Easter brunch for many families is an annual tradition. But that practice of going to a restaurant and enjoying delicious spreads of food in the company of those closest to them was abruptly halted last year due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

One year later the tradition is back, albeit in a modified format. But that isn’t stopping those eager to get out from making reservations. “We’re almost fully booked,” said Megan Engler at Hawthorne Cafe in Philadelphia. She said while  “it’s unfortunate we have to limit it,” the fact the brunch is even happening compared to last year is a big step forward in returning to normalcy.

“We’re seeing approximately half of what we used to do in previous years because that’s all we can fit,” said co-owner of Spring House Tavern Karleigh Burns. “It’s different, but it’s better than last year.”

At Hawthorne, Engler says this year they have limitations on the size of groups and are trying to keep members of different households separated, all to limit “family groups intermingling.” The brunch will also be totally outside, a change from previous years.

Spring House Tavern will have both indoor and outdoor seating, but two options being available is a radical change from years prior, as she says utilizing their outdoor space “usually doesn’t happen for Easter.” Besides that, their typical buffet-style setup is gone too this year, instead opting for a more traditional menu. “We just didn’t feel like a buffet was the smart thing to do this year,” said Burns.

But despite the COVID restrictions, Engler says families will still be able to meet the Easter Bunny at this year’s brunch. “We’re going to have the bunny socially distanced visit the groups of families, which gives everybody something to do without compromising their safety.”

For families, the return of Easter brunch means a tradition restored, but for both Engler and Burns it presents a sign of hope.

“This brunch is kind of a metaphor for how everyone is feeling in general,” said Engler. “We feel a lot more empowered to hold something like this and seat tables and not just run with to-go food. There’s light at the end of the tunnel for sure with people getting vaccinated in our company.”

Burns said, “There’s definitely progress. We’re seeing percentages increase with people getting vaccinated and being more comfortable, and just being able to have holidays in a restaurant again is hugely positive.” She said staff vaccinations were not too far off, either, another sign of hope for their restaurant.

Burns also detailed that they’re excited to see their Easter brunch regulars, who they missed last year. “People come every year to have Easter brunch with us… over and over again. That was missing last year. Now, they feel like things are a little bit more normal.”

With so much progress compared to Easter 2020, the two described their hopes for what Easter 2022 brunch will look like. “Everyone loves our buffets so we’re hoping maybe even come the fall or the winter we’ll be able to bring that back every week, and by next spring that’s possible again,” said Burns.

“I’m optimistic that none of the staff will have to wear face masks this time next year,” said Engler. “That would be something to look forward to. I know we all miss sharing smiles with everybody.”