Breakfast traffic was hit hard during the height of the pandemic as the daily routine of the office worker was overhauled. The emptying of offices meant that those regular stops at diners and drive-thrus virtually vanished almost overnight.
With many of those workers now back in their offices, breakfast traffic has rebounded in recent times, even though some people remain working from home. And it seems that, despite the severe economic constraints affecting everyone right now, the daypart is holding firm.
Overall traffic to restaurants fell two per cent year-over-year in the second quarter of 2022 as inflation drove menu prices up, according to market research firm The NPD Group. The only category that was unchanged was breakfast and morning snacks.
NPD food and beverage analyst David Portalatin noted that one factor may be the relative affordability of breakfast items compared to lunch and dinner.
“For a lot of people, it’s simply a cup of coffee and maybe a specialty coffee that they’re paying a premium price for, but it’s sort of more manageable,” Portalatin said, as reported by CNBC.
Another factor could be the increased variety on offer in the breakfast scene, both in terms of number of purveyors and the goods on offer.
Wendy’s joined the breakfast crowd in Canada last year, rivalling other QSR giants such as McDonald’s and Tim Hortons.
Meanwhile, numerous fast-food chains are in the process of switching up their menus, with particular focus being placed on adding sweet elements.
Tim Hortons recently added maple bacon breakfast sandwiches to their offerings, bringing “two classic Canadian flavours” together, while Wendy’s has added homestyle French toast sticks and a new dipping syrup.
Indeed, Technomic principal David Henkes noted that fast-food chains especially “are really innovating around new menu items to try and capture those incremental sales as consumers start to return to the breakfast daypart within restaurants”.
All this is, plus a big rebound in consumer confidence in 2022, is contributing to a big resurgence in breakfast traffic. Total spending at quick-serve eateries, which includes fast food locations and coffee shops, climbed 32 per cent in the 52-week period ended June 12 compared with 2019 levels, according to Numerator data.
“Now that we’re getting back to more normalized behaviours, we’re really just returning to the oldest trend where breakfast was generally outpacing the growth of other dayparts,” NPD’s Portalatin concluded.