QSR Breakfast Goes Belly Up

The pandemic put the brakes on the morning meal for fast-food chains.

November 06, 2020

CHICAGO—The coronavirus pandemic has pulled down the once-bright spot of fast food—breakfast. The morning meal’s upward trajectory has fallen to the slowest part of the day, as many still work and attend school at home, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Chains with strong breakfast offerings such as IHOP and Dunkin’ have begun shuttering hundreds of locations, while McDonald’s and Burger King have registered weak sales for breakfast items. The trouble with breakfast is that fast-food chains designed its offerings for on-the-go consumers. With the pandemic continuing to keep students and workers at home, breakfast has shifted back to the dining room table.

Packaged breakfast items, like cereal and ground coffee, have skyrocketed recently after years of so-so sales. “We are in a position to own breakfast,” said Carlos Abrams-Rivera, U.S. president at Kraft Heinz Co., which sells Maxwell House coffee, Philadelphia cream cheese and Oscar Mayer bacon.

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said in July that breakfast had been dragging during the pandemic, especially as competitors added new morning items. Wendy’s debuted a new breakfast menu with real egg sandwiches nationwide in early March, but the lockdown orders shut millions of Americans at home. As a result, breakfast transactions plummeted 54% in April compared to a year earlier. While breakfast has recovered, the morning daypart is still 10% under last year’s levels, according to the NPD Group.

Wendy’s didn’t let the pandemic stop its breakfast rollout, and now the a.m. meal accounts for around 7% of sales, which is about what the company anticipated pre-pandemic. “We are confident that we can continue to grow this business into the future as more and more people fall back into their daily routines,” said Todd Penegor, president and CEO, during an earnings call this week.

For more on how convenience stores can reinvigorate the morning meal, read “Revitalizing Breakfast,” in the October 2020 issue of NACS Magazine.

Looking to gain a better grasp on foodservice? Attend the “Competing for Food Sales” Education Session during the NACS Crack the Code Experience. You can still register for your very own NACS Crack the Code Experience. The NACS Crack the Code Experience runs through December 4, 2020, and features 24/7 access to forward-looking ideas and insights, plus innovative new-to-channel products and strategic connections. Your fellow convenience industry retailers look forward to seeing you there!