All Day Breakfast

ADB: Where’s the Line?

An increasing number of foodservice operators have found ways to extend the hours they serve traditional breakfast foods. Whether it’s the ultimate – all-day breakfast (ADB) – or just a few breakfast-type foods available throughout the day, it’s clear that the warm, comforting foods of the morning meal attract sales well beyond the usual 10 a.m. cutoff.

A few confirming trends, courtesy of Technomic:

  • Egg dishes rose by 14 percent on entree menus across all dayparts in limited-service (LSR) concepts between Q2 2015 and Q2 2016.
  • Menu incidence of egg-topped burgers has risen 30.2 percent since 2013.
  • Egg mentions on specialty pizzas have risen 5 percent since 2015.
  • Mexican-influenced breakfast dishes such as Huevos Rancheros increased by 38 percent across Top 500 operators’ full-service (FSR) menus, Q2 2015 to Q2 2016.

Breakfast items offer more than just comfort. Handheld sandwiches and wraps are portable, nutritious snacks and great tide me over meals. Eggs are extremely flexible, allowing ethnic flavors and sauces like chipotle or sofrito to brighten and intensify an item’s effect. Bruegger’s Bagels’ popular Sriracha Egg Sandwich includes fresh red peppers, but the flavor burst comes from the sriracha while the egg pulls the ingredients all together.

So who’s enjoying ADB’s possibilities? The list just keeps getting longer: McDonald’s, White Castle, Sonic, Starbucks, Einstein Bros., Jack in the Box, Dunkin’ Donuts, Golden Corral, Denny’s, IHOP, Cracker Barrel, Tim Horton’s and Bob Evans, not to mention numerous regional chains and many, many independents.

And there are always more chains taking first steps. At the time of this writing, Charley’s Philly Steaks has added breakfast to selected units of its 500 locations, offering three burritos, all of which feature scrambled eggs, Cheddar, jalapeño-ranch sauce and seasoned potatoes. Little Caesar’s is in-test in 10 locations with three Pizzini breakfast sandwiches between pizza crust-like seasoned bread. Shake Shack has four domestic transportation hub units serving breakfast at NYC’s Grand Central Terminal, Fulton Center and JFK, and Union Station in D.C.

But these are not the only competitors for the ADB dollar. Breakfast heavyweights like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts may spar with other foodservice chains, but there is one arena in which they do not yet play: the grocery freezer case. For the 70 percent of breakfasts still eaten at or taken from home (per The NPD Group), not to mention ADB availability, the retail market is major competition. Marketers, including Nestle, Kellogg, Hillshire, Wal-Mart and El Monterey have lines of breakfast sandwiches, burritos and bowls to rival those on QSR menus.

Well-known brands like Hot Pockets, Eggo, Lean Cuisine, Jimmy Dean and Morningstar Farms microwave into economical and convenient breakfasts. The items are as gentle as Sweet Earth Natural Foods, Get Focused, Functional Breakfast Burrito made with eggs, kale, farro, smoked Gouda, meatless grounds and seasoned with rosemary; and as decadent as the Big Burly Breakfast Sandwich with Bacon, Egg and Cheese on Cinnamon Swirl French Toast. They are as large as the 24 oz. Breakfast Best Western Oven Bake Breakfast Pizza made with Cheddar sauce, mozzarella, eggs, ham, onion and green and red peppers on a rising crust; and as small as the 2.5 oz. El Monterey Egg & Cheese Roll-Ups. There are preservative-, nitrate- and gluten-free, organic, vegetarian, vegan, reduced fat, high protein, grass-fed and whole grain options, to name a few. Serious competition indeed.

One last point: we may hunger for breakfast, but the American habit of consuming our largest meal at dinner calls for heartier protein options in the evening. Consider the Brisket Breakfast at Ria’s Bluebird in Atlanta, using slow-cooked Angus beef, and The Wake-Up Call on C&M Café’s menu in L.A., piled with pastrami. Benedict’s ala Munich at Benedict’s in Crystal Lake, Ill., fills the bill with a grilled bratwurst, and you can’t go wrong with an item like the Reuben Benedict of egg, charred cabbage and plenty of corned beef on a pumpernickel muffin with Thousand Island hollandaise at Haute Dish in Minneapolis.

