U.S. restaurants betting on 'Breakfastarians' for growth

Tue Aug 4, 2015 1:46pm EDT
 
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By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Call it the rise of the "Breakfastarians" - the dining tribe that craves breakfast food morning, noon and night.

Sales of morning standards such as coffee, pancakes and doughnuts are feeding U.S. restaurant traffic growth, outpacing lunch and dinner items. The trend is driven by an improving U.S. job market, with more Americans on the go in the morning and willing to spend on meals outside the home.

It has prompted companies from fast-food leader McDonald's Corp to North Carolina-based buffet chain Golden Corral to experiment with all-day breakfast. They are joining chains like Denny's Corp, IHOP, Jack in the Box and Sonic Corp, which for years have offered breakfast anytime.

Taco Bell took the morning plunge about a year ago and breakfast now accounts for 7 percent of sales. Dunkin' Donuts sells breakfast sandwiches all day and says they are a growth driver.

"When people work, they eat out more often. Fast-food chains are the first to benefit because (people entering or returning to the workforce) are going to go for the more affordable stuff," said Malcolm Knapp, whose Knapp-Track service keeps tabs on restaurant sales and guest counts.

"It's hard to screw up breakfast ... everything goes well with bacon," he added.

Breakfast visits were up 4 percent for the year ended May 2015, largely due to gains at fast-food chains, while lunch and dinner visits were flat, according to research firm NPD Group.

There is no official tally of how many Americans consider themselves Breakfastarians, a term that popped up on the Internet a few years ago and was embraced by IHOP ads.   Continued...