As eating patterns evolve, consumers see breakfast anytime as a treat, a snack, or a lunch or dinner alternative. The increasing availability of all-day breakfast in restaurants may be starting to catch up to longstanding consumer demand.
In fact, seven out of 10 consumers say they are interested in the availability of breakfast at any time of day, according to research firm Technomic.1
Five of the top 20 quick-service restaurant operators now offer all-day breakfast as they seek to leverage this unmet consumer demand. These operators are succeeding in the all-day breakfast space by offering complete meal options that satisfy consumers’ needs for convenience, value, variety, and the ability to customize orders.
Offering breakfast combo meals with a side order and a beverage is an important tool for attracting these consumers. About three-quarters – 74% – of high-potential, all-day breakfast consumers typically purchase combo meals, according to Coca-Cola consumer research. QSR customers say combo meals make it easier to order (74%) and save them time (65%), the research found.2
Offering breakfast items during the lunch and dinner dayparts also gives consumers the variety they are seeking on QSR menus. More than half of QSR customers – 55% – say the ability to select from expanded menu choices is very important, according to Coca-Cola research.2
In addition to adding variety, breakfast items also bestow a “healthy halo” on a QSR menu, as consumers often perceive breakfast items to be healthier. The Coca-Cola research found that 44% of consumers say it is important for QSRs to offer healthy items, and adding breakfast options throughout the day is one way to do it.2
Often consumers who are seeking a light lunch, or a healthy meal option in mid-day, are inclined to choose breakfast items, according to research conducted in partnership with Coca-Cola by students at Emory University.3
“People put a healthy halo around breakfast items,” says Ruyi Jiang, one of the Emory students involved in the research. “They see having a breakfast item as being healthier than a dinner option or a lunch option. That was something that came up in all the groups we spoke to.”
The research included both quantitative and qualitative analysis involving surveys and focus groups.
Customization Is Key
The ability to customize breakfast combo meals is also important to consumers, as fast-casual operators that allow diners to select their ingredients to order have raised the bar on consumer expectations. Sixty-eight percent of QSR customers now say they wish they had more ways to customize their combo choices.4
In addition, the increasing prevalence of snacking as a meal alternative and eating several smaller meals throughout the day appears to be gaining ground. Nearly half of consumers – 47% – say they wish there were smaller-sized combos, the Coca-Cola research found.4
Operators can easily solve the demand for customization by giving consumers the ability to select from among a variety of beverage options with their all-day-breakfast combos – and those options should include sparkling soft drinks. While coffee and juice have long been considered standard breakfast pairings in the morning daypart, sparkling soft drinks are actually a preferred option for breakfast-food pairings during other times of the day. For high-potential, all-day-breakfast customers, sparkling soft drinks are the No. 1 choice for breakfast-food pairings outside of the morning daypart, Coca-Cola research found.5
And while consumers expect to be able to customize their breakfast combo meals, they don’t want to pay extra to do so. In fact, 74% of consumers polled by Coca-Cola said they should not have to pay more for combo customization.4
Sixty-one percent agree, however, that that they are saving money when they order a combo meal, but $6 seems to be the threshold for value. Consumers say breakfast combos priced at $6 or more are not reasonable.2
An Attractive Target
The future for all-day breakfast looks bright – 41% of QSR customers are considered high-potential consumers of breakfast anytime, according to Coca-Cola research. These diners visit QSRs 19% more frequently than the average consumer and spend 86 cents more per visit.5
Breakfast all day is particularly appealing to Millennials; 56% of whom eat breakfast at times other than morning. And while all age groups tend to like breakfast as a mid-morning snack, Millennials are also highly likely to order breakfast as a late-night snack, while Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are more inclined to substitute breakfast items at lunchtime.5
According to the Emory University student research, consumers say they seek venues offering consistent food quality and fresh ingredients when deciding where to purchase breakfast. The convenience of the location is also an important factor in consumers’ decisions, the research found.3
“Consumers view eating breakfast out as a treat,” says Nieves Ortiz, another of the Emory student researchers.
For operators who already offer breakfast during traditional breakfast hours, expanding the offering throughout the day allows them to leverage an existing attribute of their brands, the students concluded. Any operational challenges to rollout tend to be short-term issues, they say.
“What we found is that at the start-up phase, it truly is a challenge, but once you have the equipment set up and the right employee training, it’s not as much of a challenge on a day-to-day basis,” Ortiz says.
Some operators have sought to minimize their investments in offering all-day breakfast by limiting the breakfast menu during non-traditional breakfast hours.
The potential for driving incremental sales gains has made the transition to all-day breakfast worthwhile for QSR operators, however.
“All-day breakfast drives traffic, drives incidence and drives the average check,” says Monica McCoy, Senior Manager of Channel Planning and Development, Coca-Cola.
Operators that have added all-day breakfast are seeing traffic increases across dayparts, she adds.
“Younger consumers – Millennials and Gen Z – see breakfast as an evolving proposition, and one they can experience throughout the day,” McCoy says. “They are saying breakfast can be at 1:00 p.m., if that is their first meal of the day.”
For some consumers, having breakfast in the afternoon is a treat or reward, the Emory students found. A mother in one of the focus groups, for example, commented that her sons enjoy eating breakfast from a quick-service restaurant in the afternoon after football practice.
“There were some customers who were very passionate about [breakfast all day],” Jiang says. “They had to have it. Nothing else would satisfy.”
1 The Future of LSR: Fast-Food & Fast-Casual Restaurant Consumer Trend Report (Technomic, Inc., 2014); Menutrends Keynote Report on Breakfast (Datassential, 2014); A Look at Foodservice Industry Trends (Jones, C. & Miller, S., TCCC, 2015)
2 QSR Burger Menu Study (TCCC, 2013); ADB Consumer Survey (TCCC, 2016)
3 Coca-Cola Research in partnership with Emory University students, supplied to Penton by Coca-Cola
4 QSR Burger Menu Study (TCCC, 2013)
5 ADB Consumer Survey (TCCC, 2016)