Breakfast isn’t for every restaurant brand, but where it’s appropriate the morning meal can be a significant source of sales. In fact, it’s a bright spot according to The NPD Group—breakfast was up 4% during the year ended May 2015, larger due to QSR, while other dayparts were essentially flat—leading many operators to focus on those “Breakfastarians” who make the morning meal part of their lives. And that includes not just in the morning hours, but also noon and night.
Indeed, the latest round in the Breakfast War has McDonald’s betting on all-day breakfast, encroaching not only on QSR players like Dunkin’ Donuts, but also on family-segment brands such as Denny’s. Meanwhile, other companies, such as Golden Corral, are also playing around with the breakfast-anytime model.
But there are other ways to distinguish an operation around breakfast, as proven by the rising profile of Milktooth, which was recently named to Bon Apetit magazine’s Top 10 New Restaurants of 2015. Based in Indianapolis, Milktooth serves brunch and brunch alone, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week, plus breakfast pastries at the counter from 7-9 a.m. In addition to a superlative coffee program and brunchy cocktails (including pitchers of Bloody Marys), the restaurant specializes in morning comfort fare with a twist: housemade bialy with wild Alaskan char lox; Dutch Baby baked pancakes; and steak and eggs with broccolini, as well as oysters, Nashville-style hot wings and grilled cheese sandwiches. So, how else can you increase breakfast sales at your restaurant?
There are many ways to enhance your breakfast service.
If you want to boost breakfast sales in your restaurant, it’s time to get creative with your food products and flex your marketing muscles. To help you get an early jump on your competition, here are 20 surefire methods to increase the number of customers coming to you for breakfast.
- Become famous for a breakfast signature, such as the Foot Loops pancakes or Elvis Sighting French toast menued at the Original Dinerant in the Courtyard Marriott Portland City Center, where breakfast traffic growth is a constant
- Upgrade the industry standard breakfast sandwich with artisanal bread, an unusual condiment such as aioli or oven-dried tomatoes, an ingredient like portabello mushrooms or farmstead cheese, or by substituting potato pancakes or crisp waffles for the bread
- Ethnic or globally influenced breakfasts such as Japanese-style bento boxes, burritos and huevos rancheros, and French croque madame are gaining exposure. Be an early adopter of this international food trend to grow breakfast sales
- Experiment with frittatas, an easy-to-make Italian-style open-face omelet, which also provides excellent ingredient cross-utilization
- Offer a featured omelet of the day—and while you’re at it, offer the same ingredients in a scramble
- Smoothies and juice drinks impart a healthy glow, and can serve as either meal replacement or add-ons; you can even blend them with coffee. What customer wouldn’t want to start their morning like that?
- Putting a healthy twist on breakfast fare can be as easy as offering whole-grain bread, toast and baked goods, including batter products like buckwheat pancakes; giving customers the option of egg white or egg substitute based egg dishes; and making fruit available as a substitute for hash browns or home fries; the more your flexible your breakfast services, the more customers will become regulars at your restaurant
- Speaking of healthy, take advantage of the growing popularity of Greek yogurt by menuing it for breakfast as a layered parfait with honey, granola, and fresh fruit, or as an addition to breakfast cereal
- If you already offer a Benedict, add food variations such as smoked salmon, crab or cod cakes, corned beef hash and more; some places even have their own dedicated “bennie” menu section
- Offer a basket of specialty breads, breakfast pastries or muffins makes for a profitable à la carte option at weekend breakfast or brunch, especially when served with artisanal butter and/or preserves
- Add protein to the industry standard Continental breakfast buffet or plate with the Euro-style option of hard boiled eggs, smoked fish, and/or sliced meats and cheeses
- Leverage the avocado toast trend, as well as other toasts and open-face sandwiches that do double-duty for lunch and snacks
- Given the chance, eye openers such as Bloody Marys, mimosas, and Micheladas (a lighter beer-and-tomato-juice cocktail) can be profitable additions to the typical morning menu of coffee, hot drinks, spirits, and tea at your restaurant, to say nothing of signatures like a bacon and egg martini (garnished with bacon and a hardboiled quail egg) or maple-bourbon milk punch
- Take advantage of the healthy profile of oatmeal and other grains with hot and cold grain-based cereal options; you can even experiment with such “super” grains as quinoa served oatmeal-style with milk, cinnamon and raisins, and other toppings—in fact, new-wave porridges have become a thing on trendy menus
- Remember that sometimes breakfast is “just coffee”: CityBrü, the 24-hour coffee bar in the lobby of CityFlatsHotel in Holland, MI, serves as a guest touchpoint as well as a place to get a quick breakfast; those customers who do intermittent fasting will find this service perfectly suited to them!
- At brunch as well as all-day breakfast operations, a salad can be a welcome food option, especially if it touts a breakfast theme or ingredients (such as a frisee lardon salad)
- Expand a selection of breakfast meats to include prosciutto or country ham, turkey bacon/sausage, or a specialty sausage such as chorizo, cotechino or kielbasa
- Waffles, pancakes and other batter cakes are delicious comfort food, especially in unusual variations such as green tea or red waffle; the appropriately named Waffles Café, in Chicago, even offers a “flight” of such specialties; this is a great way to increase buzz around your restaurant, inspiring customers to tell their friends and family – grass-roots marketing for the win!
- Offer a customizable element at your restaurant—it doesn’t even have to be anything as elaborate as an omelet-to-order station—such as a cereal bar, build-a-biscuit-sandwich program, or Bloody Mary garnish station; Most restaurants in the industry offer such a basic breakfast that the smallest customization in food products will really help your restaurant stand out to customers; it may even make you locally famous!
- Tap into the popularity of regional breakfast specialties like shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, migas or Frito pie; spice up your morning service and watch your breakfast sales soar.
Ready to add breakfast or up you’re morning menu game? Contact Synergy Restaurant Consultants. It’s time to get up early like the bird and get the worm (or customer, in our case).