So, sriracha, charred cabbage, jalapeño-ranch, bratwurst and kale for breakfast? At 3:00 in the afternoon? Why not?

ADB: The Breakfast Counter

A February article in The New York Times stated, Deferred breakfasts are increasing the business of those who cater to late sleepers. It continued with… the breakfast counter has now come to their aid and may become as important as the lunch counter. The article points out that commuter hubs have proven to be profitable places for those offering quick breakfasts, but that workers also provide business all morning for other quick-meal operations in office districts. If the language sounds a little stiff, it’s likely due to the piece being published in 1927. Yes, it’s true, we’ve been talking about expanded breakfast hours for 90 years now.

Forwarding to 2016, many chains have seen the advantage of serving breakfast throughout the day, with McDonald’s, White Castle and Golden Corral being three of the most recent. This isn’t surprising, as comfort foods that compose America’s most traditional breakfasts have been infiltrating the lunch and dinner menu for many years. Bacon not only serves as a grand partner for eggs, but has been wrapping appetizers, crowning burgers, and been grilled in sandwiches for decades. Now it’s the egg’s turn to be part of all that and more. The following examples illustrate how eggs are being used to spread their comfort throughout the day:

  • The Fried Egg Sandwich — three fried eggs, applewood-smoked bacon, Gruyère, Bibb lettuce, tomatoes and black truffle aioli on artisan sourdough, with Wine Dive truffle chips (Max’s Wine Dive, Texas and Colorado)
  • Dandelion, Shallot, and Leek Omelette — fluffy omelet sautéed with dandelion greens, caramelized shallots & leeks and Fontinella cheese, served with house potatoes or mixed greens salad (m.henry, Chicago)
  • Oven Fried Egg (appetizer) — with cherry tomato, corn, pancetta, pecorino and basil (Speedy Romeo, Brooklyn, NY)
  • When In Rome (salad) — chopped romaine, bacon, rosemary cornbread croutons, oven roasted tomato, preserved lemon, house-made dressing, Parmesan cheese, topped with an over easy egg (C&M Café, L.A.)

What happened to make eggs start wandering all over the menu? First and foremost, we love our breakfast. National Restaurant Association research shows that 72 percent of adults want operators to offer breakfast items throughout the day. And in 2015 Technomic found 54 percent of consumers enjoy eating breakfast foods at nontraditional times, a 12.5 percent increase over 2013.

We also love our eggs. They’re not only packed with natural protein and nutrients, but more importantly to our moods and taste buds they’re warm, satisfying and have great flavor and a silky mouthfeel. Combine that with decreasing numbers of consumers living a traditional 9-to-5 lifestyle and the impact Millennials’ whatever/whenever approach to eating has had on many of our habits, and you’ve got a teeming mass of humanity looking for breakfast at nontraditional times.

The growing flexibility of when, how, where and with whom we consume food and beverages has manifested itself in an increased interest in snacking, all-day breakfast, on-demand delivery and a resurgence in small plates. This sea change in approach is brought to us courtesy of younger consumers who tend to view meals as social events. One interesting development started by this group is that breakfast is becoming decidedly cool. When Technomic surveyed Millennials and Gen Z respondents on the issue, 34 percent said they view breakfast/brunch as more of a destination than a quick, convenient occasion, compared to two years ago. This will continue to drive operators to revamp interiors and menus to attract the groups these diners prefer to socialize with when dining.

It comes down to this: the arbitrary restrictions telling us when we’re allowed to eat breakfast have dissolved. We want what we want when we want it, and one of the things we want is availability of breakfast foods all day.

