Wake Up Breakfast

How to move morning meal options for remote and on-site office workers

No matter what shape the American workforce takes this year, one certainty remains, even as coronavirus vaccines become widely available: the opportunity to capitalize on breakfast.

Restaurants that have successfully transitioned to takeout mode can add breakfast to their offerings, whether that’s opening for breakfast pickup and delivery, or tacking on breakfast items at dinner that customers can easily compile or heat the next morning.

Innovative operators have also had success with subscription boxes, breakfast sandwiches and healthier options. A strategic menu mix can lower overall food costs, reduce waste, maximize labor – and most importantly, boost the bottom line.

The Morning After

About a third of consumers surveyed by foodservice research firm Datassential say they would like the option of including breakfast items with dinner bundles. Restaurants can upsell carryout dinner orders by offering breakfast that falls in line with their concept. For example, a breakfast bao would make more sense at an Asian-themed concept than biscuits and gravy.

Along with its weekend takeaway dinners, Pasjoli in Santa Monica, California, has been selling sweet bread boxes, including chocolate croissants, cinnamon rolls and coffee cake, for $22. In Chicago, French Quiche customers tack on the restaurant’s namesake quiche to their boeuf bourguignon and cassoulet dinners for breakfast the next day. The prep for quiche, such as vegetarian Provencal or a classic quiche Lorraine, is simple, using ingredients the restaurant already has for sandwiches, salads and crepes. “The flavor possibilities are only limited by your creativity,” says chef Dominique Tougne. “Quiche is one of those preparations that you can eat cold, just warm or very hot. It travels very well as long as you keep it cold.”

Retool Existing Inventory

Rye Deli & Drink opened in Chicago at the height of the pandemic as an atypical Jewish deli. It’s known for bagels, smoked salmon and pastrami, but the brik, a Tunisian egg pastry and popular Israeli street food, has become a sleeper hit and a way to avoid food waste. A thin brik shell is filled with potatoes, pastrami trimmings and leftover vegetable trimmings before an egg is cracked in it. The shell is folded like an envelope and dropped into the fryer. “It looks like a spring roll wrapper mixed with crepe, but it’s not greasy because the dough is porous,” says chef Billy Caruso. “It’s crispy but the inside has a perfectly soft-poached egg.”

At Counterpart Vegan, an all-day restaurant in Los Angeles, chef Mimi Williams’ popular vegan breakfast sandwich features a “runny egg yolk,” carrots, onion, garlic, turmeric, mustard powder, black salt and xanthan gum – ingredients already existing on her menu.

“Our plant-based ingredients are very versatile,” Williams says. “We can utilize ingredients in many different ways across our menu and reduce food waste.”

Batch and Offer Healthier Options

Better-for-your-breakfast options have resonated with diners as the pandemic wears on because health is top of mind, Williams says. At Uncooked, a plant-based grab-and-go restaurant in Chicago, overnight oats and chia pudding have been breakfast hits. Both items can be made in large batches with no technical skills required, last up to a week, and have sound profit margins. They’re also protein- and fiber-rich, making them reliable bases for a wide array of experimental toppings and flavors. “I can have the person who washes the dishes make chia pudding,” says co-founder Jeremy Jones. He recommends avoiding matcha as a flavoring, since it oxidizes and turns an unappetizing brown color after just one day. But blue spirulina, turmeric, cold brew and freeze-dried raspberries have all been successes.

For a savory healthy breakfast that can be batched, chef/owner Salima Saunders makes a mezze platter at Uplifters Kitchen in Santa Monica, California, that includes house-baked focaccia with a fried egg, two scoops of za’atar hummus, fattoush salad and a few triangles of fresh feta. “Each component can be prepped ahead of time and assembled when the order comes through, which makes for a timely delivery,” she says.

Adapt for At-Home

Alfred Coffee in Los Angeles depended on a busy morning rush to sustain the business, so during the pandemic, they debuted an app that made mobile ordering easy and efficient by allowing customers to customize their orders and skip waiting in line. They also launched new items like a 96-ounce cold brew coffee box and DIY vanilla latte kits, which have become their best-selling items online. “We wanted to help our customers recreate their Alfred experience at home,” says business development manager Natalie Swain. “The new cold brew format has an extended shelf life, as it is packaged without ice in the box, and designed for delayed consumption.” For additional food choices, Alfred offers freshly made breakfast burritos, and has expanded its bagel menu at multiple locations to help capture revenue per transaction during the pandemic.

Go with Boxed Assortments

Sixteen Bricks in Cincinnati made up revenue by selling pastry boxes for pick up and advertising the new offering via Instagram. Customers pay in advance and are surprised by new sweet and savory breakfast pastries each week. Streamlining pickup to just one day each week minimizes the disruption to workflow and allows the bakery to avoid dealing with third-party delivery platforms. Perhaps most importantly, the assorted pastry boxes have been a morale boost, allowing the team to stay creative and experiment with trial runs of new flavors like dark chocolate chai brioche, sunflower seed jam bars and orange blossom rhubarb twists. A few new pastries like the maple miso cream morning buns, glazed with maple and topped with toasted sesame seeds, became so popular that they are now on the permanent menu.

Brake for Breakfast

Who can benefit?

Coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants near high-rises or in densely populated residential areas, and restaurants with a strong millennial following.

Why: To adjunct or create a new revenue stream, bring employees back to work and expand your customer base.

How: Clearly communicate on your website and social media that breakfast is offered. Use mobile- friendly web platforms to make ordering easier. Consider collaborating with local partners for a more robust offering and for cross-promotion, or setting up a subscription box.