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Breakout Breakfast

It’s just not possible to relegate the satisfaction and comfort of breakfast foods to early morning hours any more. In recent years, customers have increasingly clamored for traditional favorites—like egg dishes, hash browns and sausage and grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches—all day long. Likewise, operators are finding more cross-over foods that readily appeal to customers in the breakfast daypart even though they might at first be associated with the choices made by lunch and dinner customers. The end result has been a menu broadening that increases choice and opportunity all day long.

Breakfast…and Beyond!
Breakfast sandwiches and omelets hold particular flexibility for adaptation to other daypart menus. Veronica Lavene, head cook at the K-12 Bertrand Community School in Nebraska, combines the two concepts in the hand-held “Omelet on the Go” offering she created with eggs, salsa, sausage and flattened bread (see recipe, pg. 56).

Maria Cunningham, Assistant Director of Nutrition Services at Geary Community Hospital in Junction City, KS, melds the appeal of breakfast and Mexican food in a breakfast chimichanga; while John Pence, associate director of Housing & Dining at Kansas State University, offers an upscale take on the breakfast sandwich with a Mediterranean egg salad in focaccia – a dish that definitely blurs the breakfast-lunch boundaries.

At the University of Missouri- Columbia campus, students find French crepes frequently featured at the World’s Fare international station during lunch and dinner.

Similarly, “Omelets by Chef Billie Jo,” is a signature item at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, offered from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for now, but the hours soon soon to be extended because the option is so popular during lunch, according to General Manager Susan Sadoff. Although she makes sure to offer potatoes and other breakfast side dishes on the hot line to accompany the omelets, Sadoff notes that as lunchtime approaches, students still want the omelets, but wish to pair them with a side salad or fruit and yogurt as sides.

Campus Adaptations
There is perhaps no other onsite segment in which breakfast is more an all-day menu option than the college and university market. As students continue to sign up for later classes, manage to avoid Friday instruction altogether, and make greater demands for late-night dining, traditional breakfast hours no longer cut it.

As Cynthia Lategan, senior executive chef at Colorado State University, puts it, “Breakfast is very, very popular, and if we only served it during breakfast hours, only a small percentage of students would be up to eat it!”

As a result, a full, traditional breakfast at CSU can be had at two locations up until 2 p.m. Many campus operations that used to close down breakfast around 9:00 or 9:30 have extended it until at least 11 a.m. now. In a reverse switch at Wartburg College in Waverly, IA, Director of Dining Services Margaret Empie changed the typical order of hot breakfast in the early morning hours, followed by continental breakfast fare in mid-morning. “Now, the continental breakfast starts early, and the hot breakfast ends just before lunch. Participation has improved, and students are eating more hot breakfast food besides just cereal and pastries,” she says. At Chico State University in California,

The Yogurt Culture

Self-serve yogurt and fruit bars, grab-n-go parfaits, individual yogurt containers—calls for yogurt in all its varieties just keeps growing. And that’s not just an onsite trend—according to 2007 NPD CREST data, yogurt servings are up in restaurants 18% over last year.

New product innovations and creative toppings and stir-ins are one reason. They help renew interest and cut labor needed to serve this option. But yogurt’s flexibility as an ingredient is another—operators readily find that they can stimulate sales by simply introducing less obvious fruit choice combinations, such as this recipe for mango parfaits, or by offering it as an optional ingredient or dressing at salad bars or as a “garnish it yourself” station concept.

Resident Dining Manager Bill Johnston reports that “breakfast is currently outperforming our lunches. I could probably leave breakfast open until 3 p.m. and students would be fine with it.”

All Day Success
And that’s just the ticket at many campuses around the country, which frequently feature all-day breakfast in one or more retail facilities. Trends for day-long breakfast fare include:

  • Belgian waffle bars with toppings ranging from fresh fruit, syrups and chocolate chips to ice cream.
  • Cereal bars with up to 15 different varieties at one time and multiple topping options. Sweetened brands often beat out brownies or cookies for lunch and dinner dessert.
  • Yogurt/fruit bars and grab-n-go parfaits.
  • Breakfast sandwiches and paninis. (University of Connecticut offers one on French toast bread with a Western omelet and American cheese, grilled to order.)
  • Omelets and cooked-to-order eggs. (The dedicated “Eggs’actly Grill” at Ashland University in Ohio serves up such vittles every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)

Many colleges and universities highlight a breakfast-themed menu for lunch or dinner on a weekly basis or in regular rotation, and it’s often one of the biggest draws. Notes Ralph Perrotto, associate director of dining at Tufts University in Massachusetts: “Until recently, the Friday dinner in one hall was an exhibition station omelet night. It succeeded in growing attendance on a night of historically low patronage.” Although staff replaced the station this year as a “change of pace,” they immediately faced an uproar from students about it. “Demand from students has us looking for a new weeknight home for this popular item,” Perrotto says.

Such is the appeal of breakfast foods at non-traditional meal times that at Ball State University in Muncie, IN, this year’s spring version of the bi-annual “Wow” meal (where dining services stage “a complete blow out meal,” according to Chef Allen White) will actually have a breakfast theme for the first time. The menu will boast slightly pumped up versions of the standards, such as cream-cheese stuffed French toast with cheesecake-style fruit toppings.

Breakfast items on campuses’ late night dining menus are pretty much mandatory now. In fact, at one hall at the University of New Hampshire, breakfast entrees and cereal outsell the pizza, burgers and fries offered during the 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. time slot; while breakfast sandwiches on English muffins rank as the number one selling item at Washington State University’s late night venue right up to the 1:30 a.m. closing.

The most common comfort food offered to soothe bleary-eyed students during finals week? Again, breakfast foods, most particularly pancakes, which might even be dished up by faculty and the college president in some traditions, such as the one at California Institute of Technology.

As Kansas State’s John Pence sums it up, “In years past, we used to do pancakes for dinner on April Fool’s Day. But now, it’s no joke, the students really want them all year long!”

For a great recipe:
Mediterranean Egg Salad in Focaccia
Frittata with Onion, Basil and Tomato
Breakfast Cazuela
Chocolate & Peanut Butter Grilled Breakfast Panini
Canadian Bacon, Asparagus and Smoked Gouda Crustless Quiche
Little Italy Chicken Breakfast Bagel
Grape-Stuffed French Toast
Blueberry-Maple Breakfast Bake

On-the-Go Omelet

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