Waking up breakfast sales

Published in FSD Update

The morning meal is booming, especially in the quick-service restaurant segment.

The industry’s giants are in full battle mode, with McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King and other QSRs publicly duking it out for a bigger piece of the $30 billion breakfast pie. According to the Breakfast Insights for Champions report released last month by Chicago-based Food Genius, a data-research company for the food industry, availability of breakfast away from home has been steadily increasing during the past year. In fact, growth increased 13% in just the last nine months. The quick-service segment is the most active, confirms the report; casual and fine dining are significantly underrepresented.

So what exactly are consumers looking for when they stop by a QSR or fast-casual restaurant for breakfast in the morning? During the week, speed and portability rule, finds the 2013 Breakfast Consumer Trend Report published by Chicago research firm Technomic. Customers grabbing breakfast to go want a handheld option that they can eat in the car or at their desk. Breakfast sandwiches still are the most popular, appearing on 42% of menus, says Food Genius, but inventive restaurant operators are taking the a.m. sandwich in new directions—or abandoning the bread altogether.

Pizza for breakfast

Though atypical for a pizza concept, 19-unit fast casual Uncle Maddio’s is testing a breakfast program in its Charlotte, N.C., location. “A large number of people pass through the Bank of America building where we’re located, and the Chick-fil-A next door does a lot of breakfast, so we wanted to try it,” says Alex Cook, vice president of operations, research and development and corporate training.

Pizza is not a usual breakfast choice, so Cook developed a commuter-friendly alternative called the Break-Zone ($3.99). Like a calzone, fresh pizza dough is folded to enclose a filling that includes scrambled eggs, cheese and ingredients such as bacon, sausage, onions and peppers. All the products except the eggs already existed in Uncle Maddio’s inventory.

“The Break-Zones are all prepared and baked to order and ready in 4 to 5 minutes,” Cook says. The new breakfast menu—which 85% of customers order to go—also includes breakfast pizzas and paninis, Cook says. In four months, breakfast business in Charlotte is trending positively and consistently every week, Cook adds, and Uncle Maddio’s plans to expand the menu to airport locations. “The biggest challenge is getting people to realize that a pizza concept can align with breakfast,” he says, adding that the Charlotte crew is doing a good job of promoting it through coupons and POS materials.

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menu development