Breakfast is making a comeback in all venues, and operators are responding with all-day menus and upscale offerings.
At the University of New Hampshire, Director of Dining Jon Plodzik, who saw students begin to eat breakfast later, opting to catch more sleep before class, decided to offer the meal all day at one facility.
“Breakfast seems to be a comfort food now,” Plodzik says. “Students don’t want to get up to go to breakfast before class. Our usual breakfast rush is 10, 10:30 or 11 a.m.”
The department’s all-day concept, Awakenings, offers short-order breakfasts. “Everything is made to order. Students love omelets, both regular and egg whites. It’s the No. 1 choice, and we always run pancakes and waffles. Those are staples that they’re looking for.”
Plodzik also does a Yo-Nola station from Stonyfield Farm and Grandy Oats, where students are served a combination of organic yogurt and granola at a freestanding station.
Based on student feedback and the popularity of long breakfast hours on the weekends, Plodzik says the concept was easy.
“We have definitely seen a trend of increased popularity of breakfast as a meal anytime and a desire for longer service hours of those items,” Plodzik notes. “Students have developed a pattern of having breakfast fare after they attend morning classes. The ‘Awakenings’ name fit into our Concept of Life’s components at Philbrook Hall. The response has been great. We continue to tweak the menu and purchase new equipment to meet the need. We average around 600 patrons to the concept daily with total visits to the hall of 5,800 per day.”
A coffee cart program at the 550-bed University of California San Francisco Medical Center was successfully repositioned last year, says Dan Henroid, director of food and nutrition services, when he switched coffee purveyors and opened an upscale c-store, Moffitt Café.
“We saw sales go through the roof,” says Henroid. “We now have the cooking capability to do freshly made grab-and-go burritos and made-to-order breakfast sandwiches. We’re looking at more value meals to drive our average breakfast check, which is $3.30 for all our retail outlets.”
Henroid serves 500 patient meals daily and does 4,000 total transactions in three retail outlets.
“We launched menu ordering and pre-pay online and will expand it to breakfast, which accounts for $750,000 in annual sales,” he adds.
Using aromas: Cinnamon is “what you smell first thing” in Las Vegas’ Clark County School District facilities, says Nutritionist Virginia Beck, whose breakfasts include fresh-baked cinnamon rolls.
“We did a breakfast contest last fall to increase participation and everyone who ate it for 10 days was eligible [for a drawing] to get a skateboard and helmet,” says Beck, whose district has 311,000 students, 48% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price meals. “We did another drawing for a bicycle and helmet. Participation increased 10%. We’re planning more promotions.”
Students at the University of Connecticut grab coffee before class, come back afterward for a full breakfast and return later for a snack at no extra cost, says Dining Services Director Dennis Pierce. “We’re one of the few schools that has unlimited access to one of three meal plans. It’s an open refrigerator approach. We put out a plethora of stuff and hope they make the right choices.”
At Maine Medical Center’s Brighton, es Roland Gosselin offers self-service breakfast in the cafeteria, where customers can help themselves to French toast, pancakes, home fries, scrambled eggs, one meat item and two hot cereals, as well as muffins, bagels and a “higher quality breakfast pastry such as cinnamon rolls or croissants, plus cut fruit” each morning.
At the Chicopee, Mass., school system, Joanne Lennon, foodservice director, picked up four new schools for the breakfast program last year. Some now serve more breakfasts than lunches.
Lennon’s goal is to convince more schools to do in-classroom breakfasts, even though she admits that “older kids don’t like to eat in the classroom.”
Making breakfast special: Students at New Jersey Institute of Technology are treated to special breakfast items created by Executive Chef Peter Fischbach of Gourmet Dining LLC. Their favorite is a stuffed french toast made from a pullman brioche loaf soaked in egg batter and filled with apples and bananas. Another specialty is breakfast bread, similar to a stromboli, which is made with bacon, eggs and jack cheese.
“A popular one is made with eggs, onion or broccoli sprouts, carrots and peppers and rolled and sliced,” Fischbach says. “We also do different twists on eggs Benedict with chorizo, queso fresco and lime citrus Hollandaise sauce or on french toast brulée, which we soak in custard with blueberries and peaches and serve with a warm Grand Marnier-infused maple syrup.” He serves 600 to 1,000 students and likes to “sneak dishes in to have something special to break up the monotony.”
Chef Bill Boyd manages Creative Gourmet, Sodexo’s corporate catering delivery service for offices, which operates out of Colgate-Palmolive in New York City. Boyd gives menus an urban flair with colorful packaging, “not just your typical catering in a greasy bag.”
“We’re seeing what people want and the menu is morphing,” Boyd notes. “They requested we do a yogurt bar where they can make their own parfaits.” Presentation plays a key role in selling to students. “We have a cart with our logo and our waiters have beautiful green jackets. In this economy, people like the little things and want all the extras.”
Getting kids to eat breakfast can be difficult, but promotions can help.
It sometimes takes a lot of innovation to draw students to breakfast, but that’s no deterrent for Caroline Dylewski, nutrition services supervisor at Warren Consolidated Schools in Detroit.
For the past several years, the district has pushed the importance of the morning meal and used the School Nutrition Association’s National School Breakfast Week program as an opportunity to do presentations at high schools.
Sometimes that means buying super hero costumes and handing out breakfasts and pencils to the students. The entire district participates, promoting school breakfast on marquees outside. Last year, the schools participated in SNA’s “Power Up With School Breakfast” promotion. Local cable TV stations were invited to cover the events.
“We got some high school kids to do a special Web site to promote the importance of eating breakfast,” she recalls. “We gave out hundreds of T-shirts and we worked with a TV production class to do a documentary about school breakfasts. Our participation rates grow by double figures each year.” From 2006 to 2007 patricipation rose 18.4%. It went up 36.5% between 2007 and 2008, and the 2008-09 school year saw a 20.6 % growth rate.
“It’s all about promotion,” she says.
To introduce students to breakfast, a Breakfast for Lunch day features smaller portions of six different menu items that are served during lunch. For example, a recent Breakfast for Lunch menu offered pancakes and syrup, turkey sausage links, orange juice and a box of raisins.
“We don’t care if they eat breakfast at home or school,” says Dylewski. “They perform better on standardized tests and have fewer trips to the nurse and other problems when they eat it. We try to make breakfast fun and convenient with easy grab-and-go items like a ham and cheese bagel sandwich.”
At the national level, the School Nutrition Association has begun a promotion tied to this year’s National School Breakfast Week, which has the theme, “Ready, Set, Go.” The promotion includes a contest where students are asked to fill in the blank–Ready, Set, Go, ________—answering the question: ‘What does school breakfast make you ready for?’ and drawing a picture or sketch of their answer. Schools hold local competitions and nominate three overall winners to be in the national competition, which closes March 31. Three national winners will be chosen to win a prize pack.