depths of brunch, it becomes so much more than restaurants and food. Today, brunch has become a cultural institution for the privileged, as well as a socioeconomic indicator and sign of gentrification.

When you think about it, brunch is a social experience. Groups of friends and family stroll in around 11 a.m., order colorful drinks and decadent dishes and catch up on the previous week. They talk about politics, current events, literature and gossip for hours while ordering another mimosa or sipping on their overpriced coffee.

While anyone can appreciate a great meal with friends and family, not everyone can afford it. It takes a great amount of privilege to be able to go to brunch.

First of all, brunch is expensive. With $20 French toast and $15 tequila sunrises, brunch can leave your bellies full and your wallets empty.

Furthermore, in low-income communities, family time and Sunday brunch might be the last things on people’s minds. According to the Washington Post, brunch is most popular in neighborhoods where people have disposable income and time.

And brunch is no gift to low-income communities. If anything it’s a looming threat to their way of life. Recent trends show that when restaurants start offering brunch, their neighborhoods are undergoing gentrification.

We can look to the brunch capital of the world, Brooklyn, for evidence, or we could look to our own backyard. Today West Los Angeles, known to be home to the more affluent and upper middle class, has over five hundred restaurants that offer brunch.

Even UCLA’s dining halls offer brunch, and we are no exception to the rules of brunch culture.

As students, we roll out of bed on Sunday mornings, hungover and tired, and saunter our way to B-Plate or De Neve to meet our friends for a nice meal. We spend hours drinking coffee and grabbing plate after plate of scrambled eggs or French toast, chatting with our friends about our crazy nights or our coming midterms.

But what we might not realize is that we are products of privilege. It is a privilege to go to UCLA and it is a privilege to be able spend hours at brunch with our friends. Because, while we take our Sunday brunch for granted, the individuals who are making and serving us our food need to give up their Sunday brunch because they can’t afford it.

As a person of privilege, I can’t speak for those who can’t afford to go to brunch. But from my experience, brunch can be a great thing.

I’ve treasured the brunches I’ve had with my friends and family on Mother’s Day, or on a birthday or just because we were feeling like brunch. Yes, I’m guilty of the occasional brunch Instagram post or Snapchat, and while that might be a bit over the top, the time I got to spend with my loved ones was important.

To me, brunch is about a shared experience with people you love, and good food just makes it more memorable. But with all the societal impacts that brunch comes with, you have to wonder if it’s worth it.

While brunch might be meaningful to me, it has different meanings to everyone. For some, brunch is nothing more than a shift at work. For others, brunch isn’t even in their vocabulary. At the end of the day, brunch may be a gluttonous display of wealth and privilege, but I still love it.

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Aneesh Gowri
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