It may seem like everyone is jumping into the QSR breakfast game lately. And really, that’s not far from the truth. Breakfast is driving sales industry-wide, up 2.3% in just the past year even as other dayparts falter, according to USA TODAY.
Breakfast has become an increasingly on-the-go meal, too. Just 10 years ago, only 11 percent of breakfast eaters got their meal away from home. Today? It’s up to 28 percent.
But with the rush to put breakfast on the table, we’ve seen a lot of menu copycatting. Just how many breakfast burritos can the market accommodate before consumers become bored and move on? And that’s especially a worry for companies marketing to Millennials. The current generation of young adults has shown a marked tendency to seek new tastes and new experiences — and to quickly tire of the same old, same old.
So how can your fast food restaurant stand out in the breakfast crowd and keep younger consumers interested? Let’s take a look at 4 ways you can distinguish your QSR brand in the red hot breakfast rush.
1. Go protein-heavy.
Google “bacon + meme” sometime. You’ll find that Millennials’ love of bacon is well documented. But there’s more to it than just smoky, savory, meaty flavor. There’s a general love of protein-heavy meals.
If there’s one thing that has been drilled into that generation’s collective head over the past decade, it’s that carbs are super bad. Well, processed carbs anyway. Hidden sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, calorie-heavy breads — health-conscious Millennials know all about carb crashes and weight gain, and they’re trying to avoid it.
That’s why lean meats and eggs have become popular breakfast bases. We’re seeing turkey sausage, chorizo, Canadian bacon, vegan ham, seitan, tempeh, tofu and more make it onto Millennials’ morning orders. Capitalize on their love of protein — steer away from high carbs and put more meat in the mix.
2. Offer healthy options.
You’re going to need to balance those high-fat/good-fat dishes with a healthy dose of… well, health. Don’t forget the fruits, the veggies and the fiber!
In the mad dash away from carb-laden, messy breakfast foods like cereal, pancakes and donuts, many QSR restaurants are skimping on the good stuff — the vitamin and mineral-rich veggies and fruits that keep us healthy, trim and regular.
That’s one area in which breakfast bowls could be a boon. Millennials want portable on their morning commute. Breakfast bowls can accommodate a variety of healthy fruits, veggies, oats, nuts and more in one convenient, easy-to-recycle container.
3. Go global in your flavor profile.
Who says breakfast menu items should be limited to traditional “breakfast” foods, in the American sense? If anything, Millennials’ taste adventuring habits bespeak the opposite, and restaurants around the country are catching on and cashing in.
Los Angeles eatery Sqirl now offers a Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl, which includes Kokuho Rose brown rice, sorrel pesto, preserved Meyer lemon, hot sauce, radish, French sheep feta and a poached egg. At Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami, one can try Kimchi Benedict, consisting of an English muffin, poached farm egg, slice of pork belly, and kimchi hollandaise sauce. And at Melt in Cincinnati, a hungry bruncher can gnosh Vegan Huevos Rancheros — an avocado tostada topped with locally-sourced scrambled eggs, vegan black bean chili, pico de gallo and vegan cheese.
There’s nothing ham-and-egger about those selections; we’ve moved far into gourmand territory. Why must such tastes be limited to hip, urban bistros? Millennials love exotic taste experiences and menu experiments, and the QSR industry can cash in on that gastronomic wanderlust.
4. Make your menu customizable.
Another page we can take out of Marketing to Millennials for Handbook: the more choices you give young adults, the more they’re likely to try your restaurant.
Chipotle built an empire out of nearly-infinite combinations of a handful of simple ingredients. Today, we’re seeing build-your-own pizza concepts, “Chipotle of Asian Food” restaurants and more. Modding isn’t just for gamers — it’s a Millennial way of life.
Your QSR company could find a way to do the same with breakfast. The trick, of course, is finding a way to do it that wouldn’t slow down the line and back up the drive-thru. Speed is a key to breakfast success — especially for hungry commuters.
Your fast food breakfast menu needs to stand out.
Use the tips above. Think outside the breakfast burrito box. Get your test chefs’ wheels turning. Focus group new tastes, new styles and new ordering methods.
The key to Millennials’ breakfast hearts is being different. And now that breakfast has become such a hot market, there’s no better time to let your morning menu daydreams run a little wild.