The Mad Men-esque days of the three-Martini lunch may have fallen out of favor, but the breakfast Bloody Mary and mid-morning Mimosa are going strong. At least that’s what Snooze An A.M. Eatery is finding.
Visit one of the Denver-based chain’s 45 restaurants during the week—say, at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday—and “you’d be surprised to see the folks enjoying a Mimosa or Bloody Mary with their breakfast,” says its chief marketing officer Andrew Jaffe.
Part of that is the rise of the gig economy work force. Many people no longer hold traditional Monday-through-Friday, nine-to-five jobs, Jaffe notes. They’re working different, often quirky hours, “and we’re seeing a lot of those folks during the week.”
It also helps that Snooze often locates its restaurants near hospitals, where people work odd hours and sometimes pull all-night shifts. “For them, ‘after work’ may be seven or eight in the morning, so they’re having that downtime at Snooze with friends and coworkers,” Jaffe says.
Consumers in general are seeking breaks from the norm—they want experiences, Jaffe says. Although Snooze typically serves breakfast and brunch daily from 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., the chain provides a lively ambience with retro midcentury modern decor and friendly service. And then there’s the drinks.
“One of the key things that’s so fun about the Snooze experience is not only just food menu creativity and inno- vation, but the beverage innovation as well,” Jaffe explains. “Those things go hand in hand when you think about that ‘brunchy’ time frame.”
Breaking the beverage fast
About 10% to 15% of Snooze’s overall sales come from beverage alcohol. The company takes its beverage development just as seriously as the food innovation, Jaffe notes.
Some of the cocktails include the Morning Marg, with tequila (plain or jalapeño-infused), orange liqueur, house sour and fresh lime; the Mountain Mule, with a choice of gin or vodka, ginger brew, grapefruit juice, fresh lime and agave nectar; and the Orange Snoozius, with vodka, orange liqueur, fresh orange juice and whipped cream.
Spins on the classic brunch drinks include the Mmm Mmm Mimosa, with sparkling wine, orange juice and Pama pomegranate liqueur, and the Boss Hog Bloody Mary, with bacon-infused Breckenridge bourbon and Snooze’s house Bloody Mary mix.
“We are heavily rooted in that Bloody Mary-Mimosa space, which tend to always be the top-two selling categories for us,” Jaffe says. The menu includes seven Mimosa options, made with Snooze Sparkling—a private-label wine imported from Italy and kegged at Free Flow Wines in Sonoma, CA—and six different Bloody Mary riffs. Mimosas range in price from $7.50 to $10.50; Bloodys are $7.75 to $13.50.
Snooze also offers a few coffee drinks and beer cocktails, plus seasonal and local craft beers. The company creates special beverages for different holidays. Recent holiday cocktails include the Cosmopolitan Mimosa, with vodka, orange liqueur, cranberry juice, Snooze Sparkling wine and a lime wheel.
Craveable and creative fare
Food menu categories include Plant Power, Benedicts, Viva La French Toast, Pancake Utopia, Classics From The Hen, Nirvana In A Tortilla, Breakfast Riffs and Sammies. The emphasis is on elevated classics and comfort food.
The Bella! Bella! Benny ($12 to $14), for instance, is thin slices of prosciutto, Taleggio cheese and poached cage-free eggs on toasted ciabatta, topped with cream cheese hollandaise, balsamic glaze and arugula.
The OMG! French Toast ($11 to $12) stuffs fresh brioche with mascarpone and is topped with vanilla crème, caramel, fresh strawberries and toasted coconut. The signature pancake flight ($11 to $12) consists of Pineapple Upside Down, Blueberry Danish and Sweet Potato pancakes, or guests can choose any three pancake flavors.
A cross-functional innovation team drives the food and beverage agenda at Snooze, Jaffe says. “As we update food menu, which typically happens four times a year, we’re also looking at some of those other complementary cock- tails that make sense from a seasonal perspective.”
Jaffe says that there isn’t a lot of variation in the Snooze menus for different locations, “but we do have some when it comes to price by region.”
The chain will choose a few restaurants to test new items to see if they’re popular with guests. It also has to ensure that the locations will be able to crank out the new offerings at 10 a.m. on a Saturday when they’re at their busiest.
A woke mission
The first Snooze opened in Denver in 2006. Jon and Adam Schlegel, two breakfast-loving brothers, sought to bring fresh creativity and innovation to the meal, as well as a splash of beverage alcohol. The concept began to spread in Colorado and added locations in Arizona, California, North Carolina and Texas. This year Snooze has expanded into Atlanta and Kansas City.
