What’s it like for hosts and hostesses when the brunch rush hits

It’s 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday, and there’s a line of people waiting to be seated at Mason’s Grill. The whole restaurant seems to vibrate as the crowd chatters. Servers zip by in a blur, their trays full of chicken and waffles, breakfast burgers and Champagne glasses. The air is thick with the scent of perfectly crisped bacon.

Kristin Alfandre is perched at the host stand, greeting customers. This is where she’s spent every weekend morning as long as she can remember.

The 20-year-old restaurant belongs to her parents. Alfandre is the manager, but on weekends she’s the gatekeeper at the entrance. Her duties include greeting customers and managing several hostesses. Because during brunch at Mason’s, working the host stand is a job too big for one person to do alone.

On a typical Sunday morning, customers might wait up to an hour to be seated. On holiday weekends, that number can jump to two hours.

There is plenty guests are willing to wait for. A bloody mary that Food Network named the best in America in 2013. A breakfast burger as big as your face. Eggs lovingly made-to-order by the owner himself. An experience that wins Best Brunch in our own Best of 225 Awards year after year.

Mason’s Grill manager Kristin Alfandre greets customers and manages the hostesses during weekend brunch. Photo by Collin Richie.

But that whole experience would fall apart if the Alfandres didn’t have a system.

With crowds of 2,000 to 3,000 people shuffling through the door Saturday through Sunday, planning is critical.

Light prep usually starts the day before service. The fried chicken needs to soak in its marinade for 24 hours. The potatoes for the hash browns need to be boiled and chilled so they hold up better when cooked.

But everything else starts the morning of. The Alfandres show up at 7 a.m. to set tables and get organized. By 7:30 a.m., the kitchen staff starts slicing French bread and vegetables. There are two people who focus only on cracking eggs. Another cook is solely in charge of bacon. One bartender dedicates the day to shaking up bloody marys.

Everything is made from scratch. And that means all hands on deck.

“Every employee we have works Saturdays and Sundays,” Alfandre says.

By 8:30, customers are peeking through the windows, eagerly waiting outside for the restaurant’s 9 a.m. opening. By 9:15, Mason’s is putting guests on a waitlist.

Their system looks complicated from the outside, Alfandre says. The hostess team is fielding paper waitlists, buzzers and slips of paper tracking tables.

But it works because everybody does their job. One hostess’ only job is to answer the phone and add customers to the call-ahead waitlist. Another hostess tracks which tables are open.

It could be chaos, but Alfandre is calm. She warmly chats with customers. Her face lights up when she spots a regular. “Hi, Miss Hope,” she says. “Oh hey, Mr. Frank.” Mr. Frank dines so often, he sits at the same table each time.

And soon, diners will have even more to be excited about. The restaurant just renovated its bar and added new drinks, and it has a new brunch menu on the way. Alfandre isn’t worried about any increased demand, though.

“As long as you’re really sweet to people and honest about how long the wait is, most people are patient,” Alfandre says. “They can see how hard we are working.” Find Mason’s Grill on Facebook

Mason’s goes through a whole lotta food each weekend

3,000: Eggs cracked

100: Orders of the bestselling chicken and waffles

30: Cases of Champagne needed for bottomless bubbly

This article was originally published in the March 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.

Click here to dig into the rest of our brunch cover story.