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Breakfast shows opportunity for quick service

Consumers want morning meal options that are healthful and convenient, a market research report said Monday.

The breakfast daypart has been growing steadily in recent years and now accounts for about 12 percent of total restaurant industry sales, generating about $42 billion annually, according to the 2011 “Breakfast Consumer Trend Report” by Chicago-based Technomic Inc.

The number of consumers eating out for the morning meal has grown, with about 46 percent saying they went to quick-service restaurants for weekday breakfasts this year, compared with 33 percent in 2009.

To capitalize on this trend, restaurant chains, such as Taco Bell and Wendy’s, are rolling out new breakfast programs. Wendy’s intends to offer the morning daypart in 1,000 locations before the end of fiscal 2011 and Taco Bell has pledged to offer breakfast in 800 of its restaurants in the West by 2012.

Still, the market is not yet saturated, the Technomic report concluded, and restaurants have ample opportunity to boost incremental sales and traffic in the morning.

“Breakfast is a very dynamic segment in which consumers are looking for healthier options and place a premium on convenience,” said Darren Tristano, Technomic’s executive vice president. “Our busy lives and weekly routines drive the need for fast, convenient options in the morning. When consumers don’t have convenient options, they’re increasingly bringing breakfast from home to eat elsewhere.”

Some highlights from the report included:

• Convenience and speed of service are more important than price when choosing where to eat for the morning meal, indicating that guests may be more willing to pay more if they can save time. About 75 percent of consumers surveyed in September said a convenient location is important when buying breakfast from a restaurant during the week.

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• More than one-tenth of all consumers surveyed and one-fifth of those ages 18 to 34 said they will dine out for breakfast more often in the coming year, mostly in quick-service restaurants.

Consumers surveyed said they would like to patronize full-service restaurants for breakfast, but they don’t have time.

“This indicates greater opportunity for these operators to boost weekday breakfast sales by promoting speedier options and service formats,” the report said.

• Consumers are also buying breakfast from grocery and convenience stores, so restaurants should make sure they offer portable options that appeal to younger consumers, such as breakfast sandwiches.

However, competition is growing for that category. Limited-service restaurants have added 45 breakfast sandwich items since 2009. Biscuits are the leading bread of choice for breakfast sandwiches and a hot trend on quick-service menus.

• Whether as a sandwich or plated entrée, the most prevalent entrée ingredients at breakfast are eggs; cheese; breakfast meats, such as bacon and sausage; and potatoes.

• Coffee plays an increasingly important role. The survey found that 33 percent of consumers who drink coffee in the morning say they are loyal to a coffee brand or restaurant that serves their preferred brand, up from 25 percent in 2009.

• More healthful options are growing, particularly on limited-service menus. Oatmeal is booming and more low-fat, non-fat and whole grain options are popping up on breakfast menus.

• Three in five consumers say they skip breakfast at least once during the week, particularly younger diners, mostly because of lack of hunger or time in the morning.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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