CEO David Birzon joined Snooze in 2012 to spearhead the growth. Jaffe came aboard in fall 2017 from the consumer packaged goods world, including several years at Pepsi before shifting to the natural foods industry.
What attract Jaffe to Snooze? “I enjoy working with small, mission-driven concepts,” he notes. “I get a lot of fulfillment growing and building highly disruptive brands at the forefront of the beverage industry.” The chain’s mission goes beyond perking up breakfast fare, however. Sustainability is a core value, he adds.
“We have rigorous set of standards we call our Snooze-approved standards to ensure that we get highest quality ingredients from a sustainability standpoint.” For example, the company looks for responsibly sourced ingredients, sustainable environmental practices and ethical farming methods.
Snooze recognizes how wasteful restaurants can be at times: 90% of its trash is diverted from landfills and going to compost. “We’re really trying to be intentional about our impact on the planet,” Jaffe says. At a local level, when Snooze opens a restaurant, it becomes a part of the community and makes giving back a priority. For instance, 1% of sales goes back to into the community of each location, Jaffe says.
Snooze tries to recognize talent and promote from within, especially with opening new locations, Jaffe says. This helps maintain the Snooze culture and values when expanding into a new market.
“Snoozers,” as the team members are known, tend to be motivated by the shared values of community, sustainability and providing an excellent guest experience.
The hours are a draw as well. “Part of the reason we can get such great talent is that we’re a one-shift business,” Jaffe explains, so Snoozers are done with work by the afternoon.
The Snooze Trotter program helps ramp up locations in new regions. Trotters are best-of-the-best employees, who go out to the new restaurants in the weeks leading up to opening and stay for two to three weeks after the launch.
Trotters will train all the new employees coming in to the Snooze family on the company culture and how the brand does things, Jaffe says. “That’s been a key attribute in maintaining our culture and ‘Snooziness,’ if you will, as we continue to grow.”
Rising and shining
The resilience of the employees and the company’s nimbleness around the ability to pivot during the pandemic lockdowns and restrictions helped Snooze weather the challenges, Jaffe says. From implementing new hygiene and social distancing measures for the dine-in experience, to embracing new technology and shifting to off-premise service, the Snoozers rose to the occasion.
On the food and beverage front, “we made a concerted effort to make sure we were meeting guests where they were when we went into lockdown,” and bring the Snooze experience to customers at home, Jaffe says. That involved paring down the menu and innovating new offerings such as pre-cooked meal packages and cocktail kits.
The best-selling cocktail kit was the Mimosa: a bottle of Snooze Sparkling and a 32-oz. container of orange juice. The Bloody Mary has also been “unbelievably successful,” he notes.
Both kits remain on the menu today as “one of those lasting, unintended consequences [of Covid] that has actually opened up some other revenue opportunities,” Jaffe says. Now when guests order Snooze to go, many are adding on a Mimosa kit. “It’s been nice to transfer that four-wall experience to the at-home experience.”
Prior to Covid, Snooze was doing maybe 3% in off-premise sales; currently more than 25% comes from takeout and delivery. Technology powered the transition to a to-go business. The company lucked out in that it had already started developing an online ordering platform and was in the process of testing it just as Covid hit.
The initiative went from a test in one region of Colorado to rolling out nationally across all restaurants, Jaffe says. “The timing couldn’t have been better, and we were really proud of how our Snoozers were able to adapt to manage so much to-go business.”
Snooze anticipates that even when dining rooms open it will hold onto the to-go business simultaneously. But breakfast poses some challenges as to how well the food travels.
“We have done a ton of work in and around our packaging, making sure it’s on-brand from an experience standpoint and delivering on all the things we stand for from a sustainability standpoint,” Jaffe says. “But we also have to make sure that the packaging does a really great job at presenting the food, helping the food and beverages travel really well.”
It’s important that when guests receive their food at home, there’s still that “wow” factor, that great moment of anticipation you often get when you’re in a restaurant and you see the food or drinks coming down to the table, Jaffe explains. “Providing that same experience at home is something we’re tremendously focused on right now.”
Pre-Covid, Snooze was opening 12 restaurants a year. It had to pump the brakes on expansion in 2020, but the chain is getting back into growth mode, with the most recent opening in Atlanta this past February.
To help fund its next phase of growth, Snooze received a minority investment from private equity firm Brentwood Associates in December. It’s now up to 45 units, with restaurants opening in Kansas City, Houston, Laguna Niguel, CA, plus a location at the Denver International airport scheduled to open in June.
“We’ll end up getting to six new openings in 2021, and will be back in the 10 to 12 range for 2022,” Jaffe says. “Getting back to growing and really excited to be able to bring the Snooze experience to more guests.”