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Enterprising foodservice operators are looking to tap into the breakfast boom by merchandising morning menu items throughout the day.
While an increasing number of restaurateurs are opting to offer a full breakfast menu for lunch and dinner, others are catering to Americans' fondness for the early morning daypart by offering a strategic selection of breakfast-centric items — many of which feature at least one prominent protein component.
In either case, what many refer to as “the most important meal of the day” is continuing to provide revenue-building opportunities for operators who offer consumers convenience, affordability and portability — as well as a creative and flavorful culinary experience.
According to the National Restaurant Association's 2016 industry forecast, 70 percent of consumers polled said they wished restaurants served breakfast all day long. With more restaurants adding breakfast items to lunch and dinner menus, the NRA asked consumers if they would order breakfast items more often if restaurants offered them throughout the day, and 60 percent say they would. Millennials — those individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 who are known for their more adventurous behavior — were even more enthusiastic, with 65 percent saying they would order breakfast items more often if operators offered them throughout the day.
Meanwhile, The NPD Group, a global information company, predicts that breakfast consumption will continue to grow. NPD forecasts that total breakfast occasions in- and away-from-home will grow 5 percent through 2019 — with 70 percent of all early morning meals consumed in the home. That, experts say, leaves a lot of opportunity for operators looking to convert do-it-yourself consumers.
All-day breakfast — or offering a sampling of all-day breakfast items — “is a no-brainer,” says Dennis Lombardi, president of Insight Dynamics LLC, a consultancy in Columbus, Ohio. “Consumers may want a lighter meal and not a burger or fried chicken or pizza. Many may have a preference for a quick and easy half meal or afternoon snack — egg, protein and some bread carrier.”
The issue, he points out, “is what does it do to a restaurant's operations?”
Lombardi advises operators to make sure plans to expand their breakfast program won't negatively impact existing business. He says initially it is important to recognize that an increased percentage of competitors are offering breakfast today. “You need to look at that and know what [the competition] is doing,” he says.
Next, ascertain whether the addition of an all-day breakfast program is likely to increase lunch or dinner traffic, or whether breakfast items will negatively impact sales in other dayparts — will they cannibalize existing sales of other items during lunch and dinner? Finally, how will all-day breakfast items affect operations in terms of complexity, speed of service and order accuracy. Will they require additional staff training? he asks.
While most operators are finding the addition of an all-day breakfast program or a selection of a.m. items to the lunch or dinner menus is likely to impact operations to varying degrees, many operators are nevertheless taking the plunge. Datassential Menu Trends cites a number of operators offering all-day breakfast items to their menus. For example, G.Michael’s Bistro & Bar features shrimp and grits with country ham, andouille sausage and stone-ground yellow grits served in a tomato scallion broth; Andy's Diner and Pub menus eggs Benedict: two poached eggs with Canadian bacon over toasted English muffin topped with hollandaise sauce, served with home fries; and Stanford's Bar & Grill features Ham and Cheddar Omelet with country potatoes and a housemade biscuit.
The benefits of all-day breakfast
One economic argument favoring the addition of all-day breakfast items is that most tend to run moderate to low food costs. While operators last year had to wrestle with high egg costs brought about by an outbreak of the Avian flu, prices have since come down, says Ryan McNulty, director of culinary development for Metz Culinary Management in Dallas, Pennsylvania. “Grains are cost-effective too.”
Breakfast dishes also allow for the cross-utilization of ingredients. For example, at the Wyoming Seminary, one of Metz's nearly 235 onsite accounts, frittatas and quiches are reliable all-day breakfast sellers which can incorporate a range of ingredients, such as chicken, shrimp, spinach, potato and chutney — depending upon whatever else is appearing on the menu that day.
All-day breakfast selections also provide chefs with the latitude to explore other trends, such as the evolving global flavors movement. McNulty says a popular breakfast-lunch-dinner item at the school is congee, an Asian porridge-style dish that can contain peanuts, lime, Thai chilies, cilantro, soy sauce and sriracha. The seminary also offers other dishes with international flair, such as savory crêpes filled with chicken, bacon or gouda,and stuffed Italian French toast with French bread stuffed with ricotta cheese, spinach, roasted peppers, and topped with vodka sauce and shaved parmesan.
Operators also are finding that all-day breakfast items can allow guests to customize their selection. “Our classic Bacon, Egg & Cheese on a Bagel is a top seller across all dayparts,” says Judy Kadylak, vice president of marketing for the 269-unit Bruegger's Bagels in Dallas. “Customers can customize their sandwich with their own choice of bagel variety and cheese, and can also opt for sausage, turkey sausage or ham.”
Bruegger's Western egg sandwich also cuts across dayparts from breakfast to brunch to lunch, Kadylak says. The sandwich pairs a freshly cracked egg with bacon, cheddar, green and red peppers, red onions, and chipotle sauce on a choice of bagels.
Economics allow Bruegger's to keep prices low. “Because the food cost is generally favorable on egg sandwiches, and because they require less labor to make than more involved lunch sandwiches or entrée salads, our egg sandwiches tend to be priced at less than $5,” she says. “From a customer’s perspective, egg sandwiches tend to have lower price points than lunch sandwiches, and they are a terrific comfort food to enjoy at any time of day.”
Robert Maynard, chief executive of the Famous Toastery, the 15-unit better-breakfast concept based in Davidson, N.C., says while the trend toward offering breakfast items throughout the day began several years ago, “everyone is catching on to it now.”
Famous Toastery's best-selling all-day items include an avocado omelet with tomato, thick cut bacon and Parmesan cheese. Another popular afternoon item is the protein-packed meatloaf omelet containing meatloaf, cheddar, and caramelized onions. The Southwestern Omelet includes chorizo, tomatoes, bell pepper and cheddar. And for health-conscious patrons Famous Toastery menus The Runner, an omelet made with egg whites, turkey, roasted vegetables and Brie.
In an effort to further boost all-day breakfast sales, Maynard says the chain — whose food cost runs between 23 and 26 percent — has plans to offer quinoa bowls with chicken, quinoa, avocado, kale and other vegetables, and a make-your-own omelet area, which will allow patrons to customize their selections.
Whatever approach operators pursue, however, most experts forecast that all-day breakfast programs are expected to increase in the future. “Offering breakfast items throughout the day just responds to growing consumer demands,” says Lombardi. “The key is to figure out the balance between pleasing your customer and the impact it will have on operation complexity and unit-level profitability.”