Speed up service to boost morning sales

grab and go fruit display

From Kellogg’s® Specialty Channels.

As the breakfast battle between Taco Bell, McDonald’s and other QSRs continues to intensify, non-commercial operators are feeling the heat, too.

There’s no question: Breakfast is where it’s at. With the breakfast market breaking over $30 billion, non-commercial operators know they need to get in the game. The real strategy-making, aside from menu selection, revolves around speed of service, streamlining costs and upping the convenience factor.

Making convenient more convenient

Some 37% of consumers say they lack time to eat breakfast away from home, and that’s why they skip it. However, by tailoring morning meal offerings to on-the-go customers, operators can capitalize on some of these opportunities “If the location or packaging makes the stop fast, operators can take advantage of that convenience,” says Mary Chapman, senior director of product innovation for Technomic.

Operators who expand their grab-and-go sections with a variety of pre-packaged items can see a boost. Case in point: In the six months since Compass Group expanded Outtakes, a convenience retail concept at Qualcomm's headquarters in San Diego, sales have increased by nearly 7%.

“Being at a tech company, people are always on the go, especially in the morning when they want to grab something quick to take to their desks and start their day,” says Tatianna Emerson, marketing manager for Eurest, a division of Compass Group, at Qualcomm.  Menu items they serve include individually-wrapped hot breakfast sandwiches, burritos and a variety of cage free-egg quiches as well as baked goods, mini-pastries and yogurt parfaits made with locally-sourced, seasonal fruit.

They also serve a line of individually-wrapped options made without gluten placed directly next to traditional morning items for easy—but safe—access.  Additionally, all of these items are conveniently located in warmers next to the made-to-order grill station for those customers who don’t want to wait for their meals.

Stepping up self-serve stations

When offering more variety, operators should also consider expanding self-serve stations, which speed up service while cutting down on staff and offer customers the customization they crave at the same time

At Qualcomm, Eurest switches out the lunch salad bar for an accessible, self-service breakfast bar in the center of the servery. Customers can help themselves to hot or cold breakfast cereals with various toppings or grab a pre-made yogurt parfait for even faster service.

Retail location expansion

Operators who expand beyond their main serveries or dining halls to offer more grab-and-go options can drive additional morning traffic.

For example, Qualcomm also offers its Outtakes grab-n-go items at its Perks specialty coffee kiosks located around campus. In the same way, North Carolina (NC) State University recently stepped up its 11 retail coffee kiosks around campus, equipping them with hot breakfast sandwiches, burritos and croissants, toasted in a rapid-cook oven, as well as freshly baked pastries, fresh fruit and yogurt.

“Our largest growth has been at our retail operations, probably because of the short wait time for a filling breakfast,” says Shawn Hoch, associate director of university dining.

The university’s c-store component, opened two years ago with Krispy Kreme branding, has helped expand even late-night breakfast sales because the freshly baked donuts are delivered overnight from a nearby location. Also, during the recent renovation of the Atrium Food Court, which included the addition of a Chick fil-A and its chicken biscuit breakfast items, the university set up a small grab-and-go bar next to cashier for additional a.m. items such as fresh fruit cups and yogurt parfaits.

Value and cost

Budget breakfasts have always appealed to consumers; in fact, almost half of consumers grabbed breakfast at a QSR last year, according to Technomic. “Other than time, the main reason 57 percent of consumers don’t eat breakfast out is because it saves money,” Chapman says.

When they do go out, however, consumers want value. “The dollar menus off campus do hurt us,” says Hoch. “Menu planning strategy is critical. We work backward, looking at what are our targeted food costs and nutritional expectations and the experience we’re trying to accomplish. We then come up with a targeted price point that’s consistent with the marketplace and that will meet our financial goals but will also be acceptable for our guests.”

Reducing waste also helps keep operator costs and customer prices down. NC State University uses state-of-the-art production, menu and sales analysis software to determine—as accurately as possible—how much food to make.

“When you have good numbers, then you can predict how often you need to make a fresh batch of eggs,” says Hoch. “Fresh is so important when offering a value-added meal.”

At Qualcomm, simple trial and error helped Executive Chef Violette Kelleher manage production and waste. “We started out with five items and quickly figured out how much we need to make each day of the week because it varies,” she says. Thanks to strong “client interaction,” the team can also plan ahead for special events or larger groups coming in.

Maintaining flow

It’s no secret that keeping things moving helps speed up service as well as sales during the morning daypart.

Qualcomm’s servery is set up in a large circle with a natural counter-clockwise flow toward the cashier. At NC State, where the majority of breakfast business still happens in the dining halls, Hoch makes sure meal service happens in 5 minutes or less by checking that stations are well-stocked and frequently replenished. Extending the hours of breakfast dining until 10:30 a.m. keeps the flow moving to ensure students don’t have to wait in long lines.

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