New York's Pulino's has been making news ever since they started offering imaginative pizzas for breakfast last fall, from savory egg-topped concoctions to fruity, fluffy interpretations. It seems only a matter of time before the rest of the industry follows suit.

A recent study by Intellaprice sheds light on the recent popularity of the breakfast daypart among QSRs.

“A lot of brands are adding breakfast menus, and price is one key reason. It’s the most affordable meal to eat away from home, so this attracts consumers who are nervous about high-priced restaurant meals,” said Leslie Kerr, founder of the restaurant pricing advisory forum. “Operators who want a piece of the action expand their offerings, knowing it’s an opportunity to increase profit, especially with the right product mix.

“The old standbys are stepping up innovation so they can maintain their stronghold,” Kerr said. “That’s why we see healthy options like egg white flatbreads at Dunkin’ Donuts, brunch at Burger King, and frappés at McDonald’s.”

Even so, according to Kerr, succeeding at breakfast has its challenges. “While some may perceive it as easy-to-execute, this is not always the case. Wendy’s tests and retests breakfast without rolling it out for that reason,” she said. “And we don’t see many casual dining brands dipping their toes in the water. This is partly because casual dining spots often locate based on traffic patterns that may not work for breakfast. They also serve meals that are more leisurely, whereas breakfast is often a quick, on-the-go experience for consumers.”

One more ingredient of the perfect storm: pricing for existing breakfast food items has, for the most part, been resistant to inflation.

Intellaprice’s 2010 breakfast study finds that quick service prices are up 1.3 percent vs. 2009, or $.03. By comparing prices of items on current menus as well as on last year’s menus, Intellaprice found that breakfast offerings average $2.84 this year, up from $2.81 a year ago. “The increase is modest, and reflects an effort by operators to be conservative and retain customers,” Kerr said.

Intellaprice surveyed nearly 2,300 quick service and convenience store locations for its 2010 breakfast study of national and regional brands that offer breakfast items, coffee and espresso beverages.

Other findings of the study include:

  • Beverage items increased 2.1 percent vs. 2009 levels, while food items were flat
  • Value/combo offerings were up .6 percent, or $.03, and averaged $5.07 in 2010
  • Healthy breakfast offerings, averaging $1.61, decreased $.02, or 1.1 percent vs. 2009. These items often include snacks and value menu items, thus the lower price point.

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