Friday, August 19, 2022

King Neptune brothers open Brunches at Mayfaire, second location coming

The marquee ‘Brunches’ sign, built by staff members, will be central to each future restaurant. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON — Danny McPherson had the idea to create the best burger joint in town, but when his ‘loaded mimosas’ and breakfast plates at King Neptune in Wrightsville Beach became more and more popular, he had another thing in mind — a brunch spot open seven days a week.

“Because if you’re a breakfast place worth your weight, Saturday and Sunday are going to be busy,” Danny McPherson said. “It’s how you fill up the seats Monday through Friday that counts.”

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He and his brother Earl McPherson opened their first Brunches restaurant in the Mayfaire shopping center last Monday, with a second location coming soon to the Burnt Mill Office Park across the street from Flying Machine Brewing Company.

Alongside their signature burgers — the Classic, the Cowboy with fried onions and BBQ sauce, and the Islander with ham, pineapple, and jalapeños — you’ll find breakfast plates ranging from the All-American to a By the Sea omelette. Behind the bar you can order a flight of mimosas (ask for the ‘loaded’ option for an added shot of flavored Absolut vodka) or a Tropical Lightning IPA from Wilmington Brewing Company.

View the breakfast and lunch menus below (scroll to compare):

The restaurant is filled with dark wooden tables, ivy draping the walls, and an electric marquee ‘BRUNCHES’ sign over the bar.

“First and foremost we wanted to create a place that you would feel welcome and warm — and not rushed,” McPherson said. “Everything these days is ‘instant-this’ and ‘drive-through-that.’ And there’s a time and a place for that … but every once in a while you want to do something different. We wanted to provide an opportunity to come and slow down and enjoy a good meal, and good people.”

Earl McPherson said it was his brother who had the idea of bringing back an “old-school brunch style that people have gone away from.”

“People have lost the concept of brunch — getting a cheeseburger or bacon and eggs at 7:30 in the morning or at 2:30 in the afternoon,” he said. “And it’s not just Sunday. It’s Sunday every day of the week, mimosas every day of the week.”

‘Some skin in the game’

On Friday afternoon bartender Brandon Wicklund was behind the bar serving up a flight of mimosas while chatting with an old customer, Bill O’Bryan, from his seven years at King Neptune. He said the restaurant was designed to “amplify breakfast” with burgers, mimosas, and craft beer, encouraging regulars like O’Bryan to sit around and socialize.

Underlying the strategy is the McPhersons’ decision to create a team of core managers they call ‘key employees’ who are invested in the business through a profit-sharing program. Wicklund said he and three other employees will be involved with ordering and inventory, finances, staff management, and system implementation.

“This makes us realize that you’re not successful by how busy you are, but by having a great customer experience,” Wicklund said. “And that goes down to the key employees who are really driven to keep customers satisfied.”

Brandon Wicklund works the bar Friday afternoon. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

For Danny McPherson, the profit-sharing model is both good for business and for changing the perception of those who work in the foodservice industry.

“We’ve owned restaurants now for over eight years, and one of the challenges is giving people a career path,” McPherson said. “People feel kind of ashamed – ‘I’m a server, a bartender, a cook’ – and they feel like second-class citizens. But many don’t want to work behind a desk; this is what they want to do. But there’s not a career path for them.”

And it is a shared sense of ownership that drives the business forward.

“Let them have some skin in the game,” McPherson said. “Let them see that if we give great service, people come back, and that means they make more money.”

Aiming for 50

McPherson was straightforward about his ambitions. After saturating the Wilmington market with three or four restaurants, he and his brother plan to expand on a much larger scale.

“I want to have 50, pretty soon too,” McPherson said.

Like the Mayfaire restaurant and the future Burnt Mill Office Park location, the strategy is to locate in areas near three attractive customer bases: students, working professionals, and active retirees.

His brother Earl said an estimated 2,500 and 3,000 employees are coming to the office park, and as of now they will be the only restaurant there. He also hopes to strike a deal with nearby Flying Machine Brewing Company to serve their beers while figuring out a way to get their food to the brewery’s customers.

The mimosa flight: from left to right, the Traditional, the Island with pineapple, the Poinsettia with cranberry, and the Peach. Each can also be ordered ‘loaded’ with Absolut vodka. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

Leaving the restaurant one can see a large television on the wall playing high-quality video clips of the restaurant’s food plates. When asked who did the work, Earl McPherson said it was no hired outside videographer but the dishwasher — another sign that the employees at Brunches are involved in more than their traditional service roles.

And those employees believe in the McPhersons’ vision of creating a place for people to brunch no matter the day of the week.

“It’s Friday when you want to get off work early,” McPherson said. “It’s Tuesday when its 80 degrees in March and you want to have a drink. That’s our vision, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Brunches is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is located inside the Mayfaire shopping center at 6800-150 Parker Farm Drive, directly across Five Guys restaurant.

Mark Darrough can be reached at or (970) 413-3815

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