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National Restaurant Association - Building breakfast business

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Building breakfast business

Credit: First Watch

Breakfast business continues to rise and shine at restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association's 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 15 percent of family-dining restaurants will target the breakfast daypart as a point of improvement this year, as well as 16 percent of quickservice and fast-casual restaurants.

Expanding into the breakfast daypart makes financial sense for many restaurants. A growing number of operations, such as Subway and Taco Bell, now start their day with breakfast.

But it’s important to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, and make sure adding a daypart makes sense for your brand and your customer base. For example, Wendy’s decided to offer breakfast in only limited markets after testing the breakfast market.

If you’re looking to build breakfast business, try out these tips:

  • Feature grab-and-go options. “Breakfast is very much a grab-and-go meal,” notes Warren Solochek, president of The NPD Group's foodservice practice. “People tend to eat in the car or at their desk at work.” Breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos are favorites with the commuting crowd, Solochek says. About two-thirds of restaurant morning meals are eaten off-premise, according to NPD.

  • Avocado Toast – Thick-cut whole grain toast topped with fresh smashed avocado, extra virgin olive oil, lemon and Maldon sea salt. Served with two basted eggs.
    Make it fast and fresh. With consumers typically rushed at breakfast time, it’s no wonder that quickservice accounts for 79 percent of total restaurant morning meals, according to NPD. Even at tableservice restaurants, guests expect a quick pace at breakfast, says Kyle Algaze, co-owner of Annapolis, Maryland-based Iron Rooster, which specializes in breakfast fare. “Our guests know they won’t have to wait around long for their food,” says Algaze, who prides himself on an eight- to 10-minute turnaround. An emphasis on prep work and batch work helps the scratch kitchen keep up with the crowds. 
  • Offer ethnic flair. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items top the list of breakfast/brunch menu trends, according to the NRA’s 2016 What's Hot chefs' survey. The “Chickichanga,” a nonfried version of a chicken chimichanga, is a customer favorite at First Watch, a breakfast, brunch and lunch tableservice restaurant with more than 120 units in more than 15 states. Increased interest in breakfast helped drive First Watch’s rapid growth, with the restaurant adding 15-25 units each year since 2006.
  • Brew up business. “One way to improve your breakfast business is to serve a better variety of coffees, including options such as lattes or espressos,” Solochek recommends. “The morning meal is very much a beverage-driven occasion.” High-margin beverages can boost your bottom line.

  • Day Glow – All-natural fresh juiced carrots, oranges and lemons with a hint of organic ginger juice.
    Consider expanding juice offerings. First Watch recently found success with its “Day Glow” fresh juice, featuring carrots, oranges, lemons and a hint of ginger.
  • Serve breakfast all day, if logistically feasible. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of all adults wish restaurants would offer breakfast items throughout the day, according to the NRA Forecast. At Iron Rooster,  guests enjoy all-day breakfast specialties, including eggs Benedict, pancakes, and the restaurant’s signature chicken and waffles. Come dinnertime, about half the guests opt for breakfast items instead of the menu’s traditional evening fare, spanning meatloaf, salmon and short ribs.
  • Be consistent. Breakfast offers huge potential for repeat business, because many people get entrenched in morning routines. “We have some customers who literally come in every day,” says Chris Tomasso, First Watch chief marketing officer. Repeat customers expect your restaurant’s eggs, pancakes and hash browns to be prepared a certain way. Train staff to follow consistent recipes and cooking procedures, and you’ll keep guests coming back morning after morning, he says.

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