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Always time for wine at Famous Toastery

February 24, 2016

Written by: Beth Ewen

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Wine isn’t just for lunch, happy hour, dinner, after-dinner and late night anymore. Now it’s for breakfast, too. So believes Famous Toastery, the “better breakfast” franchise that has unveiled wine pairings to match its omelets.

“We’ve had a lot of people say, ‘What goes well with this, what goes well with that,” says CEO Robert Maynard. “They say, ‘What goes well with a tofu omelet?’ and our people say, ‘I dunno.’ ”

That was in the past, though, because now several suggestions are on the menu, at one corporate-owned restaurant being used as a test. In a few weeks Maynard plans to roll out the new drinks menu to most of its restaurants, which are open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

“If it’s 7:30 in the morning, I’m not sure we’re going to be selling too many of them. But if it’s a little later or especially on the weekends, we’ll have the ability to upsell,” Maynard says. Famous Toastery already has Bloody Marys, bellinis and mimosas on the menu, along with the recent switch to orange juice freshly squeezed in front of guests, tableside.

Pairings include a Fetzer Riesling with dried fruit, lavender, peach pineapple and pear with a “crisp finish” that pairs well with Famous Toastery’s tofu omelet.

Or some guests might prefer a Fetzer Eagle Peak Merlot that has black cherries and plums, caramel and toffee with spicy tannins, “pairing well with the famous Southwestern omelet.”

Alcohol sales vary by location, from 3 percent of sales to 5 or 6 percent. “For a breakfast place, that’s a lot,” Maynard says, and he expects the wine pairings to add to the pie, although the test is too early to tell. “Six weeks from now we’ll have some real data.”

Maynard and his team looked at all of Famous Toastery’s competitors, and determined that “nobody was doing it,” that is, offering wine pairings for breakfast and brunch.

“People drink alcohol and they do it every day, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t do it for breakfast,” he says.

Most important, “Your biggest guy is First Watch, and they don’t do alcohol. That’s not their plan,” he says about the largest player in the better breakfast space.

Plus, now that Famous Toastery is adding franchised stores, “you feel an obligation to provide something exciting for the franchisees and the patrons. You’ve got to add value,” Maynard says. “If someone is going to pay you a royalty every week for the rest of their time in the system, then you better be working just as hard to provide services, so you’re giving them that competitive edge.”

Maynard asked their wine suppliers out of California to put together the pairings. “They tasted stuff, they ate stuff, they figured it out,” Maynard says. “A sommelier was involved,” and so was he. “I had a blast just trying a grilled chicken bacon wrap with a nice Chardonnay.”

Maynard believes wine plays well with his clientele, who tend to be female and upscale. “Obviously my customer is not the guy that’s craving Waffle House,” he says. “This is what women like, and this is what women ask for.”

As for him, his favorite pairing is the California Bonterra Cabernet and the corned beef hash—a tasty-sounding combo at any time of day.