Fast-​Casual Concepts Leading Morning with Better Buns, Bowls, Breakfast

BY Courtney Huckabay

"For these chains, introducing breakfast, or just bumping it up a notch, has morphed into a deliberate strategy meant to build revenue outside an already busy lunch—and in some cases dinner—business," Amelia Levin writes in QSR Magazine.

"By cross-​utilizing existing ingredients in later dayparts and making minor staff reassignments, some of the more progressive fast-​casual chains have been able to add alternative revenue streams without a lot of added costs."

Adding quick breakfast options could increase sales and traffic at local restaurants and cafes. The new AudienceSCAN survey revealed 6.9% of U.S. adults order breakfast from a fast food chain 3 to 4 times a week.

"For 25-​unit Modern Market, adding breakfast was a no-​brainer. “We had staff coming in at 6 a.m. to prep for lunch, so we just redirected one or two people to serve people coming in,” says chef Nate Weir, adding that the breakfast crowd tends to include college students, suburban moms, and workers heading to the office."

Grab-​and-​go options will appeal to the diehard breakfast eaters. The new AudienceSCAN study found 3.7% of U.S. adults order breakfast from a fast food chain 5 times or more per week.

"When developing the menu, Weir also redirected many of the ingredients already on hand to create items such as the veggie-​loaded Scrambles, with charred broccoli, caramelized onions, aged white cheddar cheese, and pastured eggs. The only equipment change was the addition of a toaster and some dedicated coolers for breakfast."

Restaurants should let Fast Food Breakfast Lovers know they've added new breakfast options! The new AudienceSCAN survey showed 55% of them took action after getting mobile smartphone app ads or text message ads in the past 30 days. Mobile could be the way to go!

"While grab-​n-​go, highly customizable dishes are important for weekday a.m. service, fast-​casual and fast-​casual 2.0 chains have become stomping grounds for a more leisurely breakfast enjoyed by remote workers on their laptops, business colleagues meeting over a meal, and moms getting together for a social experience."

A great way for restaurants to showcase their brunchy breakfast items is through digital ad campaigns. The new AudienceSCAN study showed 50% of Fast Food Breakfast Lovers took action after seeing internet banner ads in the past month.

Culinary Director Matt Weingarten says, “We think it is a meal period that is underserved at the moment in the healthy, clean, locally sourced, sustainable segment. Our breakfast crowd tends to linger, and we love that, so we have also added charging outlets and WiFi access as part of our design plan. We view weekday breakfast as becoming a more prevalent part of our current working society as more people work from home or take meetings outside the office,” he adds.

Here’s a look at some of the more innovative breakfast menu options out there.

Premium sandwiches and toasts
Fast casuals are moving the breakfast sandwich beyond the basic muffin-​egg-​meat combination, using higher-​quality breads, fillings, and dressings.

Scrambles and hash
Many chains have dropped bread all together at breakfast in favor of scrambles and hash for an increasingly health-​conscious, gluten- and carb-​averse consumer.

Egg, protein, and veggie bowls

Yogurt and smoothie bowls
Yogurt and smoothie bowls are riding the better-​for-​you and gluten-​free waves at fast-​casual chains.

Green wraps
In a riff on the more indulgent quick-​service breakfast burrito, Grabbagreen swaps tortillas for collard greens to make breakfast wraps that are stuffed with vegetables, beans, and meat.

Brunch-​style indulgence
Even during the week, some customers prefer heartier breakfast items.

Better beverages
Lattes, cold-​pressed fruit and veggie juices, cold-​brew coffee

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.