Skip navigation
Menu TrendWatch: The Early Shift

Menu TrendWatch: The Early Shift

Breakfast menu trends center on value and convenience.

Harvard had something to learn from Burger King. After seeing too many students with bags of fast food at breakfast time, Harvard Dining decided to deconstruct the breakfast sandwich — meat, marketing and all — and ended up finding out how to increase their share of the elusive a.m. daypart.

Jim DeZutter, director for business development, Harvard University Dining Services, Crista Martin, director for marketing & communications and Martin Breslin, director for culinary operations, wanted to get their own bite of the breakfast burrito — or sandwich, to be more specific.

Harvard Dining's research team focused on breakfast sandwiches from popular retail operations. They focused on price points, marketing, packaging and even the weight of a sausage patty atop a biscuit.

“We found some commonalities that were successful in retail and got together with the culinary team to build a new menu,” DeZutter says.

The team found that taking the “value position” is the way to get more students to start the day with them. With 2-for-1 deals and easy-to-transport breakfast foods, jumping on the trend was far wiser than reinventing the wheel, DeZutter says.

FM recently spoke with DeZutter, Martin and Breslin to learn some of the lessons gleaned from “the big boys” of breakfast.

When you look at the big boys, they've already spent tens of millions of dollars on marketing and research, so it makes sense for us to take advantage of that. The national chains have some modeling that really works for them.

A big opportunity for breakfast is value combos. Whether it's two breakfast sandwiches for one price, with coffee, or a single, a double…there are a lot of possibilities that communicate “value.”

Portability is a major trend for breakfast items. People want to get something they can take with them and get out the door in the morning. They are not necessarily sitting down to eat. That's why breakfast sandwiches and parfaits do so well.

To offer breakfast sandwiches without adding extra labor, keep the recipe simple, and prepare some in advance. Get the sandwiches trayed up and ready and finish them in the oven.

Make-your-own parfaits with yogurt, fruit and granola are very popular, especially in a residential setting.

Breakfast burritos have been very popular for about 4 years. If you have a Mexican station, you can set it up to start the day with breakfast burritos filled with refried beans, eggs and salsa, then just switch to traditional burrito fillings for lunch and dinner.

In areas where there is an extensive salad bar at lunch, you can make it a breakfast bar in the morning. Stock it with fresh fruit, dried fruit, cereal, granola and muesli. Breakfast bars do very well.

Healthy options are important to have on your breakfast menu. To make a healthy breakfast pizza, make it with a whole-grain crust, egg whites and a vegetable.

On the other hand, people love to have a big plate of bacon, and we offer that, too.

The omelet station is a destination for Sunday brunch. People have more time on a Sunday to sit down with their friends for the breakfast daypart than they do during the week. It's a social occasion.

For the omelets, we have about 15 different items to choose from, such as turkey, chicken, smoked salmon, ham, vegetables, and a variety of cheeses from brie to cheddar.

Slider style sandwiches are hot for all dayparts, including breakfast.

Breakfast Data

The following info provided by: an online study of 3,000 consumers done by ConAgra Mills Gilroy Foods & Flavors Food Away from Home Need States Study: Breakfast Occasion

Select chart to enlarge.

Away from Home Breakfast Occasions: Three dominant occasions represent over 80% of fast food breakfast visits: Pit Stop (45%), Getaway Break (25%), and Personal Oasis (12%). On the other hand, four occasions represent almost 75% of full service breakfast visits: Getaway Break (22%), Personal Oasis (18%), Quality Family Time (17%), and Special Time for Us (16%).

What are the occasions for breakfast away from home?

  • Pit Stop: Looking for speedy service and ability to get in and out and purchase/consume the food easily. Products that fit the bill are breakfast sandwiches, wraps and burritos. The key is portability.

  • The Getaway Break: A time for consumers to unwind and take a break, alone or with coworkers. Still looking for value and speedy service. Products that fit the bill are breakfast sandwiches and pastries/sweets.

  • The Personal Oasis: For alone time and to satisfy a craving. Value for the money still reigns supreme, but speedy service and getting in and out quickly are also important. The taste of the food is the most important of all, as the oasis satisfies a craving. Products that fit the bill are coffee drinks and breakfast meats, potatoes and breads.

What's Hot

• Value: 2-for-1 deals, coffee combos, etc.
• Breakfast burritos
• Sunday brunch on campus
• Breakfast sandwiches
• Sliders on biscuits
• Breakfast pizza
• Salad bar used for a breakfast bar
• Make-your-own yogurt parfait
• Healthy breakfast items (egg whites, spinach, whole wheat bread)
• Portability: options for on-the-go mornings

Related Recipes
NYC-Style Eggs on a Roll
Jesse's Favorite Egg, Avocado and Bacon Sandwich

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.