It's 8am — or maybe even earlier. Your customers may be awake by the strictest definition of the word, but most of the time your drive-thru or counter service items are the real kick-start to their morning. With grogginess comes habit, and with habit comes a rare opportunity to forge a brand loyalty bond, one breakfast item at a time.
That's why QSR breakfast items have made some seriously impressive headway in the industry during the last year alone. Heavy hitters are making big changes: McDonald's has finally relented on their "after 10am" breakfast moratorium, and surprising early-morning contributions are popping up from the lunch-and-later players like Taco Bell. With competition old and new eyeing up your morning crowd and QSR industry challenges as prevalent as ever, what's the best way to remain competitive during breakfast hours?
There are three methods that are easy to implement, but offer an outsized positive impact.
1. Synchronize Your Watches
Morning customers are quick to become dissatisfied if your locations run out of popular items. If you don’t deliver what they expect, what was a pleasant morning habit — on the way to becoming a routine — can easily turn into a frustrating interruption that they won't forget. Getting your supply chain partners on your time schedule means that they'll understand the damage a late shipment can do to your business. Unlike meals later in the day, the often-limited breakfast menu offers up less replacement options if a product runs out.
Hash out your firm cutoffs with key breakfast item suppliers and hold them accountable to meeting those timelines so that your planning goes smoothly. Additionally, don't be afraid to reevaluate necessary stock levels regularly, advises Cerasis' Adam Robinson. When you share changes in these levels with your supply chain partners, you're building both transparency and agility into your supply chain, revealing many more options than the recently-popular lean concept would afford you.
2. Break Out the Walkie-Talkies
As much as you need a supply chain partner willing to listen to your needs, you also need one that won't hesitate to talk about their own. If a shortage of a key ingredient arises, you'll want to have strong business relationships to fall back on, and established lines of communication to keep the deliveries flowing.
Yes, supply chain partners are in place to provide a service, but taking steps such as formatting your ordering methods to interface with their preferred systems can make that service even better. When you make time and space within your own company to make your brand an easy one to work with, it's not inconceivable that you'll get earlier or more reliable access to in-demand ingredients and products in a crunch. In fact, Martin Christopher of UPS considers this focus on partnership one of the best ways to reduce inbound lead times.
3. Be Ready for Anything
Food fads turn on a dime, and breakfast offerings are particularly ripe for experimentation in the quest for consumer hearts and stomachs. While you are — hopefully — having frequent state-of-the-chain discussions with your suppliers, ask them what new products they are either carrying or have access to, and share this information with the rest of your company. You never know when an opportune harvest of raspberries or a new line of artisan sausages can become the next star of your A.M. menu after a short trip through R&D. You get to secure your brand's place on the forefront of QSR breakfast menu innovations, and your suppliers are locked in as team players — and happy to go above and beyond.
On the other side of the supply coin, a proactive relationship with your supplier can help prevent brand-damaging scandals, rather than restricting your response to reaction after the fact. When you know the industry challenges that your supply chain partners face (and whether they take the "high road" to solve them), you're less likely to get caught in an avalanche of bad press. Katie Moore notes in Food Safety Magazine that the forthcoming regulatory pressures of the FSMA make this a vital consideration.
Earning your spot at the top of the QSR breakfast pile-up is about staying agile and transparent, all the way from your supply chain to the service counter to address QSR industry challenges today. Communicate, stay nimble and don't be afraid to explore new opportunities, and you'll be more popular than the morning's first pot of coffee.