Customers' most-craved restaurant breakfasts

Lizzy Freier, Technomic Menu Analysis Managing Editor

Cracker Barrel breakfast

Top restaurant chains have been battling for breakfast domination for some time. As of late, trends in the morning daypart include second breakfast, snackified items, chicken at breakfast and more. As more eateries boost their breakfast game (and many expand it all day), knowing what consumers crave most in the morning will be even more essential.

Click through to uncover the 10 chains that recent customers say offer the most craveable breakfast dishes out of the leading brands surveyed for Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics. The chains are ranked from 10th to first in order of the percentage of recent diners who say the breakfast items are craveworthy and one of a kind.

10. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

Cracker Barrel breakfast

Score: 15.9%

Almost a sixth of recent customers say they can’t get their Cracker Barrel breakfast fix anywhere else. Of all the items on Cracker Barrel’s vast breakfast menu, by far the greatest callout in the verbatims is for the Hashbrown Casserole side. The $2.79 side—also the most-ordered item on the menu, per People—is described as a “country vegetable” that’s “prepared traditional country style right here in our kitchen.” Numerous guests also point to the biscuits as a craveable item—they’re featured as a side and in various entrees with gravy, eggs and as a sandwich base.

9. Bob Evans

bob Evans breakfast

Score: 21.3%

Breakfast at Bob Evans is a craveable menu feature that over a fifth of recent customers say they can only get there. Sausage and sausage gravy are top callouts in the verbatims, with one respondent saying “They have the number one sausage in my opinion.” The Bob Evans Sausage Gravy Breakfast features a bowl of sausage gravy served with biscuits and hash browns, home fries or grits—it’s a top callout among consumers. Survey respondents also list biscuits in general as a crave-inducing item more often than any of the griddle or egg breakfast items.

8. Village Inn

village inn

Score: 21.3%

More than one in five consumers say that breakfast at Village Inn is a craveable feature they can only get at that brand. No one item stands out in the verbatims—a couple mentions for omelets, skillets, pancakes, French toast, eggs and crepes pop up. However, many point to this variety as a craveable factor of Village Inn, with one consumer specifically listing the “expansive breakfast menu” as craveworthy. And this verbatim is also backed by the menu gap analysis—Village Inn has a total of 209 items on its menu, compared to just 173 items on average for midscale family-style chains. Its menu item total exceeds that of IHOP, Denny’s, Cracker Barrel, Waffle House and Bob Evans.

7. Chick-fil-A

chick fil a

Score: 22.3%

More than a fifth of recent customers say they can’t get their Chick-fil-A breakfast fix anywhere else. The sole chain that’s not in the midscale family-style segment, Chick-fil-A launched its first breakfast item in 1986 (the Chicken Biscuit) and has since extended to around eight other breakfast sandwiches as well as fruit cups and a Greek yogurt parfait, both of which are listed as craveable items in the verbatims. Two folks also point to the quick-service chain’s Chick-n-Minis mini chicken sandwiches as crave-inducing, with one respondent saying they like to eat the product as a snack.

6. Perkins Restaurant & Bakery


Score: 25.4%

Over a quarter of recent customers find breakfast craveworthy at Perkins. Mammoth Muffins are the top callout in the verbatims, with respondents pointing to the freshness and large size of the muffins as being craveable features. In addition, pancakes are a common listing, with specific varieties like Lemon Blueberry and Blueberry Banana as top mentions in the verbatims.

5. Huddle House

huddle house

Score: 30.6%

Over three-tenths of recent customers crave the breakfast at Huddle House. Waffles is the top callout among respondents, with one saying “I just love their waffles,” and another stating Huddle House has a “real good waffle.” All three waffle varieties are listed in vertabims, including the standard Golden Waffle, Southern Pecan Waffle and Strawberry Topped Waffle. Country Fried Steak follows waffles as a top listing in the verbatims; the item is topped with white pepper country gravy and served as a platter with two eggs, grits or hash browns and toast. And Stuffed Hashbrowns round out the top three verbatim mentions—it features breakfast meats, scrambled eggs and American cheese stuffed between layers of hash browns.

