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Consumer Trends

Breakfast: Waking up to bold flavors and healthy fare

In the breakfast daypart, operators are responding to consumers’ demands for bold flavors, healthful fare and portability.

In its report “The Breakfast Club: An Update on Morning Meal Trends,” Datassential unveils the top five fastest-growing breakfast items as yogurt, frittatas, oatmeal, burritos, and huevos rancheros. These trends, according to the report, reflect widespread sub-trends impacting the industry, especially at QSRs and mid-scale establishments.

  • Frittatas represent the overall push toward more creative egg dishes
  • Yogurt and oatmeal reflect the consumer’s desire for more healthful ingredients
  • Burritos’ popularity demonstrates the portability factor
  • Huevos rancheros shows the embrace of Mexican flavors

Speaking to portability, pizza is also finding its way onto more breakfast menus, especially in the casual dining arena. The item appears 18 percent more often on breakfast menus than in 2008.

The report also cites that:

  • Egg menu items—beyond the typical omelet—account for six of the top 12 items on breakfast menus.
    • In September, Steak ‘n’ Shake introduced California Skillet Chicken, which elevates scrambled eggs with either savory sausage or grilled chicken, cheddar cheese, and pico de gallo on a bed of crispy hash browns, topped with avocado slices and served with housemade salsa.
  • Breakfast sandwiches are immensely popular, with over half of the restaurants serving breakfast featuring them on the menu. Among QSRs, reports Dataessential, the portable breakfast sandwich has shown a 9 percent growth since 2008.
    • Au Bon Pain's Southwest Egg Sandwich layers applewood smoked bacon, sliced tomatoes and cheddar cheese on two eggs, served with a chipotle spread on a skinny wheat bagel.
  • For health-conscious consumers, restaurants are incorporating whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, egg whites, and turkey bacon in their menu items.
    • Even pancakes are showing up dressed in healthier ingredients:  IHOP's Whole Wheat Crepes with Blueberries features two whole wheat crepes stuffed with sweet cream cheese and topped with lightly sweetened blueberries and powdered sugar.
  • Enchiladas, huevos rancheros, burritos, and tacos had significant penetration on non-Mexican breakfast menus over the past year, with enchiladas topping the list at a 32 percent gain.  Chipotle, pico de gallo, and guacamole are flavoring a growing number of breakfast dishes; chipotle leads the pack with a 12 percent gain at non-Mexican restaurants over the past year.
    • Cosi’s Costa Mesa Breakfast Wrap marries eggs with pico de gallo, guacamole and cheddar cheese wrapped inside a warm tortilla.
    • Eat n’ Park’s Breakfast Burrito combines scrambled eggs with chopped bacon, ham and chorizo sausage, stuffed into a tortilla with caramelized onions, pepper jack cheese and chipotle sauce.

Breakfast not popular at college

One group that doesn’t seem to be taking to breakfast is college students. According to The Big Picture research, conduced by Foodservice Director magazine, in the college and university market breakfast makes up the smallest percentage of total business, at 23 percent.

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 percent) than those in any other segment reported that breakfast participation declined during the last two years.

“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.

Colleges are the most likely of any segment to offer either a full or limited breakfast menu all day, at 39 percent. 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.

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