ADB: On the Menu

The 2014 Datassential MenuTrends Breakfast Keynote Report stated 83 percent of breakfasts were eaten at home, while The NPD Group puts the 2016 number close to 70 percent. Understanding these numbers came from different organizations and research approaches, the numbers still indicate a move toward breakfast increasingly being sourced away from home. And with more operations offering breakfast throughout the day, there’s no telling exactly when during the day these breakfasts are being consumed. These are complicated times to conduct foodservice breakfast research!

Historically, the first American ADB operations were delis in working-class neighborhoods. They served different shifts of workers, offering ADB throughout the day to tradesmen, shopkeepers, factory workers and policemen. Ziggy Gruber, owner of Houston’s traditional Jewish deli, Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen Restaurant, says, “We sell a great deal of omelets, bagels and lox, and French toast for lunch and dinner. Our shakshuka (3 eggs in spicy tomato, roasted pepper and onion stew, feta and grilled flat bread) is also very popular.” Thirty percent of his breakfast items are currently sold for lunches and dinners.

Today’s ADB dishes include both classic breakfast items and ones blending favorite breakfast and traditional lunch/dinner foods to create new and exciting meals. No one will argue with the concept of having what they want to eat whenever they want to eat it, and daypart-crossing dishes like poutine, pizzas, grain bowls and veggie-sides topped with eggs all fit easily into any daypart.

A sampling of not-your-classic breakfast items:

  • Open-Faced Breakfast Burger — layers both Canadian and applewood bacon, sharp Cheddar and maple syrup, topped with a sunny-side-up egg on cinnamon-raisin French toast (Grange Hall Burger Bar, Chicago)
  • Hangover Pasta — bucatini, pancetta, Parmigiano, poached farm egg, garlic breadcrumbs (Gioia Pizzeria, San Francisco)
  • Toasted Open-Faced Ham & Cheese Fondue With Fried Egg (Au Cheval, Chicago)
  • Gyro Omelette Platter — with Gyro meat, feta and onions (Fresco Deli & Café, Long Island, NY)
  • Hangover Fries — hand-cut fries, seared pork belly, mozzarella cheese curd and rich gravy topped with a fried sunny up egg and scallions (Melt Bar & Grilled, Ohio)

Craig Min, founder of La Mill Coffee Boutique in L.A., has said, “We were getting lots of feedback from our guests that they wanted our breakfast items in the afternoons and evenings.” Deciding the customer is always right, La Mill joined the legions of ADB restaurants. Thirty-five percent of their food revenue now comes from breakfast items served during the dinner daypart, with one dinner favorite being their Avocado Toast with radish, pickled red onions and chili-almond gremolata with poached egg.

A sampling of not-your-classic dinner items:

  • Carpaccio Benedict — local beef tenderloin topped with eggs, hollandaise, capers, horseradish, red onion and olive oil on toast (Kismet, Montpelier, VT)
  • The Kind Brother (pizza) — wild mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, farm egg and sage (Speedy Romeo, Brooklyn)
  • Steak & Egg (appetizer) — steak tartare, egg in a hole, Bloody Mary oyster shooter (Haute Dish, Minneapolis)
  • Smoked Brisket Benny — jalapeño cornbread waffle, fresh tomato salsa, caramelized onions, poached egg and hollandaise (Iron Rooster, Annapolis, Md.)
  • Organic Quinoa & Vegetables with Eggs — sunny-side up eggs, farmers market vegetables and chimichurri (Huckleberry, L.A.)

At Iron Rooster in Annapolis, Md., an astounding 70 percent of the guests order breakfast for lunch or dinner. The owner, Kyle Algaze, says people are attracted to breakfast because it’s a meal that feels natural at any time of day, and it makes his patrons feel good. His Breakfast Cuban is made with shaved ham, pork belly, pickles, Swiss, yellow mustard and fried egg on a pressed baguette. Hardly classic breakfast fare, but certainly comfort food.

Merriam-Webster defines comfort food as being “prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.” Reviewing the above lists, it appears the time has come to revise that definition and include traditional comfort food ingredients prepared in non-traditional styles.