Breakfast is blurring boundaries in all sorts of ways for the QSR industry. The lines between meal and snack, the time distinction between early morning and later in the day or even late night, and the frontier between old fashioned familiar tastes and new, unexpected flavors are all up for redefinition.
As the market moves in new directions for fast food breakfast, there are four conventions that the industry needs to leave behind:
- Sticking to strict morning serving hours
- Not emphasizing quality above value and volume
- Not offering enough choices to satisfy healthy eaters
- Retaining a menu full of messy items and those that require utensils
If you’re still clinging to these old habits, you’re going to lose out to more flexible competitors as the breakfast market continues to evolve.
Taste Is Just One Attribute
As quick serve operators look at their options for entering, expanding or altering their breakfast offerings, the food itself is only one part of the puzzle, albeit an important one. The ways in which breakfast menu items are prepared, put together, served, packaged and delivered and the ease with which they can be consumed must all be addressed.
The snackification of meals, and of breakfast, in particular, has changed the way Americans of all ages eat. Not only do more people opt to forego regular meals in favor of frequent snacking, but the lines have been blurred between the kinds of foods that are considered appropriate for each meal and for a specific time of day. In fact, fast food operators who want to expand their breakfast market share are advised by many experts to expand their breakfast hours. It’s a sound strategic move given the success seen by category leaders like McDonald's.
Protein is often considered as vital to beginning the day as it formerly was for the dinner plate. Traditional breakfast foods, including pancakes and cereal, are less popular in the morning, but are viewed as "comfort foods" and are likely to be eaten at other meal times or as snacks at any hour. That means making sure your menu has options that can easily transition from satisfying, healthy breakfast on-the-go to dinner or a mid-day snack.
Fast Food Beats Out Fast Casual
Convenience and portability have emerged, according to a recent article by Business Insider, as winning concepts. Consumers are finding new satisfaction at the drive-through windows of traditional fast-food chains, with a five percent gain in market share over sit-down fast-casual venues reported for the second quarter of 2016.
Now that the QSR industry is able to compete with fast casuals on quality, the convenience of fast food is winning out at all dayparts — and at breakfast in particular. Combine that with lower prices and better service, and it's a winning combination.
Redefining Breakfast for Today's Consumers
The breakfast menu has great potential to be the next income and traffic driver for quick service restaurants, but only if the menu and the service meet consumer expectations. Offering healthy and sustainable choices without revamping an entire menu is also vital in order to increase sales. Ian Lifshitz, Sustainability Director for the Americas, Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP), explains that restaurateurs must look at the issue in a more holistic way. It is not enough, he says, only to advertise locally sourced and organic ingredients when consumers are focused on the environmental impact of packaging, processing and delivery as well.
A recent APP survey notes that 71% of respondents are in favor of paying more for verified sustainable attributes. That's something that truly affects the bottom line. But, fast food operators must let the public know of their efforts, says Lifshitz.
The future looks bright — no matter how you look at it — for grab and go breakfasts. And that's a lesson we can learn from!