The most important meal of the day has been a challenge for restaurants over the past few years, faced with economic uncertainty and reduced consumer spend. In order to lure back customers to an already over-crowded breakfast marketplace, restaurant operators will need to give consumers what they want—and according to latest research from Mintel, that’s a healthy breakfast, as 66% of restaurant-goers say they are interested in healthier breakfast options.

Promisingly, Mintel’s research shows breakfast sales are expected to rebound in 2011, resulting in 4.1% growth and the healthy eating message is echoed by the 39% of restaurant diners who say breakfast options at their local eateries are too unhealthy. Regardless of the day of the week, two-fifths of consumers who eat breakfast out (39% on weekdays and 40% on weekends) say healthy breakfast options are the most important factor when selecting a breakfast spot.

“The demand for better-for-you options will likely continue as menu labeling laws go into effect,” says Eric Giandelone, director of foodservice research at Mintel. “Once customers see how much fat and calories are in their favorite breakfast foods, they will be more inclined to try a healthier alternative, and restaurant operators should adjust their menus accordingly.”

CONVENIENCE

Another tack for restaurants to take is on convenience. Forty-three percent of restaurant users say they rarely have time to eat breakfast at home during the week, but another 50% say it’s just too time-consuming to stop for breakfast at a restaurant. Almost half of restaurant-goers say convenience is an important selection factor when dining out for breakfast.

“Convenience clearly is a significant factor, everyone’s time is precious in the morning. And of course, cost continues to be a concern,” adds Eric Giandelone. “In a perfect world, restaurants will want to focus development efforts on how to provide patrons with easy, healthy, and flavorful breakfasts that are not cost prohibitive. Or least target some of those points.”

Mintel’s research also found that popular breakfast menu items vary by the day of the week. Breakfast sandwiches are the most popular on weekdays with 42% of restaurant-goers, while platter meals are the clear favorite on the weekends with 43%.

KIDS’ MENU

The just-released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, with its call for greater consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, will add to the momentum for improved kids’ meals in restaurants. Some restaurant operators are beginning to offer an array of whole grain and multigrain breakfast cereals and breads on the kids’ menu.  According to a recent study by ConAgra Mills’, research indicates that both mothers and children feel positively about whole grain foods and are willing to order them on kids’ menus in restaurants, if they can be assured the children will enjoy them.

[Source:  Research conducted by Mintel.  28 Feb. 2011.  Web.  17 Mar. 2011; Study conducted by ConAgra Mills.  7 Feb. 2011.  Web.  17 Mar. 2011.]