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Will family meals stick around after the pandemic?

Combo pricing has been one of the highlights of this take-out era

A family meal bundle from Snooze, with eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast, and blueberry pancakes.
A family meal bundle from Snooze, with eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast, and blueberry pancakes.

The clock was ticking towards the inauguration of the new president, and a look inside the fridge confirmed what I already knew: we were out of eggs. And any other breakfast protein. And bread. And even milk for cereal. We were eager for the kids to watch the 9 am broadcast, a half hour away, but I needed to get breakfast ready first. I calculated how long it would take to get to the grocery store, shop, then get home and cook. Couldn’t be done.

Place

Snooze, An A.M. Eatery

3950 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

I don’t usually order take-out for breakfast, but I knew there was a way to make it work. That’s because I heard the nearby pancake house, Snooze, has been offering family meal combos. For $38, I could get take out containers loaded with eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes, and toast, enough to feed a family of four. And it would be ready to pick up with time to spare.

Twenty minutes later, I was curbside at Snooze, idling my car as a server dropped heavy bags of family breakfast in my trunk. Online ordering and curbside pick-up have each been welcome consumer-friendly developments, made necessary by covid protocols, yet worth continuing even after vaccinations become widespread.

Breakfast for an historic occasion

But it’s the proliferation of the family-size combo I’d really like to see stick around. It looks different from restaurant to restaurant. An Italian spot might include family-sized portions of pizza, salad, and pasta; or a romantic dinner for two. A Mexican restaurant might offer a make-your-own-tacos kit, or a couple quarts of soup.

My $38 “family meal bundle” from Snooze cost about ten bucks less than I would have spent on four individual orders of eggs, bacon, and pancakes. Granted, we all had to take our eggs the same way (scrambled), and settle for the same toast (English muffins). I didn’t have the heart to tell the children French toast and chocolate chip pancakes were options; they had to go with my choice of blueberry. They had no reason to complain, though, because the meal came with packets of real maple syrup and a plastic ramekin of powdered sugar (and jam for the English muffins).

The family meal phenomenon started up last spring during the first shutdown and picked back up again through the recent winter shutdown. But in between, when outdoor and especially indoor dining resumed, most of the restaurants I follow stopped offering them.

There are likely financial reasons it makes sense not to offer them on the regular, just as there were financial pressures driving their introduction while stay-at-home orders were in effect. But from a customer’s perspective, I can see no reason to retire the concept. Most restaurants that have lasted this long have invested in streamlining their take-out operations, so it would make sense to keep that side of their businesses strong. A take-out-only combo menu would only encourage that, and give many families incentive to become loyal, regular customers.

I won’t promise my family will repeat our last-minute breakfast order any time soon. But after enjoying bacon and pancakes while observing a peaceful transfer of power, we won’t soon forget that Snooze had my back, helping me avoid a breakfast fail. I’d order family meals everywhere, if I could.

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A family meal bundle from Snooze, with eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast, and blueberry pancakes.
A family meal bundle from Snooze, with eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast, and blueberry pancakes.

The clock was ticking towards the inauguration of the new president, and a look inside the fridge confirmed what I already knew: we were out of eggs. And any other breakfast protein. And bread. And even milk for cereal. We were eager for the kids to watch the 9 am broadcast, a half hour away, but I needed to get breakfast ready first. I calculated how long it would take to get to the grocery store, shop, then get home and cook. Couldn’t be done.

Place

Snooze, An A.M. Eatery

3950 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

I don’t usually order take-out for breakfast, but I knew there was a way to make it work. That’s because I heard the nearby pancake house, Snooze, has been offering family meal combos. For $38, I could get take out containers loaded with eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes, and toast, enough to feed a family of four. And it would be ready to pick up with time to spare.

Twenty minutes later, I was curbside at Snooze, idling my car as a server dropped heavy bags of family breakfast in my trunk. Online ordering and curbside pick-up have each been welcome consumer-friendly developments, made necessary by covid protocols, yet worth continuing even after vaccinations become widespread.

Breakfast for an historic occasion

But it’s the proliferation of the family-size combo I’d really like to see stick around. It looks different from restaurant to restaurant. An Italian spot might include family-sized portions of pizza, salad, and pasta; or a romantic dinner for two. A Mexican restaurant might offer a make-your-own-tacos kit, or a couple quarts of soup.

My $38 “family meal bundle” from Snooze cost about ten bucks less than I would have spent on four individual orders of eggs, bacon, and pancakes. Granted, we all had to take our eggs the same way (scrambled), and settle for the same toast (English muffins). I didn’t have the heart to tell the children French toast and chocolate chip pancakes were options; they had to go with my choice of blueberry. They had no reason to complain, though, because the meal came with packets of real maple syrup and a plastic ramekin of powdered sugar (and jam for the English muffins).

The family meal phenomenon started up last spring during the first shutdown and picked back up again through the recent winter shutdown. But in between, when outdoor and especially indoor dining resumed, most of the restaurants I follow stopped offering them.

There are likely financial reasons it makes sense not to offer them on the regular, just as there were financial pressures driving their introduction while stay-at-home orders were in effect. But from a customer’s perspective, I can see no reason to retire the concept. Most restaurants that have lasted this long have invested in streamlining their take-out operations, so it would make sense to keep that side of their businesses strong. A take-out-only combo menu would only encourage that, and give many families incentive to become loyal, regular customers.

I won’t promise my family will repeat our last-minute breakfast order any time soon. But after enjoying bacon and pancakes while observing a peaceful transfer of power, we won’t soon forget that Snooze had my back, helping me avoid a breakfast fail. I’d order family meals everywhere, if I could.

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