Everybody loves breakfast—except millennials

Breakfast in the college and university market makes up the smallest percentage of total business, at 23%.

Breakfast, it would appear, is considered to be an important meal by most people—except for college students. At many universities students continue to eschew the morning meal, at least in campus foodservice outlets, while in other segments breakfast continues to enjoy healthy, even growing, participation.

According to The Big Picture research, in the college and university market breakfast makes up the smallest percentage of total business, at 23%. By comparison, the oldest generation seems to place more stock in breakfast, with fully one-third of total foodservice in senior living facilities occurring at breakfast.
In addition, more college foodservice personnel (12%) than those in any other segment reported that breakfast participation declined during the last two years.

Only 5% of all respondents reported a decrease in the morning meal in the past two years. Yet, overall 52% of respondents reported an increase in breakfast in the past two years.

This is nothing new to most college foodservice directors, who for several years have talked about the decline in breakfast participation.

“To students, breakfast isn’t a daypart anymore,” says Camp Howard, director of dining services at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. “Instead, it’s a type of food that can be eaten at any time of day, like smoothies at 10 p.m. or pancakes at midnight. Late night is very popular with our students.”

Indeed, colleges are the most likely of any segment to offer either a full or limited breakfast menu all day, at 39%. At Penn State University’s Altoona campus, for instance, there is a station in the residence hall cafeteria called Sunrise-Sunset at which breakfast items are served from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“There is a core of students who want a full breakfast, but most just want coffee and a muffin or bagel, something quick to grab and go,” adds Howard, who notes that the wake-up time for students can range from “7 a.m. to noon.”

Garett DiStefano, director of residential dining at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, is another director who has seen the shift from early morning to late night.

“Overall, in our three dining commons, we’re probably feeding about 4,000 to 5,000 students at breakfast,” he says, “mainly between 10 to 11 a.m. Our 7 a.m. to 9 or 10 a.m. is relatively light. On the other hand, 9 p.m. to midnight business is growing tremendously.”

The segments reporting the largest growth in breakfast participation in the past two years are B&I (70%) and schools (66%). In many districts the growth is occurring because the districts or state boards of education are placing more marketing efforts on the morning meal.

For example, the state of Illinois began The School Breakfast Challenge last April. Schools’ breakfast participation will be monitored for the first half of the year and then compared to the second half. Those with the largest percentage increases in average daily breakfast participation rates will receive monetary awards.

Pam Webber, foodservice director for Community School District 205, Galesburg, Ill., where 18% of students eat breakfast at school, says the department’s efforts to convince students that eating breakfast is important to learning seems to be paying off. She says that in September 2011 800 students ate breakfast in school, compared with 860 students this September.

Also contributing to breakfast growth in schools are breakfast in the classroom programs, which make it easier for students to participate because it occurs right before class time.

Diana Goode, foodservice director for the Wellington (Ohio) Exempted Village Schools, says her district has seen a slight increase in participation since breakfast in the classroom was introduced. “It’s almost seamless for us, and it’s a nice way for the kids to start the day,” Goode says.

In the B&I segment, strong breakfast business may be attributed to a change in work habits among employees at companies where 9-to-5 is no longer the rule.
Gary Coutre, general manager for Sodexo at Seimens Industry Inc., Buffalo Grove, Ill., says flex time for Siemens’ employees has an impact on breakfast participation.

“Our breakfast participation fluctuates because of flex time, but it has remained pretty steady and strong,” says Coutre. “We’ve seen a core of people who like to come into work earlier, and they tend to grab breakfast to take back to their offices. There are other employees who may start a little later, and they sit down to eat before they start their day.” 

Fast Facts

98% of operators offer breakfast.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
reusable coffee cup thermos

We were inspired by a book titled “Influence” to start a sustainable cup program called My Cup. All 15,000 new students receive a reusable cup with their name on it, which they can use at the dining halls. Personalizing helps them invest in the program and actually use it.

Menu Development
quinoa bowl

In a time of growing health consciousness, it might not be enough anymore for food to be merely filling. According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report , diners are looking for food with a function, such as those with high protein content, immunity-boosting properties, antioxidants, probiotics and more. The data suggests 63% of consumers see these foods as healthier than those without any specific nutritional function—and would be more likely to buy them.

But are those stated preferences translating on an operational level? There, the answer is less clear. Baby...

Menu Development
ranch dressing chicken fingers

While salad bars are often the first place K-12 operators look to incorporate more fresh produce, few go as far as making their own salad dressings. But last fall, in a continuing effort to transition from prepackaged meals to an all-scratch menu, Mark Augustine, executive chef of culinary and nutrition services for Minneapolis Public Schools, switched to concocting four varieties in-house—ranch, Caesar, Italian and Asian vinaigrette. The move, designed to eliminate artificial ingredients and lower fat and sodium, presented the biggest challenge when it came to ranch dressing, the school-...

Ideas and Innovation
phone bed call sick

We make people call and directly talk to their boss or supervisor if they are reporting an absence for a shift. While it is more cumbersome, it is a conscious decision. We have adapted and implemented electronic methods to obtain efficiencies in just about every other functional area, except for electronic absence reporting systems. The direct supervisor can put more pressure on an employee to show up—especially those with some form of the “Super Bowl plague”—than any electronic system can.

FSD Resources