Fast-Food Giants Battle for Consumers’ Breakfast Bucks

By Vladik Rikhter

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Breakfast is no longer just the most important meal of the day—it’s the most talked about meal of the day! The expansion of fast-food breakfast menu items was identified as the “top food story” of the year.

This year’s top headlines included McDonald’s all-day breakfast menu and menu innovations at Taco Bell. Just the other day, I logged onto Facebook and read my friend’s status/rant: “When the hell will Burger King get on the all day breakfast bandwagon? I don’t know if it’s a good thing or bad thing that they don’t... but waking up on a Saturday afternoon and going to get a Croissantwich always feels like a good idea.”

What is it about the prompt service of eggs, bacon and biscuits that captures our attention? “The fast-food industry is tapping the ‘want it now’ mentality of today’s consumer by offering greater availability of favorite offerings,” said Grace Leong, CEO and partner of Hunter Public Relations, a public relations agency that commissions a study of the nation’s top food news stories of the year. “Consumers who crave breakfast food in the afternoon no longer feel they should have to wait until tomorrow morning to satisfy it.”

And just how competitive is the fast-food breakfast landscape? AdWeek breaks it down by company. During the first 9 months of 2015, Taco Bell spent $79 million on national and local TV spots focused on breakfast. During the same period, McDonald’s spent $53 million; however, that was before the all-day breakfast announcement. Not to be completely outdone, regional chains also spent a lot on breakfast announcements. These brands included Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s ($18 million), Jack in the Box ($8 million), Chick-fil-A ($6 million), and Bojangles ($3 million). The effectiveness of the campaign is also relevant to market.  For instance, a couple of million for TV spots goes a long way in only four or five target markets.

That got me thinking about other smaller networks of restaurants—those who don’t have a million dollar budget for television and print advertising. How can convenience stores, in particular, make a stand against the QSR giants?

Better Promotions Can Help You Win

Recently, we discussed the “healthy” fast food debate. Fast-food breakfast campaigns all have something in common—no one is really touting the healthy, fresh ingredients.

Let’s face it.  Microwaved eggs and bacon won’t top the list of 2016 diet foods, but in all fairness, neither will real eggs and bacon.  However, real eggs and bacon have the appeal of being made to order with fresh ingredients. “Fresh” doesn’t necessarily have to mean healthy; it just means it should taste better.

Do you have what it takes to contend in the breakfast battle? Maybe your advantage is fresher ingredients with competitive prices. Promote your breakfast offerings inside and outside your store with well-placed signage and menus. Test new items like breakfast burritos and sandwiches, and exercise due diligence during rollouts by checking for compliance across your network.

Customers responded well to McDonald’s all-day breakfast because it’s time-tested and predictable. They know the Egg McMuffin will taste the same no matter what store they visit.

The real question is: Can you build a menu that makes you a breakfast destination? Pardon the egg joke, but you better get crackin’ on finding out what your stores need!

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