Linner. Brinner. Slunch.
Pre-ssert. Happy hour. Late-night.
Those are just some of the nontraditional meal dayparts that are growing fastest, according to Nancy Kruse, president of The Kruse Co. and moderator of Nation’s Restaurant News’ Menu Trends & Directions conference’s “Menu Hot Spots” panel Wednesday.
Meanwhile, guest traffic at the traditionally strong dayparts of lunch and dinner has softened, according to data from research firm Technomic.
“R&D is going to shift to around-the-clock items,” Kruse said. “There will be slow erosion of conventional dayparts.”
That has led to such snack period combinations as lunch-and-dinner, or “linner;” breakfast-for-dinner, or “brinner;” and supper-and-lunch, or “slunch.” Desserts can be eaten anytime, and happy hours and late-night dining are expanding.
Kruse said Millennials — individuals between the ages of 16 and 34 — are snacking more than other generations, which will lead to “the advent of the Millennial as a mass-market customer and an impact on your daypart planning.”
Thirty-five percent of their meal consumption comes from snacks, Kruse said, and they report eating 4.3 times a day. “This is really going to institute change going forward,” she said.
Also participating in the panel were Kevin Bechtel, senior vice president for purchasing, research and development, and menu development for 103-unit Shari's Restaurant Group; Stan Frankenthaler, vice president for innovation and corporate executive chef at Dunkin' Brands Inc., with 15,000 Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins units worldwide; Shannon Johnson, executive director for culinary innovation and development at 2,000-unit Applebee's International; and Shawn LaPean, director of dining at the University of California-Berkeley, which serves 4.5 million meals to students a year and sometimes up to 30,000 meals a day.
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LaPean, the father of an 18- and a 20-year-old who also serves college students at work, said snacking has expanded among Millennials.
“We can serve almost anything almost anytime of day,” he said. “Last year during finals I saw a student at 7:30 in the morning eating a tray of sushi and oatmeal … They eat hummus on anything all day long. Hummus is like salsa. They put it on anything, from a sandwich to a wrap.”
Snacking is common. “I’ve heard students say they eat ‘more European.’ That’s their view of small meals all day long,” LaPean added.
Snack-focused dayparts are long established at Dunkin’ Donuts.
“At Dunkin’, we’ve always lived that clockless day,” Frankenthaler said. “We’ve offered breakfast all day long and bakery all day long.
“Where we’ve found opportunity is to add other items to the menu during the traditional second and third dayparts,” he added.
Dunkin’ has added sandwiches and snack items to its menu, and changed restaurant lighting to make the “happy hour” daypart more welcoming, he said.
In the full-service segment, Bechtel said Shari’s also has seen dayparts shift.
“Where we’ve seen our losses is in the weekday breakfast, mostly because of the QSRs,” he said. “It’s difficult for us to be able to get something [customers] can eat out of their car for a buck. So our weekday breakfast has seen some decline over the past three or four years. Our seven-night-a-week dinner has picked up the loss. Our Saturday morning daypart is our largest.”
At Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, “Our biggest shift has occurred at late-night … I think it was sparked by this idea of getting people back to Applebee’s for a beverage experience,” Johnson said. “‘Bar and grill’ is part of the name. So getting people back into a bar-type experience with the brand was really important.”
About 80 percent of Applebee’s units now offer the late-night menu, which most offer until after midnight and, in some cases, until 2 a.m. The company has said late-night dining makes up about 13 percent of sales.