June 9, 2014
Biggest challenge for breakfast daypart is converting eat-at-home consumers

By Emily Tod,

Insights project manager, Food IQ

The buzz around breakfast continues; we can’t seem to stop talking about new offerings, concepts, endeavors and players.

Who could blame us? The untapped opportunity of our “most important meal of the day” in the foodservice realm is certainly worth getting excited about. But before we all jump on the breakfast bandwagon, let’s stop and think about consumer behavior and what they are really looking for in this meal.

First, most humans are creatures of habit. We are reliant on our routines — especially in the morning. As stated by Jack Russo, a restaurant analyst with Edward Jones & Company, “Most people are routinized with breakfast. They have only a short time to get to work, so they tend to stay in the same routine.” Consumers spanning from high school students to retirees have particular schedules they keep. With 61 percent of consumers normally eating breakfast at home, according to a recent CivicScience Inc. study, how can we be sure there is a large growth opportunity if humans are so stuck in their ways?

For now, let’s look beyond converting eat-at-home consumers and focus more on stealing market share. It is no secret that when it comes to breakfast on-the-go, it is hard to beat the convenience of the McDonald’s and Starbucks of the world. According to the NPD Group, on average, Americans spend only 12 minutes eating breakfast. Those 12 minutes should be seen as precious by restaurant operators. Many fast casual establishments don’t have the convenient drive-thru service QSRs have, and with morning schedules so tight, consumers need a good reason to spend a couple more minutes to go inside. Next to the QSR segment, the c-store segment has been amping up its foodservice side of the business with offerings such as breakfast burritos and pizzas, biscuits and gravy, and oatmeal. What can those who are trying to break into breakfast do to compete?

You can’t say “Me Too”

Offering the same breakfast items as the competition won’t help you steal any market share. The breakfast sandwich has grown immensely on the menu over the past few years. It is simple, hot, and fairly easy to eat on-the-go. Rather than offering a “me too” sort of menu item, improve upon the classic by using different meats, including exotic spices, or adding toppings that your competitors haven’t considered yet. Dunkin’ Donuts has recently raised the standards on their breakfast sandwiches by featuring Chicken Apple Sausage as a new protein choice and creating an Eggs Benedict sandwich for a traditional flavor profile in a new form. Innovative menu items will draw attention to your daypart expansion and encourage consumers to give the food a try.

But innovative thinking needs to extend beyond new flavors and forms. Great tasting, high-quality food should be a requirement while developing your breakfast offerings, but don’t forget to consider other parts of the dining experience such as beverage, packaging, food carriers and ingredient sourcing. Taco Bell has made waves with its introduction of breakfast,and not just by taking jabs at McDonald’s. Taco Bell has done quite well with creative thinking around flavor, form and carriers such as the AM Crunchwrap which neatly folds up an entire breakfast, or taking a spin on the taco by creating a waffle-flavored shell. Focusing on more than the food will show that your business isn’t just in the breakfast game because you can, but because you want to offer an elevated experience for diners.

The best Cup of Joe

Let’s talk about the drink staple: coffee. Coffee is a vital part of the breakfast business and its quality and taste is a make or break factor in a consumer’s restaurant choice. With coffee being the number one most consumed item during breakfast, according to the NPD Group, we have to pay attention to the quality and taste of the coffee we are offering. Mintel states that branded coffees have shown growth on the menu. Branded coffees often perform well as consumers prefer consistency and familiarity. Another piece of the coffee business to pay attention to is your target customers’ cultural backgrounds, preferences and lifestyles. For instance, if Hispanic guests are an important part of your business, be sure to offer espresso-based beverages to cater to their tastes. Not only may a nice cup of coffee turn a guest into a regular customer, but it can be the foot in the door to sell a complementary breakfast item.

You gotta get it right

Consumers at breakfast time are a force to be reckoned with. Whether consumers wake up on the right or wrong side of the bed, a mishap in the morning can set the tone for their entire day. And a ruined day just might ensure a customer will never return. Order accuracy and speed of service are key in producing happy customers during this daypart. Take into consideration new procedures, practices, or operational systems that will help achieve accurate orders. The ability to have breakfast ready for the consumer by the time they arrive thanks to your mobile ordering app, just might blow the competition out of the water.

We all want to get excited about what the breakfast opportunity could mean for our bottom lines, but let’s not forget to consider all angles of this daypart, from packaging to high quality coffee offerings to new operating systems. In considering all of these facets, consumer wants, needs and desires must come first and foremost. Prioritizing what means the most to the consumer at the start of their day will keep you on track as you venture into breakfast.

Photo provided by Wikimedia.


Topics: Coffee / Specialty Beverages, Food & Beverage, Operations Management, Trends / Statistics

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