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Building breakfast, the better-for-you way

publication date: Feb 11, 2014
author/source: Butterball FoodService


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As more and more consumers get their breakfast from quick-service restaurants, operators looking to add the day part or expand on existing morning offerings are pondering just what to add to the menu. Some are fast finding that to get customers to start their day at their restaurant, one thing is a menu must-have: better-for-you options.

During the last two years, limited-service restaurants added more than 230 new breakfast items, according to market research firm Technomic’s 2011 Breakfast Trend Report. Despite this increase in menu items, consumers aren’t finding as many healthy choices as they’d like. According to Technomic, about a third of consumers who purchase breakfast at limited-service outlets say these restaurants do not offer enough healthy breakfast choices.

Driving the interest in better-for-you breakfast food is the large percentage of morning-meal customers over the age of 50, who tend to be more health-conscious. According to market research firm The NPD Group, the over-50 set—made up of older baby boomers and seniors—has been the top contributor to the growth of the morning meal in recent years.

Also behind the trend is the fact that consumers of all age groups now have an increased knowledge of health, nutrition and wellness, including the benefits of starting the day with a healthy breakfast. For example, consumers are aware of current research that suggests that those who eat breakfast on a regular basis tend to have a healthier body weight, improved concentration and better energy levels throughout the day. Consumers also are familiar with studies that indicate that a breakfast containing lean protein has a greater satiating effect, leaving those who eat such breakfasts feeling fuller for longer periods of time. Also driving consumers to look for healthier fare on menus is the impending passage of nutritional disclosure laws.

Building breakfast, the better-for-you way


With breakfast accounting for just 12 percent of industry sales, it’s clear that the market is not yet saturated and the morning meal remains a growth area. This represents a huge opportunity to grab market share, especially with those customers who come to quick-service outlets looking for a healthy or light breakfast.

To capitalize on the better-for-you breakfast trend and differentiate their brands from the growing competition, operators need to pepper their menus with a variety of items that consumers perceive to be a lighter, healthier quality of breakfast food. Here are a few ways some successful chains have started to build better-for-you breakfast menus:

  • Add lean proteins. For an easy health fix, swap full-fat bacon or ham with low-fat, nutrient-rich protein sources, such as turkey sausage or turkey bacon, in breakfast sandwiches—a top breakfast item at quick-service restaurants. Starbucks, which in recent years added warm breakfast sandwiches, offers an array of egg-and-meat sandwiches, as well as a Turkey Bacon & White Cheddar Classic Breakfast Sandwich, with reduced-fat turkey bacon, egg whites and reduced-fat white cheddar cheese on a toasted, multigrain English muffin.
  • Go whole grain. Use whole/multigrain breads, bagels or tortillas for sandwiches and wraps. They are more nutrient-rich and consumers see them as healthier alternatives to options made with bleached white flour. When Subway launched its new breakfast platform in spring 2010, it built in a way for customers to transform indulgent egg sandwiches into FreshFit options by allowing them to customize their order with lighter breads, such as light-wheat English muffins or flatbread, and egg whites. Making the switch means the three FreshFit breakfast options all come in under 200 calories.
  • Offer dinner for breakfast. Find a product that already works for your brand at the dinner daypart and put a better-for-you breakfast spin on it. For example, the Del Taco chain recently added a new line of breakfast burritos and quesadillas to its Mexican-American menu. The chain is emphasizing the better-for-you aspects of its menu, including its many made-from-scratch items and fresh-cracked egg sandwiches.
  • Heap on the health. Top an already good-for-you item, such as oatmeal or yogurt, with another healthy ingredient such as fresh fruit, nuts or seeds. As a way to offer Egg McMuffin- and McGriddle-loving customers with a more healthful breakfast option, McDonald’s launched a line of oatmeal in 2010. The chain’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is topped with a half cup of fresh apple slices, dried cranberries and two different kinds of raisins. Because the item has been so popular, the chain plans to expand the line.

While consumers are indeed looking for additional better-for-you breakfast options, they are still time-pressed in the morning and today’s economy has many of them feeling financially strained. So in addition to healthy, they want their morning meal to be convenient, portable and a good value for their money. Restaurants that can deliver healthy breakfast options that consumers can eat with one hand, and for a good price, are the ones that will succeed.


May 8, 2012

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