Restaurant dinner checks may be shrinking along with patrons’ wallets, but morning people are putting their money where their mouths are.
Granted, breakfast is a cheaper meal, but that’s not the only reason traffic and sales for this daypart have been climbing steadily. According to The Breakfast Consumer Trend Report published by Technomic last November, convenience is motivating consumers to trade at-home breakfast occasions for away-from-home purchases. Plus, the market is not yet saturated and there is still opportunity for growth in this category, Technomic data shows. About 60 percent of Americans skip breakfast at least once a week and 18- to 34-year-olds are the biggest breakfast skippers. Here’s how to get them in the door.
4 locations, Louisville, Kentucky-based
When JD Rothberg opened the first Wild Eggs in 2007, “breakfast was an underserved category, particularly on the higher end,” he claims. He filled the niche with a full-service concept that operates from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. serving both breakfast and lunch all day. But breakfast is king, with sales rising 8 percent year to year.
Rothberg caters to fussy breakfast customers by purchasing topnotch ingredients and turning them into sought-after menu items. “We buy Grade AA jumbo eggs—the highest quality—because they make the best omelets,” he says, adding that the four locations use about 15,000 eggs per week. Cooks crack these into such signatures as top-seller Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict (green chili cheddar corn cakes topped with chorizo, two poached eggs, queso fundido, pico de gallo, sour cream, green onions and avocado), Wild Mushroom and Roasted Garlic Scramble and Chicken Enchiladas and Eggs. The extensive menu offers many more egg choices—including the popular Build-Your-Own-Omelet section—as well as pancakes, French toast and crepes. Grits-of-the-day are made from Kentucky-sourced Weisenberger White Stone-Ground Grits; house potatoes are a combo of russets and red potatoes delivered fresh-frozen and cubed; and bacon is applewood-smoked.
“The majority of breakfast customers are set in their ways,” Rothberg reports, “They order eggs, pancakes and the basics.” But, he adds, about 25 percent are into trying new things. Wild Eggs lives up to its name with inventive, made-from-scratch selections.
Q&A: grains on the menu
Don Trouba, ConAgra Mills
What are some of the breakfast trends you’re following?
The success of whole grains in the retail sector has resulted in increasing consumer demand for healthier options in foodservice. According to our research, 65 percent of consumers want to see more whole grains on restaurant menus. The hot cereal trend is one to watch closely.
What products are operators looking for when planning breakfast menus?
As labeling becomes enforced in 2012, we see operators looking for ways to boost their nutrition story for breakfast, with products that will be a win with consumers. ConAgra Mills conducted consumer studies of several fast-food and full-service breakfast items to determine how to best portray whole grains. Two of the items tested were an English muffin breakfast sandwich and a tortilla wrap, with and without whole grains. Results indicated that merely putting a whole grain breakfast item on the menu is not enough; consumers must also be reassured that it tastes the same as the non-whole grain counterpart.
Hotel breakfasts wake up
Although bacon and eggs remain a popular breakfast choice for hotel guests, an increasing number of travelers are looking for lighter options. “You must have a healthy offering for those customers—especially the business traveler or frequent guest,” says Wayne Van Akin, director of F&B for the Crowne Plaza in Concord, California.
At the hotel’s Vineyard Restaurant, his buffet sports yogurt parfaits, zucchini and carrot breads, whole grain cereals and lots of fresh fruit. “Although ‘local’ and ‘fresh’ are core pieces of our menu, we have customers who want fresh fruit year round,” he reports. To menu the yogurt parfaits in winter, Van Akin relies on fresh Chilean blueberries, kiwi and peaches—available when local fruit is out of season. The yogurt is locally sourced from Clover Dairy in California; Van Akin prefers the unflavored variety to which he adds vanilla extract and honey.
“Hotels are competing for discerning customers and breakfast is one way a brand can differentiate itself,” Van Akin concludes.