Emily Bryson York reports in Advertising Age that Subway has an uphill climb to capture the morning daypart. Sudway announced last Friday that it would expand its test of Seattle’s Best Coffee to 9,000 locations in an effort to drive morning business — but it is going to have its work cut out for it if anecdotal evidence is any indication.

It’s not just that Dunkin’ Donuts responded by announcing a 500-store test of a breakfast dollar menu in Chicago. Or that, as The Wall Street Journal reported last week, McDonald’s will also offer a breakfast dollar menu come January.

Price isn’t even the major hurdle. The biggest problem is getting people not to think only about $5 footlongs when they think of Subway. “To some extent to be successful, you have to be disrupt the consumer’s behavior with a compelling reason to change it,” said Darren Tristano or Technomic. “And price isn’t an issue anymore because everything is cheap. It has to be about quality, freshness, or something different like oatmeal or an organic product.”

Whether that can happen remains to be seen. But visits to Chicago-area restaurants show that can be difficult. Before you even consider Subway, think about Dunkin’ Donuts, which has a hard enough time getting customers to shell out for something resembling a full breakfast. The place definitely thrives in the morning, selling coffee or a pumpkin latte to nearly every customer in the store. Of those spotted lining up for morning Joe, more than half of them paired it with a doughnut, munchkin or muffin. But only one in ten ordered any kind of breakfast sandwich.

Dunkin’s morning dollar menu includes two small egg sandwiches, hashbrowns and a choice of several munchkins. The veggie egg-white flatbread, for $2.99, seemed to have been made to order. It was juicy and flavorful, with spicy cheese, crispy bread, and served as a healthy portion.

Five minutes later at Subway, which has yet to build awareness for its breakfast offerings, one customer ordered a veggie burger while an elderly woman, who appeared to be waiting for someone, looked out the window. Everyone else in the store was either working for Subway or Ad Age. The chain’s breakfast offerings include egg-and-cheese, egg-and-ham, Western-omelet-with-ham, and egg-and-double bacon sandwiches on either a sub roll or flat bread.

Perhaps the most trying part of the experience is watching the “sandwich artist” pull a yellow, rubbery-looking disk from a warmer and fold it inside of a sub roll. We didn’t expect farm-fresh eggs, but some things are better kept out of sight.

Read More at: Advertising Age