Breakfast is where the buzz is, home to the now iconic avocado toast, the protein pot, American pancakes and, of course, traditional crowd-pleasers such as bacon and eggs.
In fact, many in the hospitality trade describe breakfast as the new lunch. Last year out-of-home breakfast sales rose by 4.6%, according to Kantar data, more than double the growth of lunch, while evening meals declined.
From the 73.4 million Instagram posts hashtagged #breakfast it is clear that this is the most flexible of eating occasions. Even timing isn't an issue, as the meal merges into brunch and then on into the all-day breakfast.
But that does not mean serving up a breakfast offer is an easy win for operators. Consumers are discerning, and competition in the sector is intense, with breakfast available everyÂwhere from petrol forecourts to pubs. Getting your breakfast offer right is key.
Go to work on an egg
A recent survey of 2,000 adults by OnePoll suggests eggs are a favourite with diners when eating out, with 63% choosing them. Growth is up across the board but is particularly strong among younger diners. Egg consumption among 16- to 24-year-old women is estimated to be up by around a third in the past two years. British Egg Industry Council chairman Andrew Joret quotes Instagram as listing eggs as one of its 10 most hashtagged foods.
Rising demand for eggs as a high-protein superfood has led to innovation around grab-and-go pots, such as cold boiled eggs with spinach, herbs and quinoa, and cooked-to-order takeaway options - poached eggs with avocado and smoked salmon, for example.
Caterers could still do more to capitalise on sales, though, according to Joret. "Egg dishes made up three of the top five favourite breakfast options, with the full English picked out by 42% of consumers as their overwhelming favourite," he says. "We also asked consumers their top frustrations about eating out, and they were slow service, cold food, price/value and quality. A lack of healthy options was also identified as an issue."
Adrian Gott, chief executive of egg supplier Clarence Court, says the rise of healthier breakfast choices and the popularity of brunch have led to a boom in the egg industry. Consumers are choosing eggs from humanely treated birds, and the hospitality industry needs to demonstrate transparency. "Many restaurants have tapped into the power and appeal of better-tasting eggs by mentioning the Clarence Court name on their menus, such as Clarence Court free-to-fly quail eggs," he says.
Pastries are another popular choice, says Samantha Winsor, assistant brand manager at LantmÁ¤nnen Unibake UK. "Eating breakfast out of home is particularly popular among millennials, so it's crucial your breakfast offer appeals to this younger audience," she adds. More than a third (35%) of 16- to 24-year-olds choose pastries when dining out for breakfast, as they can be easily eaten on the go. They are also an indulgence not easily replicated at home, making them a particularly tempting treat.
Consumers might want to offset the treat by choosing a smaller size. Supplier Bridor has introduced 70g sweet-filled croissants to meet demand for reduced portion sizes, says Erwan Inizan, its Northern Europe sales director. However, indulgent breakfast pastries are also seeing real growth, he says, and Bridor has launched an Extravagants range of 100% pure butter, ready-to-bake large croissants, with muesli and blueberry, raspberry cheesecake-style and triple chocolate options.
sli is another trend being given a twist. Inizan says: "Muesli benefits from a natural association with the breakfast market. It has healthy eating connotations and delivers fantastic flavour and texture. As consumers increasingly seek out healthier options, muesli is helping to fill that need in a bakery context."
Stuart New, head of bakery at Rich Products, says sweet bakery goods must be really good to stand up to scrutiny, as consumers don't want to waste a breakfast treat on a product that isn't up to scratch. Muffins and cinnamon buns are a portable, easy and ever popular option. "With the rise of all-day breakfasting, these products are also a good option for caterers, as they work well across all day parts, meaning a reduction in menu complexity and waste. With muffins and cookies showing strong signs of growth, we want to elevate these products to a higher level so that we're focused on innovation and provenance."
Use your loaf
The choice of bread can be key at breakfast, says Stéphanie Brillouet, Délifrance UK marketing director. An operator could appeal to the growing wellness-conscious crowd by sitting smashed avocado on top of a seeded spelt boule, for example, or they might bring a modern touch to traditional favourites, such as offering seeded or vegan croissants.
Aine Melichar, senior brand manager for Kerrymaid, says that breakfast burritos, bagels and toasted sandwiches are increasingly popular as they are easy to customise to individual tastes and trends, and can encompass the ever growing interest in global flavours, such as falafel, quinoa or chorizo.
The brunch bunch
Brunch remains popular and is accessible throughout the day, not just the space between breakfast and lunch. Dishes such as pancakes and waffles can be served as a traditional sweet dish with maple syrup, or as a savoury option such as courgette waffles, or spinach and ricotta pancakes, Melichar suggests.
Bottomless brunches are also popular, says Chris Beckley, managing director at KFF, and extended breakfast or brunch hours are a golden opportunity. According to a 2017 Insight report The Future of Breakfast, 32% of millennials eat breakfast or brunch only after 11am on Saturdays, so operators could be missing out on a huge amount of custom.
Anna Sentance, gourmet marketing manager at Barry Callebaut, says sharing platters are a great way to offer an on-trend menu, hike profit and deliver quality service at peak times. Operators could add a range of platter options to cater for families, couples or groups of friends. Customisable options to feed a crowd could be a sweet waffle with different toppings, with consumers choosing from up to, say, four options and charged 50p per additional option. Staff should be encouraged to engage with customers to find out their preferences and help them perfect their breakfast.
The challenge for operators is to make sure that their breakfast offer is every bit as strong as their dinner offer, believes Nigel Phillips, UK and Ireland sales manager of potato brand Lamb Weston. According to the company's research, 67% of consumers want to see at least one hot breakfast dish on a menu.
"Breakfast is no longer a clearly defined food or time as the boundaries are being blurred with the introduction of foods such as breakfast pizza and the rise of the breakfastarians - those who want to be able to enjoy breakfast food at any time of the day," Phillips says. British people spend £13b a year on eating breakfast out of the home and 67% of 18- to 24 year-olds believe that breakfast and brunch are social occasions, according to Lamb Weston.
Operators should also embrace the business breakfast. Creating a package that can be targeted at professionals between 8am and 9am, with a good Wi-Fi connection and private space, is a great way to capitalise on these hours during the working week, Phillips adds.
Helen Hyde, business unit manager at Tabasco, says that toasted muffins and eggs are growth items, alongside savoury breakfast options such as huevos rancheros. Mexican breakfasts are gaining in popularity, with black beans, burritos, avocado and hot sauce appearing on many menus.
Following in the footsteps of avocado toast, there is a rise in posh toast, with indulgent toppings such as smoked fish, premium cheese and fruit compote. Veggie, vegan and gluten-free options are also key to making the most of breakfast sales.
With average breakfast spend rising to £5.06, according to MCA's Eating Out Market Data report, breakfast is an increasingly lucrative day part, yet for customers it remains a cheaper and more casual option than going out for dinner.
It's time to perfect a millennial-friendly breakfast-to-brunch menu with on-trend foods - and don't forget to share your #breakfast images on Instagram.
British Lion Eggs www.egginfo.co.uk
Clarence Court www.clarencecourt.co.uk
Creative Foods Europe (Tabasco) www.creativefoodseurope.eu
Lamb Weston www.lambweston.eu
LantmÁ¤nnen Unibake UK www.lantmannen-unibake.co.uk
Rich Products www.richuk.com
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