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The Not-So-Secret Formula for Perfecting Your Breakfast Menu

January 2, 2024 – You’ve been hitting “snooze” on your menu innovation alarm clock for long enough and breakfast is not a daypart that you’ll want to sleep through. There are many factors that persuade consumers to make the breakfast choices that they do and by incorporating these demands into your menu development strategy, you can turn your breakfast program into a traffic-driving, customer-gaining, revenue-building machine. The secret to winning breakfast, well, isn’t really a secret at all.

58% of consumers eat breakfast away from home for convenience1, making speed and accessibility key drivers for the breakfast category – and drive thrus a critical element to success. And the menu item that goes hand-in-hand with the always-on-the-go lifestyle? Handhelds. 43% of surveyors say they are most likely to order sandwiches, wraps, and even burgers for breakfast2. So, if your menu has complex, time-consuming breakfast builds, consider this your wakeup call. Every second counts to a consumer’s morning commute and the operators that will excel during AM hours are those who can execute handheld breakfast items fast. How fast are we talking? According to the 2023 QSR® Drive Thru Report, the average time secret shoppers spent in the drive thru across dayparts was 343.45 seconds3. So during breakfast, you have to be quicker than that!

Nobody is waking up early for a basic breakfast. While convenience is a key driver for eating breakfast away from home, craveabllity is the key to standing out. So, what’s the secret sauce to serving breakfast like a boss? Pairing familiar concepts with trending flavors. We asked a panel of surveyors which flavor descriptors they would be the most interested in seeing on breakfast menus and the top five choices were cheesy, buttery, savory, creamy, and sweet and savory. Couple those concepts with some of the fastest growing flavors in breakfast, and you’ll have a menu item waking everyone up on the right side of the bed. Here’s a few ideas worth watching:

💡 Pimento Cheese has increased 20% on breakfast sandwich menus in the past 12 months.4

🟧 A QSR’s Cajun Chicken Filet with Pimento Cheese Biscuit garnered “specialty appeal” among Datassential surveyors with 64% of Millennials considering this item to be unique.5

💡 Brown Butter has increased 30% on breakfast starch menus in the past 12 months.4

🟧 66% of Datassential surveyors say they would be likely to order a QSR’s Sausage English Muffin Sandwich, which is described as having a “buttery spread” with “brown butter sweetness.”5

💡 Carnitas have increased 15% on midscale dining menus in the past 12 months.4

🟧 62% of Gen Z consumers said they would order a Carnitas Breakfast Quesadilla from an up-and-coming midscale restaurant which features “savory, hand-pulled carnitas.”5

💡 Hollandaise has increased 13% on breakfast starch menus in the past 12 months.4

🟧 51% of Datassential surveyors said they would visit a casual dining restaurant chain just for their Biscuits Benny which features a “creamy hollandaise sauce.”5

💡 Maple Bacon has increased 68% on breakfast protein menus in the past 12 months.4

🟧 24% of Datassential surveyors say they could see themselves ordering a QSR’s Maple Sugar Bacon Breakfast Sandwich frequently or all the time.5

If you believe that nutrition is an important part of breakfast, you’re not alone. 34% of consumers think breakfast should be the healthiest meal of the day1. Surveyors tell us they want to see more egg dishes like omelets, egg bites, and frittatas (44%) and smoothies (43%) on breakfast menus2. Both of these options are often perceived as being healthier choices but if you develop your menu to lean into important nutritional claims, like higher protein, lower fat, gluten free, dairy free, etc., you can capture a brand new market of health-conscious early birds. ”Better-for-you” isn’t just a buzz term… it’s a way of life!

You can picture a coffee without breakfast but can you picture a breakfast without coffee? Many consumers choose to skip breakfast food altogether but 53% of surveyors say they rarely skip coffee or their caffeinated beverage of choice in the morning1. So if breakfast food innovation isn’t in the cards for you, a breakfast beverage program should be. We asked our panel of surveyors what beverage varieties they would like to see more frequently at breakfast and among the top choices were (unsurprisingly) specialty coffees in both hot and cold applications2. While offering good-old-fashioned coffee is always recommended, expanding your horizons to new coffee varieties or premium beverage add-ons like Rubix Cold Foam will draw in consumers who are looking for more. 

Breakfast is the most important meal of ALL day. The transition to later breakfast occasions can be credited to COVID when the shift to work-from-home culture became our norm and time felt more like a social construct rather than something that we should plan our meals around. Coffee chains with breakfast-heavy food menus have seen an increase in traffic from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.6 indicating that consumption of those breakfast food items has increased during those hours, too.

While the lines between breakfast and lunch are becoming blurred, there’s a significant crossover into dinner and late-night hours, too. 57% of consumers have reportedly had breakfast food for dinner in the past month1. Menu items like tacos, burritos, quesadillas and even burgers can have a breakfast spin with the addition of egg or a breakfast-themed sauce. Likewise, 43% have had breakfast as a late-night snack1. Taking indulgent, sweet breakfast items like waffles, pancakes, pastries and donuts, and repositioning them as desserts is a great way to capture the attention of late-night snackers – especially Gen Z and Millennials. Over half of our panel of surveyors aged 18-29 were especially drawn to these concepts2.

It’s time for your breakfast menu to rise and shine! Click here to collaborate with our team of experts and to transform your breakfast program into something your consumers will love. 

1 – Datassential, Breakfast Keynote Report, 2023

2 – Rubix Foods, Proprietary Research, 2023

3 – QSR Magazine, The 2023 QSR® Drive Thru Report

4 – Datassential, Menu Trends, 2023

5 – Datassential, Launches & Ratings, 2023

6 – Nation’s Restaurant News, 2023

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