Bacon butties at dawn: food service sector competes for breakfast occasion

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Breakfast, the most important meal of the day, has become the hottest area of competition for the foodservice industry in the US, according to Mintel.

It reports restaurants added more than 460 new breakfast items to their menus in 2009, more than in 2007 or 2008, respectively.

Competition has intensfied as half of consumers surveyed by Mintel in November 2009 said they’re spending less on restaurant breakfasts compared to 2008. Only one in 10 is spending more. Furthermore, nearly half of survey respondents said they don’t eat breakfast out during the week (47%) or weekend (45%).

“We see an increasingly competitive market for restaurant breakfast, even though sales have declined,” said Eric Giandelone, director of research, Mintel Foodservice.

“Restaurants are refreshing their breakfast menus, but I believe reduced consumer spending, as well as relatively high unemployment, will limit sales growth over the next year.”

Restaurant breakfast and brunch sales fell 3.4% from 2007 to 2009, according to Mintel. The category is expected to grow only modestly through 2011 before picking up speed. All told, Mintel forecasts the breakfast foodservice market will expand by 13% from 2009 to 2014.

“To overcome contracting sales, restaurant operators need to be keenly aware of what drives people into restaurants for breakfast,” said Giandelone. For example, Mintel found people are mostly looking for low prices and convenience on weekdays, while food quality and menu variety are more important to weekend breakfast diners.

“Restaurant operators can also perk up sales by realising that many diners crave breakfast outside traditional breakfast hours,” said Giandelone. The top thing breakfast diners told Mintel they’d like to see more of at restaurants was all-day breakfast (36% weekday, 38% weekend). More value meals were also desired (32%).