When the aftermath of a hard night of partying is still ringing in your head—and gurgling in your stomach—the last thing you want is a cheery stranger walking into your house. But what if the stranger comes bearing a breakfast tray? That’s the business model of several new entrepreneurs who promise to be your personal hangover helper. Companies with names like Morning-After Maids and The Hangover Man have popped up in the U.S. and around the world, catering to college students, bachelor and bachelorette revelers, and anyone else who's over-indulged and has money left over for a bit of morning-after pampering.
Post-party cleaning services are nothing new, but one thing sets these hangover-focused companies apart from the rest of the mop-and-bucket set. Each offers breakfast, some via fast-food runs, but most with custom menus built to settle stomachs and satisfy the cravings of the over-served.
"Obviously, if you throw a party, the last thing you want to do is clean up, but especially not on an empty stomach," says John Lonsdorf, owner of Hangover Honeys in Akron, Ohio. A truck driver by day, Lonsdorf has spent weekends feeding the hungover college students of the Akron area for the past year.
Looking to start a side business, he polled Facebook friends on the idea of a hangover service and decided to throw in meals to fill what he saw as a niche market: the still-sloshed who aren’t up for frying bacon with a pounding headache. He now charges $25 per member of his one- to three-person crews for cleaning and cooking breakfast on the premises, mostly at college students’ off-campus houses.
The menu and kitchen setup varies among hangover services, but most offer electrolyte-replenishing drinks like Gatorade and some greasy fare to settle the stomach. What they generally don't offer is more booze. Whether that’s to avoid having to apply for a liquor license or to prevent inflicting another hangover, it’s a smart customer service move, says Dr. Kathryn Boling, a family medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "That will get you buzzed and just start a whole new cycle," she warns. Boling advises that hangover sufferers pop a multivitamin as soon as their stomachs feel up to it. A ginger or peppermint tea can help with that, she says, and water or Gatorade to rehydrate you. Foods that will replenish sodium and potassium levels are also favored by the experts, along with lean proteins, veggies and fruits.
And yet most hangover company menus are light on the doctor-approved "healthy" options, in favor of the greasy grub, and for good reason: demand. James and Hayley Hookway, owners of Perth, Australia's Hangover Helpers, charge about $200 to $250 Australian ($150 to $190 USD) for a post-party visit. Included in that sum are two breakfast options—the two favored hangover meals of the company's two owners.
Their muesli, nuts, and fruit bowl is called "the Green," and it's Hayley's preferred breakfast. But "the Greasy"—a breakfast wrap stuffed with scrambled eggs, spinach, cheese and bacon that James prefers—is what's been ordered up by 90 percent of their customers in their last year in business.
"I guess people like bacon as much as me," James says with a laugh. "[The breakfasts] are delicious, and people have always loved them. We have found that a lot of our clients go for the greasy start to the day and mix their breakfast wrap with a Powerade sports drink for recovery."
It may be personal preference, but there's at least some science behind the choice. A study out of Newcastle University's Centre for Life back in 2009 posited bacon sandwiches give hangover sufferers a boost in protein and amino acids which replace the neurotransmitters in the brain that are depleted by alcohol. That amino acid boost is one that makes us feel good and what makes them good, old-fashioned comfort food.
Another study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research in 2004, claims there's a link between the thirst for alcohol and cravings for fatty foods. The Princeton researchers behind the study blamed both on a brain chemical called galanin. When drinking more ceases to be appealing (i.e., when we're hungover), the researchers say the desire for fatty foods kicks in to satisfy our brains.
"It's good," Lansdorf says of fatty food. "It may not be the healthiest, but usually the things we like aren't the healthiest."
His company's menu—bacon, eggs, and pancakes—came out of the entrepreneur's own hangover cravings. "My favorite meal of the day is actually breakfast," owner Lonsdorf says. "If I've been drinking and I'm motivated enough, eggs and bacon are my go-to."
"Motivated enough" being the key words. There are few things less motivating than a pounding headache, rumbling stomach, and general nausea, and the "general misery" of a hangover can last up to 24 hours, according to a report in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism. It's no wonder most of the Hookways' clients greet them at the door, grab the food, and disappear.
"We usually hear, 'Oh my God, you guys are lifesavers, I love you,' or, 'This is the best service ever,'" James says. "They grab their breakfast and drink and go back to bed."