The most important meal of the day has become the hottest area of competition for the foodservice industry. Mintel, a market intelligence firm, reports that restaurants added more than 460 new breakfast items to their menus in 2009, more than in 2007 or 2008.

The reason? Half of consumers surveyed by Mintel in November 2009 said they’re spending less on restaurant breakfasts compared to 2008. Only one in 10 are spending more. Furthermore, nearly half of survey respondents said they don’t eat breakfast out during the week (47 percent) or weekend (45 percent).

“We see an increasingly competitive market for restaurant breakfast, even though sales have declined,” says Eric Giandelone, director of research for Mintel Foodservice. “Restaurants are refreshing their breakfast menus, but I believe reduced consumer spending, as well as relatively high unemployment, will limit sales growth over the next year.”

Restaurant breakfast and brunch sales fell 3.4 percent from 2007 to 2009, according to Mintel. The category is expected to grow only modestly through 2011 before picking up speed. All told, Mintel forecasts the breakfast foodservice market will expand by 13 percent from 2009 to 2014.

“To overcome contracting sales, restaurant operators need to be keenly aware of what drives people into restaurants for breakfast,” Giandelone says. For example, Mintel found people are mostly looking for low prices and convenience on weekdays, while food quality and menu variety are more important to weekend breakfast diners.

“Restaurant operators can also perk up sales by realizing that many diners crave breakfast outside traditional breakfast hours,” Giandelone says. The top thing breakfast diners told Mintel they’d like to see more of at restaurants was “all-day breakfast” (36 percent weekday, 38 percent weekend). More value meals were also desired (32 percent).

Breakfast, Menu Innovations, News