The breakfast wars

June 6, 2014 | by Ed Zimmerman

Up and down the foodservice spectrum, breakfast is heating up. Here are some recent developments:

  • Taco Bell introduced a breakfast menu trading on ubiquitous locations and a massive promo of the Waffle Taco. The Bell blitzed social media and took direct aim at rival McDonald’s, including an ad campaign making fun of Ronald the clown.
  • McDonald’s countered with an offer for free morning cup of McCafe and started promoting its McGriddle pancake wrapped breakfast sandwich.
  • Not to be forgotten, runner up, Burger King took a different approach, and announced it would serve burgers as well as breakfast fare each morning.
  • Dunkin Donuts promoted a new Eggs Benedict sandwich, with Black Forest ham and “spreadable Hollandaise.”
  • Starbucks introduced four new breakfast sandwiches created by its La Boulange bakery division, including a savory spinach and sun-dried tomato on ciabatta and a lower-calorie takeoff on the classic Egg McMuffin.

The Wall Street Journal reports that McDonald's "plans a marketing push to emphasize its fresh-cooked breakfasts as it battles growing competition for the morning meal." The company's CEO, Don Thompson, says that while McDonald's has not yet seen any impact from breakfast entries by competitors, the heightened competition "forces us to focus even more on being aggressive in breakfast."

It’s hard to believe that McDonald’s has not felt an impact, but CEO Thompson is a good man, running a public company where misleading statements are punished in the press and with investors, so let’s take him at his word … “not seen an impact" means demand has increased for breakfast away from home. People are time stressed and the economy has improved, so maybe more people are picking up their morning fare on the way to work.

I have always believed that pizzerias have an opportunity to sell breakfast.

Long ago, savory breakfast emerged as a category, led by breakfast burritos. The public knows Calzones so a Breakfast Calzone would work. Pizza operators have everything they need, except eggs; dough, meats, peppers, sauces, to-go packaging. Most locations have staff in the morning to prep dough for the day. Rent is paid 24/7, so why not?

I don’t think every location has the opportunity, but neither is it true that none do. Americans are on the road looking for breakfast, now is the time to leverage location and labor and dive in.

All it takes is a realistic plan that includes a stripped down menu, a little labor and a marketing plan. Survey customers; open for a short test period and give away some meals. It seems like the Breakfast Calzone can turn many pizzerias into the “Breakfast Zone.”

Foodservice operators face rising ingredient costs, higher labor and increased regulation of insurance and minimum wage, nearly impossible obstacles to overcome. What they CAN do is increase revenue to minimize the impact. Now is the time to explore The Breakfast Zone.



Topics: Operations Management, Trends / Statistics

Ed Zimmerman
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management. View Ed Zimmerman's profile on LinkedIn

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