Incredible Breakfast Trends

Egging on protein demand

Several consumer impulses are at the root of the continuing growth of foodservice breakfast. Breakfast is generally more economical and just as hearty as other dayparts, and we like affordable indulgences. Inexpensive drive-thru breakfasts fuel us quickly when we’re pressed for time, and we like convenience. But perhaps the most universal reason is that many people view traditional breakfast foods as comforting foods. And is there ever a wrong time for comfort?

Yet habituating us to procuring indulgent, convenient and comforting food in the morning is not the end of the story. These attractions have led us to move later into the day to meet friends at noon for brunch, enjoy mid-afternoon diner breakfasts and pick up late night breakfast sandwiches at a McDonald’s, White Castle or Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru, to name only a few.

Put an Egg On It

With the addition of all-day breakfast to large chain menus, we now have easy availability of relatively traditional breakfast sandwiches, omelets and plates of scrambled eggs whenever we please. That might be a logical end to the story but it’s still not the last chapter.

In answer to consumer demand for cleaner labeled, more natural ingredients, eggs are popping up on all manner of other food items throughout the day. They also fill the consumer desire for higher protein foods. Technomic found that 75 percent of people perceive foods high in protein as being healthier, and 39 percent are willing to pay extra for it*. Since cooks have been topping burgers with bacon for decades, the next logical step was to add an egg to the bacon and call it an All-day Brunch Burger like the one at Applebee’s with seared-in bacon and onion, topped with a fried egg, hash browns and cheese. Adding only the egg takes us a step farther away from being a breakfast item, as in the Big Stack charbroiled burger at Wild Onion in St. Paul, Minn. True to its name, the burger is crowned with ham, summer sausage, smoked Gouda, smoky tomato sour cream and a fried egg.

Add in the versatility of eggs to augment and add dimension to a wide variety of sweet, salty, and savory flavors, and it’s clear why people are ordering egg-topped pizza, burgers, sandwiches, bowls and salads in increasing numbers. Consider the allure of Bacon Jam Fries at Austin’s Peached Tortilla. Combining the bacon jam with green onions, sharp Cheddar, fried egg and chili aioli, it’s a wild symphony for the taste buds. Peached Tortilla also serves a surprising twist on fried rice by topping its Kimchi Spam Fried Rice with a fried egg in addition to the usual scrambled one mixed with shiitake mushrooms, green onions and nori.

But to add a new wrinkle to the story, things ramp up when we look at the newer chains focused primarily on breakfast foods, the ones that are evolving menu items into truly non-daypart specific meals. These chains fall into the regional and emerging chains segments, the places where Technomic reports 48 percent of egg-topping incidence is found*. One of these, San Diego-based Breakfast Republic, serves a Vietnamese Chicken Wing Breakfast Bowl made of sweet and spicy wings over white rice topped with Asian veggies and three eggs, as well as the Breakfast Hot Dogs with smashed house potatoes and topped with two eggs, bacon and green onion. These items are available throughout the day.

According to Technomic research, poached eggs rose 3.9 percent as entrée toppings between 2015 and 2016*. Examples include the poached egg that tops the Sisig and Grits at Buffalo Theory in San Francisco, with pork medley, chilies and onions, chicharrón and cheesy grits; Fabada Asturiana made with pork shank, smoked chorizo, Genesis Growers beans, soft egg and kale found on the dinner menu at Chicago’s Salero; and Avocado Toast with poached eggs and scallion mascarpone at Summer House Santa Monica in North Bethesda, Md.

So the final chapter of this story should offer a retrospective: egg toppings on dishes throughout the day are an affordable indulgence, a convenient way to add protein to any kind of dish and part of the consumers’ view of breakfast food comfort. An egg is an addition that truly lives up to its reputation – Incredible.

* MenuMonitor; Technomic Inc. Base: Menu offerings across 1,533 Leading and Regional Commercial Restaurants and 251 Non-Commercial operators; including Convenience Stores, Food Trucks, Business and Industry, College and Universities, Hospital, Lodging, Recreation and Retailers

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