4. Denny’s


Score: 30.7%

More than three in 10 recent customers crave Denny’s breakfast and say they can’t get it anywhere else. Although breakfast all day is a feature of many chains on this list, more commenters mention this aspect as being craveworthy in the Denny’s verbatims compared to other chains, with statements like “Breakfast items late at night,” “Breakfast items anytime I crave it” and “Breakfast whenever I want.” Other comments on craveability relate to the quality and freshness of Denny’s breakfast, with write-ins like “Quality items” and “The food is always fresh.” These statements appear more often than any one particular item callout as crave-inducing.

3. First Watch

first watch

Score: 39.8%

Almost two-fifths of recent customers say that First Watch serves up mouthwatering breakfast items they can’t get anywhere else. The sheer breadth of options is what consumers crave most about First Watch’s breakfast: “Some of the veg omelets,” “Several breakfast choices,” and “Some of their pancake flavors and some of their omelet combinations” are all write-ins, while a wide variety of specific options are also mentioned. Numerous consumers also point to various health components of First Watch’s breakfast as being craveable, including “Organic quinoa bowl,” “Multigrain products,” “Fresh health food” and “Good vegetarian or vegan options.”

2. Waffle House

Waffle House

Score: 55.7%

Although Waffle House trails behind IHOP, Denny’s and Cracker Barrel in sales, the midscale chain ranks second among consumers’ most-craved breakfast chains, with more than half of recent customers hankering for its breakfast. Unsurprisingly, the eponymous waffle—available in regular or pecan varieties with peanut butter or chocolate chips as toppings—is the leading mention in the verbatims, with consumers pointing to the fact that it’s a signature of the Waffle House brand: “No one else makes them like Waffle House” and “Nobody does it better.” Hash browns are another hit among consumers. The many varieties make them craveable to many respondents: “Different ways to fix hash browns,” “Breakfast items the way I want them” and “Variety of hash browns.” Waffle House’s Hashbrowns come in three sizes and eight varieties.



Score: 69.7%

Almost seven in 10 consumers rate IHOP’s breakfast as craveworthy, elevating this breakfast to the most-craveable top spot. Just like waffles are the top hit at Waffle House, so are pancakes at the International House of Pancakes. Almost 15 varieties are available, and while many simply list generic “pancakes” as being craveable in the verbatims, many consumers have their specific favorites, ranging from Red Velvet Pancakes to New York Cheesecake Pancakes. Variety is a huge factor in craveworthiness for both pancakes and other breakfast fare, with callouts like “A variety of syrups,” “Different types of pancakes,” “Crepe varieties” and “Variety of French toast.” Seasonality is also a hit, with respondents listing “Holiday-oriented waffles” and “Seasonal pancakes or waffles” as crave-inducing.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of New Mexico’s proposed on-campus taproom has officially been approved by the school’s Board of Regents.

Construction on the $650,000 student union taproom will begin this summer and is expected to finish in August when students return to campus. The school’s food vendor, Chartwells, and UNM’s Dining & Food Services department will split the cost of the taproom evenly.

Designed by students in the school’s architecture department, the space will feature a rotating selection of beer and wine, and will also welcome guest brewers. Chartwells will be...

Ideas and Innovation

Three years ago, Colonial School District in New Castle, Del., started a pilot supper program at its high school. The goal: To make sure the district’s students, 57% of whom are on free or reduced-priced meals, would not be hungry when school is done for the day.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to 12 schools and now provides afterschool meals to children participating in YMCA activities. And it's just one of many such programs popping up in districts throughout the country, as operators add supper to the list of daily meals they provide for students.

Ideas and Innovation

We put our hydroponic gardens in a spot where students can watch them grow, but at the same time it’s safe from being tampered with. At one of our elementary schools, the gardens are in the kitchen, but there’s a window where students can look in as they walk down the hallway. Some even stop to count how many cucumbers they see.

Ideas and Innovation
food snap

We started a 50-member vegan team in response to students expressing the need for more vegan options. Between our monthly meetings, students are asked to take photos of foods they eat in and out of the dining halls to give us a true picture of the kinds of things they like and the kinds of foods that cause disappointment. This exercise has sparked a lot of conversation and given us more insight into what we could do better.

FSD Resources