Incredible Breakfast Trends

Why We Seek Comfort

No matter how an individual defines comfort food, we all recognize obvious triggers for needing some NOW. A bad day at work can send us straight to the Häagen-Dazs. Less apparent, but still taking its toll, is the effect of free-floating anxiety over things like the economy, our high-pressured lives and the stress of global issues. Much like background noise we’re only vaguely aware of it, but it can still lead to super-sized orders of fries.

It seems that metaphorically having too much on our plates may lead to an urge for filling our real plates with comfort foods.

Operators see the results of our desire for comforting meals in the only daypart consistently outperforming the rest of the menu: breakfast. Hot breakfasts are a comfort food bonanza with scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, savory sausages, creamy oatmeal, cheesy grits, hot buttered toast and jam, biscuits with gravy ‒ the list goes on and on. And clearly our desire for soothing foods is not expected to fade, as Mintel forecasts 30.3 percent growth in foodservice breakfast sales between 2013 and 2018.

But which came first, the need or the comfort? Are Americans so stressed that we require comforting foods to feel better? Or do we just logically enjoy food that gives us a happy, easy feeling?

On one side we have consumers who answered polls indicating concerns about the state of their world:

  • 86 percent of adults are concerned about the lack of privacy in using computers. (Pew Research Center)
  • 55 percent of consumers worry about medical debt. (Bankrate.com)
  • 69 percent fear a cyberattack on U.S. computer networks. (2014 Chicago Council on Global Affairs)
  • 71 percent of us believe the recession’s negative impact is permanent. (Rutgers University)
  • Fears of an ISIS attack at home was Americans’ top search topic last month. (Google)

That is certainly enough to make a person dive into a vat of scrambled eggs and cheese. But what about the other point of view: that eating breakfast foods is, in fact, a cheerful thing to do that makes us feel content no matter what else is affecting our lives. Technomic says that 52 percent of consumers cite a craving for a breakfast sandwich as the driver for their last purchase. So it turns out we simply enjoy eating things we like to eat. Case closed.

And something else: neither consumers nor operators see a reason to restrict traditional breakfast comfort foods to the morning. Consider the evidence: bacon has not only been a grand partner for eggs, but has been wrapping appetizers, baked with beans, topping burgers and grilled in sandwiches for decades. Now it’s the egg’s turn to be part of all that and more. The following samples illustrate how eggs are being used to offer more comfort throughout the day:

Haute Dish (Minneapolis)

  • Bacon+Egg on a Stick
  • Asparagus Salad: pickled ham hock, soft-boiled egg, watercress, fine herbs and crouton

Speedy Romeo (Brooklyn, NY)

  • Oven Fried Egg (appetizer): with cherry tomato, red onion, corn, pancetta and pecorino
  • The Kind Brother (wood oven pizza): wild mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, egg and sage

Bluestem Brasserie (San Francisco)

  • Hangtown Fry: scrambled eggs, crispy oysters, spring onions and bacon
  • Smoked Trout Salad: house-smoked trout, fingerling potatoes, deviled eggs, frisée, tapenade, cherry tomatoes and mustard-sherry vinaigrette

Melted Bar & Grilled (Ohio)

  • Hangover Fries: hand cut fries, seared pork belly, mozzarella cheese curd and rich gravy topped with a fried sunny up egg and scallions
  • Crabby Benedict: fried eggs atop crisp crab cakes, with sriracha hollandaise, wilted arugula and herb cream cheese

And that doesn’t even touch on all the egg-embellished burgers and vegetable side dishes that have become so common on both chain and independent menus.

So what about the answer to which came first, the need or the comfort? When you’re sitting in front of a plate full of comfort, does it really matter?


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