What to serve for breakfast at the dawn of a new era? With much of the foodservice industry having been in enforced slumber since March 2020, customers should be more than ready to attack whatever's on offer with gusto.
But the landscape has changed during the pandemic, food trends have moved on and cost efficiency is more of a priority than ever. More customers are looking for breakfast to go, and hygiene is on everyone's mind.
With breakfast spanning anything from smoothies to pastries, brioche breakfast baps, waffles or a full English, getting the offer right for your location and putting together exciting promotional activities will be key to bringing a morning rush to your door.
The legacies of the pandemic are that consumers are more aware of the importance of staying fit and healthy and moderating what they eat, while wanting to treat themselves after a challenging year – a trend that can be seen in breakfast. Hannah Morter, marketing manager, customer insight and category management at Country Choice, says: "We see as many consumers looking for a healthy breakfast, such as porridge, as those looking for a large, filling and often indulgent breakfast, such as a full English breakfast bap. We do, however, see demand for the latter grow as we get towards the weekend."
On-trend healthy breakfast options with a potentially good margin include smoothies or overnight oats. Jessica Ayling, Philadelphia Professional food-to-go chef ambassador, recommends that operators seek out quick and easy options suitable for chefs limited on time and resources, and all the better if they can be customised.
"With nearly half of consumers saying that the pandemic motivated them to follow a healthier diet, a breakfast dish such as overnight oats is a great way of allowing consumers to customise: for example, by offering nuts and seeds, such as chopped almonds, dried coconut or flax and pumpkin seeds, operators can tap into the demand for high-fibre diets and improve margins by charging a premium price point."
Michael Eyre, culinary director at Jestic Foodservice Solutions, suggests juices and smoothies as another popular breakfast menu item that can be customised for added value. Homemade beverages like these have customer appeal as they are nutritious and allow for menus to change to suit different seasons and the sourcing of local ingredients, he says. Investing in the right equipment will make it easy to add these drinks to the range.
With economic uncertainty continuing to affect purchasing decisions, consumers are cutting back on big budget items, but still rewarding themselves with the occasional food indulgence, says Paulina Gorska, marketing manager at Schulstad Bakery Solutions, Lantmännen Unibake. "If consumers are going to indulge, they want to feel it's worth it, meaning that quality is vital."
This idea of ‘measured indulgence', is now a growing trend, Erwan Inizan, Northern Europe sales director at Bridor suggests: "It is not easy to strike the balance between indulgence and consumers' concern about well- being and dietary intake, but it can be achieved where operators offer high-quality but slightly smaller versions of items."
According to Kantar, consumers are increasingly favouring morning goods such as pastries and croissants, and Bridor has embraced this with its new range of Mini Fantaisies, such as the mini muesli-blueberry finger or mini cocoa and hazelnut lattice.
Croissants and pastries tick a lot of boxes for the morning shift, and Country Choice saw its croissants sales rise 7.5% in 2020 as most other product categories slipped backwards, Morter reports.
Gorska quotes research (the Lumina Bakery and Sandwich tracker in June 2020) that shows there were approximately 815 million bakery occasions in 2020, with consumers choosing sweet treats to be eaten out of the home. Some 133 million of those involved a croissant, with almond croissants experiencing the fastest growth year-on-year.
"Ensuring access to a wide range of Danish pastries and viennoiserie is key to breakfast success," Gorska says.
Customer demand for something that will satisfy a larger appetite at breakfast remains, and here, as in menus across the board, plant-based eating continues to gain traction.
Ben Davy, development chef at Meatless Farm says: "We know from our research [March 2021] that 20% of British consumers have been eating more hot breakfasts during the pandemic, while also becoming more adventurous with their cooking."
There's a real opportunity to stand out from the crowd by offering a plant-based breakfast that isn't avocado on toast
This is combined with the fact that more than a third of carnivorous British consumers are eating more plant-based food this year.
"There's a real opportunity to stand out from the crowd by offering a plant-based breakfast that isn't avocado on toast. For example, we've just launched plant-based sausage patties." Chefs can use these in anything from sausage and egg muffins to avocado chilli breakfast stacks.
Plant-based is central to the 2021 menu and operators need to make sure they are geared up to offer an efficient service, adds Steve Hemsil, sales director, UK and Ireland at Welbilt.
"With plant-based, it's also key that operators understand how to separate food. If chefs use different coloured cooking trays or liners, they can cook a vegetarian and non-vegetarian item one after the other without having to clean down the equipment, saving space and time." Green kit can be used for vegetarian or vegan and Merrychef has just introduced a purple range for those with allergies.
Bag of tricks
Operators also need to make sure that takeaway is available, such as pastries in grab bags, Gorska recommends. Scott Oakes, commercial manager for breads supplier St Pierre, says that during the pandemic many caterers developed new takeaway offers to cross-sell high-margin breakfast buns and other on-the-go options alongside hot drinks.
With many customers in a hurry at breakfast, Eyre at Jestic Foodservice Solutions says caterers need powerful and flexible ovens that are easy for staff to use and can deliver hot foods such as pastries and paninis fast. Alongside the service, promotional and marketing messages are key to driving sales. Outlets should target customers with strong point-of-sale material to offer ideas for the relevant time of day, as well as pastry and drink pairings, says Gorska at Lantmännen Unibake UK. This is an excellent opportunity to promote both the quality and the convenience of a product range, and to communicate usage ideas, such as ‘great with coffee' or ‘a breakfast treat'.
Breakfast remains the fastest-growing out-of-home occasion and has a stable level of participation and frequency, Country Choice research suggests. Morter says getting the right offer will potentially ensure a loyal customer base, which is just what everyone needs at the moment. The caterer with a stand-out breakfast offering is all set to rise and shine.
Searcys' healthy swaps
Darren Deadman is chef-director at Searcys, which has a collection of restaurants, Champagne bars, cafés and event venues across London, Bath and Oxfordshire.
"Breakfast is hugely important to get right, especially when catering for business meetings and conferences," he says.
"Across our breakfast menus for meetings and events, we have now added healthy swap options for our customers. There are options for those wanting a lighter bite, for example, switching a biscuit to a soya and chia seed yogurt and mango compote, or fruit platters, muesli and power shots.
"In our restaurants, such as Helix at the Gherkin, we have chosen an indulgent route for Sunday leisurely brunches. The menu includes classic, seasonal dishes and light bites, such as buttermilk pancakes topped with crispy bacon and maple syrup, and a horseradish crumpet with avocado, roasted tomatoes and spiced seeds, as well as decadent desserts like waffles with roast banana, caramel, and peanut butter.
"One must-have, however, is good coffee. Our coffee is ethically sourced from Extract Coffee Roasters, a Bristol-based supplier with a mission to make coffee better."
Lantmännen Unibake UKwww.lantmannen-unibake.co.uk
St Pierre Groupewww.stpierregroupe.com
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