Restaurants depend more than ever on the morning crowd to boost traffic and sales, as consumers clamor for quick, convenient and low-cost meals to start the day. Breakfast sales brought 60% of the industry’s growth during the past five years and, more recently, morning traffic helped eateries offset the effects of the downturn, according to research released by NPD Group this week.
The numbers spell great news for companies such as Bruegger’s Bakeries, a 295-store chain that has made its living selling breakfast since opening its first bagel shop in 1983. Sales at parent Bruegger’s Enterprises grew 2.1% in the most recent quarter, a positive sign, but the growing competition also means the brand can’t rest on its laurels if it hopes to fend off the new players and offerings, said Executive Chef Philip O. Smith.
“We’ve got a 20-year beachhead that gives us credibility, but it’s important for us to stay on top of our game,” Smith said.
Bruegger’s has always taken an evolutionary approach in its efforts to increase sales, building on what it does best rather than rushing headlong into brand-new territory, and using limited-time promotions to test new products, Smith said. “Baker’s Choice” pairings of bagels and cream cheese give the chain a chance to gauge whether a new item proves popular and react accordingly.
Rather than a wholesale revamp of its menu and décor to go after different day parts, Bruegger’s has added salads, soups and new sandwiches over time. The company went about building the beverage menu in a similar fashion, building on a successful morning coffee business when it added first frozen coffee drinks, then debuted a line of lemonades.
“Bruegger’s can’t exist by breakfast alone, but it hasn’t been random. We’ve addressed each category in a way that made sense to us.”
More tidbits from Smith:
- Diners are extending breakfast beyond the morning hours, in part driven by the lower price of many offerings and in part just because they’ve got a taste for eggs, bacon, bagels and other traditional morning comfort foods.
- Customers who two years ago would have headed to more casual sit-down chains for a stack of flapjacks or eggs and bacon have migrated to lower-priced casual eateries — Bruegger’s is seeing a fair share of these new customers, Smith said.
- “I think [the focus on breakfast is] exciting. Five years ago, everybody was jumping with two feet into lunch. Now, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s nice to have that attention.”
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Image via Bruegger’s Facebook