The notion that the early bird gets the worm has quick-service operators pursuing profits in the breakfast daypart like never before — and with good reason.

Numerous studies have shown a large share of Americans eat nothing more than cold cereal at breakfast, or they bypass the first meal of the day entirely. Given that so many potential patrons go to work and school underwhelmed by breakfast or undernourished by skipping it has operators seeing green — albeit sometimes through bloodshot eyes.

Searching for new ways to maximize their facilities and generate new revenue, some quick- service operators are burning the candle at both ends, attempting late-night service while jumping into breakfast anew or expanding current lineups. According to some industry observers, however, breakfast is likely the better target because it’s perceived as the most important meal of the day, while late-night noshing remains an indulgence. The trick, however, is to offer breakfast products that differ from others, observers said.

“There are growth opportunities in late-night … but breakfast is easily the most underpenetrated daypart,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic in Chicago. Not only do adults acknowledge the need for a good breakfast, Tristano said their children are begging for variety at the start of the day. “My son said the other day, ‘Do I have to eat cereal again? Why can’t I have waffles?’

“I don’t see the next generation being content with cereal like we were. They want more, and that presents a new opportunity for restaurants.”

“More of what?” exactly, is the key question asked by Dennis Lombardi, a consultant with WD Partners in Dublin, Ohio. Mega-fast feeders like McDonald’s and Burger King have mastered hot breakfast sandwiches and made them affordable. Smaller operators can try to match them, but even if they’re better, customers may never know about them.

“Even if your product’s good, if it gives me no compelling reason to switch, to change my established habits, or doesn’t create a buzz, it’s a ‘me too’ product,” Lombardi said. Research shows, he added, that people’s breakfast eating patterns are highly habitual and that it takes a near-watershed change to break established routines. “If it is a copycat product, it better make a step forward, something different and totally unique, some noticeable change.”

Read more at: Nation’s Restaurant News