Rise and Dine
By Sam Gazdziak, Senior Editor
Taste and convenience are important in putting together a successful breakfast menu.
Breakfast can come in a variety of forms, from a bowl of cereal or bacon and eggs eaten at home to a cup of coffee and a donut gulped down during the morning commute. With breakfast taking on so many forms, restaurants are trying to broaden their morning menus as best as they can to find something appealing to all diners.
“Consumers are embracing basic breakfasts with comfort foods such as eggs cooked to order,” says Jennifer Hargett, marketing manager for Bob Evans Farms Inc., located in Columbus, Ohio. “In addition, even at breakfast, they are trying to find a nutritional balance, not by focusing on one diet trend, but by trying to balance the nutritional value of their meals.”
Bob Evans, apart from being one of the country’s leading processors, also has 559 restaurants, mostly located in the eastern half of the country. The focus is on traditional breakfast favorites, though there is enough variety to give a diner plenty of options. Naturally, the company’s sausage products are featured prominently and are available in many dishes. The most popular item is the Rise & Shine breakfast, which puts all the breakfast basics on one plate — two eggs, home fries, sausage or bacon, and biscuits. The Homestead Breakfast, named after the original Bob Evans Farmhouse in Rio Grande, Ohio, adds a cup of sausage gravy to the meal.
Most of Bob Evans’ breakfast items are available throughout the day. “Breakfast is our heritage and the cornerstone of our brand — where we started and what many of our customers knows us for,” Hargett points out.
Hargett also acknowledges the fact that consumers are increasingly time-starved and need convenience along with their breakfast orders. “The fast-food category has really been able to capitalize on this trend, with McDonald’s successful McGriddles® and Wendy’s testing the addition of breakfast to its menu,” she says.
McDonald’s Corp., based in Oak Brook, Ill., invented the breakfast category in quick-service restaurants and has been one of the leaders ever since. It accounts for approximately 30 percent of the company’s business, reports Danya Proud, U.S. media relations. She notes that the company has seen an increased interest in hand-held breakfast sandwiches.
“For us, hand-held sandwiches started back in the 1970s with the Egg McMuffin and have been a critical part of our breakfast menu for many years,” she says.
McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches continue to maintain popularity, and that popularity is carrying over to its other hand-held items, such as breakfast burritos, which have been added to the breakfast core menu. Even hand-held products that weren’t meant to be sold during the breakfast daypart are selling well there, such as the fruit-and-yogurt parfait and the snack-size fruit and walnut salad.
“[They] were designed to meet the needs of customers looking for fruit snack options at McDonald’s, but both of those items, along with the apple dippers, see a lot of a la carte purchases,” Proud notes.
McDonald’s recently unveiled a dollar menu for breakfast in several markets, offering items such as a sausage or chicken biscuit, a Sausage McMuffin with cheese, and a breakfast burrito.
“Our goal is to provide customers with even greater value at breakfast, just like we do throughout the remainder of the day,” Proud explains. Initial customer feedback has been positive, but there are no plans at the moment to roll the value menu out nationwide.
Breakfasts for a sweet tooth
Bob Evans has long been known for its savory breakfasts, and its innovation has come in the way of reinventing classic breakfast entrees.
“This past summer we introduced our new line of Country Benedicts, our twist on the classic Eggs Benedict,” says Hargett. The meals consist of a buttermilk biscuit with one of three toppings, two eggs and hollandaise sauce. The three varieties are Spinach, Bacon and Tomato, Ham & Cheese, and Sausage.
“In addition, over the last several years we have focused on enhancing our indulgent griddle breakfast categories to provide a more decadent experience to our customers,” Hargett adds. Stuffed French Toast and Fruit-Topped Crepes are part of this enhancement, and the newest addition to the Bob Evans menu us the Stacked & Stuffed Hotcakes. The hotcake is stuffed with ingredients like bananas or honey-roasted pecans, topped with a layer of vanilla cream cheese, another hotcake, and finally an extra topping. The available flavors are Caramel Banana Pecan Cream, Roasted Caramel Apple Cream and Chocolate Banana Cream.
Adding sweetness to the breakfast meal has proven successful for McDonald’s. The company introduced a winning combination with its McGriddles® sandwich, which use pancakes as the bread for a breakfast sandwich. They are available as Sausage McGriddles, Bacon, Egg and Cheese McGriddles, and Sausage, Egg and Cheese McGriddles.
“That was a very unique concept to the food industry, because we were able to take and very well match different tastes by having the sweet taste of a pancake combined with the protein of a sausage and give a flavorful, hand-held, on-the-go breakfast item,” says Proud.
Pork, the protein of choice
Between sausage, bacon and ham, pork products are the leaders of the breakfast sector. Other meats have gained some footholds, but they have an uphill battle in overtaking pork.
“For us, pork is still the most popular breakfast protein,” says Hargett. “However, since Bob Evans is a sausage company, we are known for our superior quality pork products.”
Proud concurs that pork still leads the breakfast sector, and accounts for the majority of its hand-held sandwiches and the breakfast burritos. McDonald’s has introduced a chicken biscuit for breakfast in some markets, and Proud says that it has done very well.
“I don’t know that we’re at a point where it’s going to be available nationwide, but I think it’s going to continue to be available in those markets where chicken in the breakfast daypart is pretty heavily consumed,” she says.
“Chicken consumption overall has certainly been on the rise over the past several years,” she adds, pointing out the restaurant’s recent chicken additions for lunch and dinner, such as the premium chicken sandwiches. “We’ll continue to look at those options and listen to what our customers are looking for, and design products and innovate against those specific needs and demands.”