It’s time for breakfast

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Breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day. For generations, this is what we’ve heard our mothers say. As it turns out, breakfast could be the most important meal of the day for operations too. After all, it is predicted to be a $33.4 billion business by 2015, outpacing foodservice industry growth by 2.3% overall.1 Additionally, breakfast traffic has increased 5% and dollar sales are up 7% at QSRs.2 With that being said, there’s really only one question that comes to mind. What’s for breakfast?

A few breakfast trend drivers have been identified—premiumization and indulgence, health, hearty/wholesome, value and the use of coffee as a “hook”.1 More traditional sit-down breakfasts—breakfast platters, omelets, waffles—are showing less growth (or a decline in the case of waffles).3 Portability is something to consider as well since on-the-go lifestyles have become the norm—especially among students. Many Americans are still skipping breakfast, so making it convenient and easy to grab and go is an important component of the category.1

Premiumization and Indulgence
More and more, better ingredients are being called out to meet demands for premium quality. Breakfast is no exception to these demands or to the desire of indulgence. While health is top of mind, indulgence is still desired.1 Even those who watch what they eat throughout the week usually allow themselves indulgences on the weekends. Bakery cafes have the artisan advantage and the ability to display their premium offerings. However, every campus operation can easily deliver the indulgence factor with premium, bakery-style breakfast classics such as muffins, pastries, and breads featuring fine ingredients such as chocolate, fruit, and nuts.

Considering that health is top of mind but indulgence is still desired, why not provide options that deliver on both? Offering smaller portions of breakfast items such as muffins or pastries give students and campus staff permission to indulge. To cater to different tastes, offer large-sized muffins to capture those who are strictly after indulgence, and smaller-sized muffins to appeal to those who want the indulgence in a smaller, smarter portion. Whole-grain baked goods work in the same way. For example, the typical blueberry muffin immediately gains a health halo when it is made with whole grain.

Here’s where the old adage, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” is applied in its truest sense. This philosophy has busy students seeking out hearty breakfast options that will give them lasting energy all morning long. For many, this means the perfect balance of carbs and protein in the form of the breakfast sandwich—the most common breakfast menu item.3

Aside from being a hearty morning option, growing excitement over the breakfast sandwich may be due to more healthful features such as egg whites, or perhaps to more exotic interpretations of the classic. Take, for example, McDonald’s jalapeño salsa breakfast sandwiches tested in the Houston area. Flavor twists such as these will mostly likely become more prevalent in the breakfast category. According to the What’s Hot 2013 Chef Survey compiled by the NRA, ethnic-inspired items are the top trend for breakfast in 2013.4

Whether your customers are looking for indulgent, health-conscious or hearty options, cost is always a consideration. This is most always true of college students. They don’t mind paying more for what they want—as long as it delivers. Serving premium quality items ensure breakfast seekers won’t be disappointed. For those seeking value price points, breakfast bundles featuring a pastry, muffin or breakfast sandwich plus a cup of coffee fit the bill. Portable items such as these add yet another element of value with the convenience factor students on the run often require.

Many Americans can’t start their day until they’ve had their first cup of coffee. By offering premium/specialty coffee, you’ll entice more campus traffic and create opportunity for bigger breakfast checks. Bundling breakfast items with coffee creates the perfect answer for those who have to have their coffee but want something more substantial to help kick-start the day.  And it’s easy to add to a coffee sale with a simple, baked item that’s ideal for eating on the run.

Knowing what to serve for breakfast comes from knowing your customers. Think about their needs as you put your menu together. Indulgent. Healthy. Hearty. Small portions. It’s obvious not everyone eats the same. Ensuring your menu offers variety is essential to capturing student interest and keeping it. And keeping your menu fresh will continually offer new reasons for them to make your location their morning stop. A simple way to refresh is by rotating limited-time-offer items. These may be inspired by seasonal veggies and fruits, or perhaps a surplus of ingredients you happen to have on hand. It may even be as simple as featuring a particular muffin flavor every month. But the most important thing in ensuring breakfast success is simply to serve it so that you can capture some of the 90% of consumers who eat breakfast in the morning (and perhaps even the 10% who skip it).5

1Mintel Menu Insights, August 2011
2(year ending May 2012 versus 2011) Breakfast Beat, American Egg Board Newsletter, October 2012
3Mintel Menu Insights, January 2013
4National Restaurant Association
5One-Tenth of Americans Miss Breakfast Daily, CS News Foodservice, Oct 11, 2011

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