Menu Innovations | January 2014 | By Barney Wolf

Breaking with Tradition

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Fast food brands are adding new breakfast items like parfaits to their menu.
Sandwiches are the most popular breakfast item at non-bakery quick serves, but chains are increasingly looking to innovative solutions to bulk up their morning daypart offerings. thinkstockphotos.com
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The company has since added breakfast at a few other units that have good foot traffic. The only ingredient Five Guys added for breakfast was eggs. An egg sandwich; an egg and cheese sandwhich; and a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich are all available with any of the chain’s normal toppings and sauces. A burger patty can also be added.

Having a restaurant in a transportation location with morning commuters was a major reason Boston-based grilled cheese chain Cheeseboy started adding breakfast at some of its units, says founder and president Michael Inwald. “We knew there was a breakfast crowd in the South Station Train Terminal” in Boston, which was the 11-unit chain’s second store, he says. “Guests would come in at 9 a.m. for a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon, so we knew there was demand.”

Today, five Cheeseboy restaurants have breakfast sandwiches, listed at $3.49. The Farmhouse Melt includes eggs, tomatoes, baby spinach, and white American cheese on Italian bread. There are also breakfast items made with bacon or sausage. “We are a build-your-own concept, so you can mix and match,” Inwald says.

Sausage and bacon are traditional breakfast proteins, but chicken is also popular, particularly in the South. Among the chicken-based chains now conducting breakfast market tests are two Southern-based companies, Chick-fil-A and Zaxby’s.

Pizza can also become a breakfast item. Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream, a 60-unit company based in Bettendorf, Iowa, has offered a breakfast pizza at some locations for years, and it launched a chain-wide breakfast program in the fall of 2011 with omelet pizzas and cinnamon rolls. Locations can also serve breakfast burritos and oven-baked scramblers.

“We actually created our breakfast pizza over 20 years ago,” says Kristel Whitty-Ersan, marketing manager and daughter of founder Joe Whitty. “It was a pizza my dad created for times we had morning meetings with his business groups at our [original] restaurant.” The omelet pizzas include the Denver, with green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and diced bacon; the 3-Meat, with sausage, bacon, and Canadian bacon; and the Bacon & Bacon, with bacon and Canadian bacon. A build-your-own version is also avaliable. “The great thing is we already have all the ingredients, all the toppings prepped,” Whitty-Ersan says.

While restaurants usually serve breakfast only during morning hours, an increasing number of operators are offering the early menu during other dayparts and, in some cases—like Sonic and Jack in the Box—whenever the restaurants are open.

“We know that our guests don’t always have time to sit down and have a complete meal and that they may be eating at unconventional hours in a clockless day,” Dunkin’ Donuts’ Frankenthaler says.

McDonald’s offers its Fruit and Maple Oatmeal, Cinnamon Melts, and Fruit ‘n Yogurt parfaits all day and is expanding some of its breakfast menu hours to late night as part of the McDonald’s After Midnight Menu that also includes dinner menu items.

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