Menu Innovations | October 2013 | By Lori Zanteson

Morning Comforts

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Baked goods like cinnamon rolls give fast food restaurants a breakfast staple.
Quick-serve concepts are innovating their breakfast goods as the morning daypart becomes more competitive. thinkstockphotos.com
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On the savory side, baked egg items offer a solution to those who don’t like sweets in the morning, Davis says. At the Downtown Disney location, baked egg dishes are grab and go, which presents a quick solution for those who are off to the theme park, he says. There’s a traditional Quiche Lorraine made in a pie crust with egg, spinach, and cheese, as well as the Egg Pie, which La Brea Bakery has been creating for more than 20 years. It has a potato crust that is smashed into the tray and baked before it’s filled with egg and vegetables, which Davis says gives it more texture and flavor than a quiche.

The Café also serves up breakfast sandwiches on a variety of artisan rolls and croissants. While they’re not as adventurous at Disney as they are at the La Brea Bakery’s retail store in Los Angeles, the Café’s chefs will change up sandwich ingredients, such as using applewood-smoked bacon instead of regular or mixing scallions into the eggs, Davis says.

By offering baked items, quick serves can add “a level of simplicity” to their operation, he says. The products are also friendlier to facilities that aren’t set up for made-to-order items; all they need is an oven.

Panera Bread has become the largest fast casual in the U.S. in no small part because of its artisan baking, making fresh dough from scratch and handcrafting an array of pastries, muffins, bagels, and breads.

“It’s this commitment to our artisan baking craft that sets our baked goods apart,” says Scott Davis, executive vice president and chief concept officer for the St. Louis–based company with more than 1,600 bakery-cafés in 44 states and Canada. “Our customers look to our bakery for breads, bagels, and pastries they can trust, which are made fresh on site each day.”

Choices range from the traditional French Croissant and Cinnamon Roll to the reduced-fat Peach Pecan Crunch Muffin and the more decadent Strawberries & Cream Scone, a cream-based scone made with dried strawberries and white chocolate chips.

Adding to an already diverse selection of signature breakfast sandwiches, such as the Roasted Turkey & Sun Dried Tomato Pesto and the Mediterranean Egg White on fresh-baked ciabatta, the chain introduced a line of baked egg soufflés.

“We saw a need for savory, higher-protein morning meals and used our pastry dough as a platform to offer customers an egg-based breakfast,” Scott Davis says. “The result was a handheld, savory morning meal that, even after the successful launch of our breakfast sandwiches, has continued to be a favorite with the morning crowd.”

The four varieties offered are Four Cheese, Spinach & Artichoke, Sausage & Gouda, and Spinach & Bacon.

Biscuits, which have become a popular trend across the industry, are at the heart of every Bojangles’ restaurant, where they’re served with 80 percent of orders. Randy Poindexter, senior vice president of marketing, says fresh biscuits are baked every 20 minutes all day long at Bojangles’ restaurants.

The biscuits require a 12-step process carried out by certified master bakers at each of the more than 550 units in the North Carolina–based chain’s system.

“Biscuits have always played an important role in Bojangles’, ever since our founder perfected it in 1977,” Poindexter says. “Biscuits go well with all of our products.” Poindexter says breakfast is the brand’s biggest daypart at 40 percent of sales.

The Cajun Filet Biscuit, the restaurant’s most popular item, is just as popular at lunch, dinner, and breakfast, Poindexter says. That’s also true for every other biscuit item, from the Bacon, Egg and Cheese and Country Ham Biscuits to the Gravy Biscuit.

It’s even true of the sweet Bo-Berry Biscuit, which doubles as a breakfast item and dessert. Made with blueberries and drizzled with icing, this biscuit has taken on a life of its own. Customer response has been so great that Bojangles’ has made it the star of several holiday-themed limited-time offers. For Independence Day and Veterans Day, there’s the Red, White, and Bo-Berry Biscuit, made with a cherry-flavored filling, blueberries, and white icing. And it takes on a heart shape at Valentine’s Day.

“It’s one of those things people are pretty fanatical about,” Poindexter says.

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