The Breakfast Daypart Is Waking Up

Traffic and sales during morning rush have been flat—good news during high inflation and a work-from-home culture.

August 16, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Traffic and sales for the breakfast daypart during the second quarter were flat compared with declines during the rest of the day, according to data from The NPD Group. Although flat doesn’t sound like much improvement, Forbes reports that flat traffic and spending is a success story, as consumers are tightening their budgets amid inflation woes, and being flat also provides solid ground for near-term growth.

Starbucks is confident in the return of the breakfast daypart after being hit hard from the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it’s coming back with “velocity.”

“There’s no doubt the morning daypart is going to come roaring back. And it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call.

The breakfast daypart at Starbucks was 51% of the company’s sales during the third quarter, and COO John Culver said that breakfast sales are beginning to return to normal.

We’re optimistic those morning routines are coming back,” he said.

Over at McDonald’s, “breakfast was the strongest performing daypart in the U.S. comp,” said CEO Chris Kempczinski during the company’s second-quarter earnings call, with U.S. comp up 3.7%.

Breakfast is the most profitable daypart for many businesses, including McDonald’s, due to lower cost food, more drink purchases and bundling. At McDonald’s breakfast represents about 25% of the company’s overall sales.

Wendy’s launched its breakfast menu shortly before the pandemic began, and sales volumes are now generating profits for both the company and its franchisees.

Data from Numerator paints an even brighter picture. Total breakfast spend at QSRs has more than recovered from the pandemic-induced drop in 2020, which was down 16%, according to Numerator data. Spend is now up 32% in the latest 52-week period ended June 12 versus 2019.

However, 37% of consumers surveyed by Numerator said they are purchasing breakfast from QSRs less frequently. The main reasons are because of a change in finances (32%) and reduced consumption due to a change in commuting routine (23%).

Many Americans are still working from home and have not returned to the pre-pandemic commute. A recent Conference Board survey found that only 4% of business leaders are requiring all employees to return to the office fulltime. Less than half (45%) said they’re requiring some workers to return five days a week.

Although consumers aren’t commuting like they were pre-pandemic, they are leaving their homes much more frequently now than they have been over the past two years, which is benefiting the breakfast daypart.

“Mobility is kind of upside here. The business is performing well across segments. We’re seeing strength in ... our traditional core breakfast offering. We think there’s more to come,” Restaurant Business International CEO Jose Cil said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call.

Wendy’s COO Todd Penegor believes that the breakfast daypart will likely grow once kids are back in school.

“That should certainly help on our breakfast business. I think there would be more benefit to some of the seasonality as folks get back into routines later in the year that could potentially help support our accelerated sales growth,” he said during Wendy’s latest earnings call.

Wendy’s clearly sees the value in breakfast by investing $16 million in marketing the daypart throughout this year.

“We know there is a ton of upside ahead of us this year and over the long term as we look to capture our fair share of the massive (quick-service restaurant) breakfast business,” Penegor said.

Here’s how convenience retailers are reawakening the morning daypart.

NACS is exploring the growth of foodservice and is looking for convenience retailer expertise. Retailers can participate in our Foodservice Growth Drivers survey to receive a complimentary copy of the white paper summarizing results from this study.