As the pandemic has progressed, from a business standpoint it’s becoming apparent that those who will survive will be those who have been flexible, nimble, ready to change at a moment’s notice, ready to pivot and anticipate customers’ needs like never before. In the foodservice world, that means menus, service styles and ordering options must be up-to-the-minute.
And the day starts with breakfast.
Inspiration from the Golden Arches
McDonald’s Egg McMuffin is one of the most iconic breakfast items in existence. And with good reason. But there was a time when it was met with skepticism, from the very top. Back in 1972, a McDonald’s franchise owner in Southern California named Herb Peterson pitched his “crazy” breakfast sandwich idea to skeptical McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc.
In Kroc’s autobiography, he recalls meeting the McMuffin for the first time: “He didn’t want me to reject it out of hand, which I might have done, because it was a crazy idea—a breakfast sandwich,” Kroc writes. “It consisted of an egg that had been formed in a Teflon circle, with the yolk broken, and was dressed with a slice of cheese and a slice of grilled Canadian bacon. This was served open-faced on a toasted and buttered English muffin. I boggled a bit at the presentation. But then I tasted it, and I was sold. Wow!”
Flash-forward to present-day Minneapolis, and school chefs are building on that same “wow” moment. Rebecca Polson, C.C., SNS, culinary trainer with Culinary and Wellness Services at Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) has been making videos to show families receiving meal boxes during the summer what they can do with the ingredients.
Her breakfast sandwich was one of those creations, and as MPS moves into the next step of bringing students back to the classroom, the simplicity and portability of that sandwich will inform the new breakfast menus.
Bertrand Weber, MPS director of Culinary and Wellness Services at MPS, began planning with a few scenarios in mind pending decisions from district, but “with that being said, all of our breakfast will be snacky grab-and-go-able (to use your new term!) regardless of the scenarios,” Weber says.
A two-week cycle might include a rotation of snack breads, the muffin sandwiches, oatmeal bars, waffles, bagels with cream cheese, French toast sticks, pancakes, yogurts, string cheese, fresh fruit cups, fresh whole fruits and hard-boiled eggs.
Waking up to new trends
“We’re looking at breakfast completely differently,” says Ian Christopher, one of the founders of San Diego startup Galley Solutions, a technology platform for back of the house that powers ghost kitchens and campus kitchens, too. “The only viable breakfast concepts are diversifying their offerings and being really creative. Breakfast has never been optimized for delivery…Eggs are the main staple; you have to think about your menu. Are you really going to send Eggs Benedict with soggy muffins and bechamel everywhere? You have to get strategic with the ‘last mile’ of delivery with items like breakfast burritos or sandwiches. People are tweaking their core offering and cross-utilizing breakfast ingredients. It’s also a gold mine because you have such an incredible margin with breakfast; it’s really where you can make up a lot of your loss on the rest of the menu.”
Jamal Rasoully, a SUNY alum who founded fast-casual halal chicken concept The Halal Shack, has been weathering the pandemic and even opening new college and university locations. He’s also looking to push beyond the norm as things get back up and running.
Breakfast has never been the backbone of The Halal Shack in terms of menu items but seeing a need for halal breakfast options on several campuses where The Halal Shack does business, Rasoully introduced some cool new options, a brunch bowl and a brunch wrap. Both basically add eggs and hash browns to existing menu ingredients—naan, lettuce and the signature Spin sauces, in hot and white.
Portability and convenience for customers are both areas of focus for Rasoully as he navigates the college market.
“The meals we serve have to able to fit the time constraints of the students, faculty and staff,” he says. “Most of the time where they eat breakfast and how they eat it is never the same.”
Ghost of breakfast future?
Ghost kitchens have been making waves as the pandemic continues, offering several things customers crave: convenience, customization and a have-it-your-way vibe. Galley Solutions is a productivity platform for back of the house that helps operators optimize their menu items and keep all the info organized.
“Ghost kitchens are optimized to be hyper agile to respond to the market’s needs,” Christopher says. “In San Diego, the Broken Yolk Café has optimized their offerings with a family-style Mexican breakfast with burritos, chilaquiles and all the trappings to feed a family of four for less than $20.”
Christopher thinks the college foodservice market could really take advantage of breakfast, too.
“College and universities are at this point where everything was on fire and now, we’re waiting to see how schools will reopen,” he says. “It’s going to be really interesting. To see a school like Duke converting their catering kitchen to a ghost kitchen …They’re thinking so progressively as to what their foodservice model needs to be. I think it’s a super exciting time.”
Versatility is the key component appealing to Sodexo operators when it comes to breakfast ideas, says Lynn Browning, head of retail excellence for Sodexo North America. The contract company’s Simply to Go breakfast sandwiches and bowls “both can be held hot or cold and they can be reheated.”
The chicken and waffle breakfast bowl fits the need to offer the “comfort food they crave,” Browning says, adding that these items are designed with recyclable packaging with options for compostable packaging.
What are Americans ordering for breakfast delivery?
Food delivery giant DoorDash gathered data from a national survey on which breakfast items people have most ordered in the last few months, by region:
- East Coast: Iced coffee, donuts, Belgian waffles
- West Coast: Breakfast burritos, bacon, French toast
- Midwest: Oatmeal, strawberry-banana smoothies, biscuits
- South: Sausage biscuits, hash brown burritos, orange juice
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