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Breakfast is an increasingly tasty strategy for restaurant industry


Fast-food chains are waking up to the powerful whiff of a strong cup of coffee, crispy bacon and fluffy eggs.

Breakfast foods have taken a starring role in the daily eating habits of restaurant-goers and are fueling a resurgence in the fast-food industry at a time when chains’ greasier food is falling out of favor.

Breakfast sits at the crux of myriad colliding trends, from our desire to eat a protein-heavy diet to a growing reliance on convenience foods (aka: no cooking required and meals that can be eaten with one hand) to pressure on fast-food restaurants to offer more nutritious options.

“For us, it was the obvious missing day-part,” says Marisa Thalberg, chief marketing officer at Taco Bell. “There’s an emerging behavioral trend with Millennials of just wanting the convenience of someone else making it for them.”

The introduction of all-day breakfast at McDonald’s last year has been a major boon for the company’s turnaround efforts, helping the chain return to sales growth after two years of declines. Taco Bell didn’t even have a breakfast menu two years ago. Now breakfast makes up more than 6 percent of the chain’s U.S. business.

Burger King has been switching up its breakfast options with new menu items like the “egg-normous burrito,” out last week, and even Subway is making its breakfast menu, which it launched in 2010 but has rarely heavily marketed, more of a priority. This month, it started a campaign offering customers a free breakfast sandwich if they purchase a regular sub before 9 a.m., which the company says customers already often stop in to do on their way to work.

Data show breakfast is the only meal where food-service establishments have experienced traffic growth for the past three years, a trend driven entirely by the fast-food industry, says Bonnie Riggs, NPD Group restaurant industry analyst. While morning meal traffic has increased 3 percent to 5 percent since 2013 at quick-service restaurants, it’s decreased by 4 percent or been flat at family-style restaurants in the same time period, NPD data show, showing how crucial convenience has become to the breakfast proposition.

“We just don’t have time to sit down and have a full breakfast at a restaurant,” Riggs says. Another appeal of fast-food breakfast: It’s cheap, an average of $4.71 per person at quick-service restaurants, compared with more than $6 for lunch and dinner, according to NPD.

While the allure of breakfast foods, and being able to eat them any time of day, is not new — 24-hour diners and chains like IHOP and Waffle House have been capitalizing on the desire to eat pancakes for dinner for decades — married with the improving economy, the ease of drive-thru windows and Americans’ increasingly busy lives, breakfast has become the ideal on-the-go, inexpensive meal.

“If we can give you a warm breakfast burrito for a dollar and no bowl washing required, it’s compelling,” says Thalberg, referring to a report out earlier this year that found roughly 40 percent of Millennials said cereal is inconvenient because of the cleanup required afterward.

Breakfast is a convincing differentiator for fast-food restaurants as they face tough competition from fast-casual chains such as Sweetgreen and Shake Shack, which largely don’t cater to breakfast crowds but are often stealing customers away at lunch and dinner. Even spots known for breakfast, such as Panera, don’t have the same value or time-saving draw of the traditional fast-food experience.

That’s what our hectic lives will only demand more of going forward, says Andrew Charles, restaurant analyst with financial services firm Cowen & Co.

“We’re not going to be in a pace of society where our mornings get extended,” he says. “People are going to continue to be more reliant on speed and instant gratification.”

Whipping longevity into the trend is the fact that breakfast has a distinct psychological advantage over other mealtimes: Even if you’re eating maple syrup-smothered waffles, breakfast has a reputation as a smart and healthy way to start your day, rather than as an indulgence, says David Just, a professor of behavioral economics at Cornell University. We’ve long been told that breakfast is the most important meal. Now, it’s a comfort food that’s found a perfect fit in our increasingly busy and less formal lives.

“There is a different feeling about breakfast than there is about food later in the day,” Just says. “It’s sort of guilt-free food.”

Source: CNBC
(Photo: www.hoteldanubio.it)

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