Cost Increases to Hit Breakfast Favorites: How to Keep People Coming

Breakfast is Number One. 

At the close of 2013, breakfast was the winner for the third successive year as the number 1 meal that increases restaurant traffic. It was the leader for traffic growth in 2013, with an increase of 3 percent (whereas lunch and dinner traffic fell). Forecasts for breakfast traffic over the next 9 years was originally predicted for a 7 percent increase according to a food study by NPD Group and reported by Nation’s Restaurant News.  However, recent changes in pricing of commodities and produce could have a drastic effect on breakfast offerings. Breakfast used to be the least costly meal for consumers to buy (and for restaurants to produce). But breakfast foods are about to get pricier. Some favorite items on your restaurant’s breakfast menu—bacon, orange juice, coffee, cheese, fresh fruits—are or will be seeing price increases.

Consider these challenges:

  • Bacon increased in price by more than 50% in the last year as a result of the market’s reaction to fears over a deadly hog virus will cut into supplies.
  • OJ prices are expected to go up 12% due to the Florida orange crops being damaged by weather and disease.
  • Coffee pricing is increasing due to the drought affecting Brazilian coffee beans; prices could rise to over $3.00/pound.
  • Fruit prices are going up since California is in its 3rd year of draught. About half of all fruits and vegetables eaten in the US are grown there.
  • Cheeses are at record high of $2.40/pound over previous pricing of $2.00/pound.

Restaurant sales rebounded a bit in March according to the latest Restaurant Industry Snapshot from Black Box Intelligence and People Report.  A 0.7 percent same-store sales growth showed for March—a strong 1.4 percent improvement over the decline reported in February.  Winter months with very bad weather appeared to be the strongest factor contributing to the first quarter’s decline. But with rising prices on breakfast’s favorite menu items, a strategy will be needed for upcoming months.

Breakfast strategy—new menu choices:  According to Gail Bellamy of Restaurant Hospitality there are strategies for building a breakfast selection that keeps consumers coming and helps keep costs down. Ethnic inspired breakfast offerings, incorporating sauces with lower priced meats, and incorporating healthy alternatives into old favorites should be considered. Here are some other strategies for keeping breakfast patrons:

  • Breakfast sandwiches and wraps are a big hit, particularly flatbreads, Panini’s burritos, and croissants which can be filled with healthy and low cost foods.
  • Along with the traditional proteins offered (eggs, bacon, ham, sausage), many restaurants have alternate proteins, or are pairing a new item with an old favorite:  portobello and eggs, as offered at Benedicts in West Dundee, Illinois or poached eggs with lentils, cilantro and yogurt, as offered at the Breslin in New York.
  • Consumers want to see more protein in breakfast menu offerings, particularly low fat options such as eggs, lean meat and Greek yogurt.
  • A way to control costs with the rising prices for meat is to offer small quantities of value priced meat on breakfast sandwiches.
  • Utilize leftover cooked meats in breakfast foods by offering it in unique sandwich or skillet combinations such as Argentinian Steak and Egg Flatbread or a Farmer’s Skillet with eggs, vegetables and small portions of meat.
  • Combine eggs with pork shoulder suggests Bellamy and utilize unique sauces.
  • Sauces used with lower priced meats or smaller portions of meat can be a way to fight rising costs and offer patrons a new breakfast taste. A trending sauce like buffalo sauce, salsa or basil pesto can expand options on the breakfast menus to appeal to a wider audience.
  • Offer a wider selection of pancakes, incorporating multi-grain and gluten free options.
  • Old fashioned oats and ancient grains cooked with dried and fresh fruits and served with Greek yogurts are high protein options that are cost effective.
  • Casual dining chains are now offering weekend brunch to keep the traffic up.
  • Offer your breakfast menu late at night or mid-morning or anytime. Promote breakfast beyond the normal breakfast hours.

With breakfast’s past performance history to bring in traffic, a bit of strategy could help restaurants keep it in a number one spot.

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