Incredible Breakfast Trends

The Rise Of The Grocerant

There was a time when going to a restaurant was done only on special occasions. But today’s overbooked schedules have people viewing restaurants as a necessary part of their time-crunched lives. In December 2014, for the first time on record, monthly sales at restaurants exceeded grocery store sales, and by April 2015 restaurant sales had moved out in front by $1.5 billion. As the grocery industry watched away from home growth, it made plans to recoup lost revenues.

The main plan was to counter foodservice muscle with foodservice muscle: retail food stores jumped into the foodservice business.

Retail foodservice is not new. A few short decades ago dime-store lunch counters fed office workers and shoppers daily. Grocery stores began introducing prepared meals in the 1970s but it would be three decades before the concept got real traction. Today, consumers reap the benefits of “grocerants,” defined as grocery stores selling wide arrays of prepared meals, either for eating on site or taking home.

Grocers, dismayed at restaurants’ grabbing of market share, aggressively marketed the convenience of prepared foods. And it paid off. Today’s time-strapped consumers are sold on the convenience, item innovation and homemade appearance, which likely decrease their visits to the likely alternative: quick-service restaurants (QSRs). Since most retail operations focus on moderately priced home meal replacement, it appears that away from home lunch and dinner sales may be suffering fallout from grocerants. According to NPD, while QSR dinner sales have declined, eating dinner at grocery stores rose to 1.8 billion visits annually in 2014.

Freshly prepared food items are often the highest-margin products in a supermarket. “Almost every grocery store I walk into now, some of the first things I encounter are their quick-meal solutions, their home-meal replacements,” says Justin Massa, CEO of market research firm Food Genius. In essence, these are modern-day loss leaders with generous margins – a more profitable way to get consumers into a store.

The advent of retail foodservice also coincided with consumers’ increased demands for premium foods in convenient locations. This is the same impulse that drove the creation of fast-casual.

Innovation is evident in both foodservice offerings and operations, attracting customers with heightened expectations. Upscale deli items, trend-responsive prepared foods, soup and salad bars, and dining areas are common at grocerants, but many add even more to keep the experience fresh:

  • Mariano’s (Chicago): in-store branded restaurants; sushi counter with dedicated checkout; oyster and lobster bar; wine bar; huge prepared foods area; pizza bar; coffee shop; frozen yogurt shop
  • H-E-B Grocery (San Antonio): in-store fast casual concept, Table 57, and the 3009 restaurant where street tacos, pizza, small plates, sandwiches, salads and burgers are bought by the pound; sushi counter; trendy cocktails
  • Whole Foods (Austin): ethnic restaurants; burger joint; Parisian café; BBQ shack; coffee bar; wine bar; pasta bar; in-store brewery and restaurant; ramen noodle stations (variety dependent on location)
  • Kings Food Market (Parsippany, NJ): focus on specialty items and gourmet foods; hot bar of international foods; gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian prepared items

Although some in-store restaurants undoubtedly serve breakfast foods, hot breakfast is not well-represented in grocerants’ prepared foods operations. Despite weekday breakfast being largely a handheld grab-and-go affair, this is a major opportunity for grocerants to stand out in their treatment of it. The right equipment is already in-house; it’s just a matter of allocating what it’s to be used for. We see grocerants adding excitement with the following soon:

  • Announcing special brunch days/events, turning the prepared hot foods area into an upscale brunch line for eating in or taking out, using liquid eggs designed for steam table serving use.
  • Renting out facilities for after-hours brunch parties, complete with guests dressed in pajamas; could be used as a fundraising platform.
  • Dedicating a cook to be on duty for specific times on Sunday morning/early afternoon to make made-to-order omelets with customized mix-ins.
  • Promoting “Breakfast for Dinner Tuesdays,” choosing a day of the week when traffic is slow and dedicating the prepared hot foods area to a breakfast buffet line.
  • Preparing date-stamped stratas and other breakfast casseroles, offering them in the heat-and-eat area.

Recent all-day breakfast moves by McDonald’s, White Castle and Golden Corral respond to the 72 percent of consumers who want breakfast available all day. That should serve as a wake-up call for retail foodservice.


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Put An Egg On It

All Day Breakfast

Multicultural Cuisines

Evolution of Healthy

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New Competition

New Behaviors

Regional Breakfast Menu

Comfort Foods with Flair

Clockless Dining

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The New Consumer

Breakfast Influencers