Should Your Restaurant Offer Breakfast?
Updated: Jun 19
"We are thinking about adding breakfast to our restaurant. We are paying the rent anyways and are not using our dining room! Do you think it’s a good idea to offer breakfast? How can we make it a success?" -Jackie
First of all, I want to thank Jackie for asking this question. But to be honest, I can not answer this inquiry directly because I'm not in their operations.
However, I am giving some tips, factors, and variables to consider in offering a breakfast menu to help Jackie decide.
Sadly, in the restaurant business, nothing is black and white. Everything is gray. It depends on a lot of different factors that are involved.
So we are going over the three phases that you need to consider and go through to determine whether it is a good idea to add breakfast:
1. Logistics Phase
You need to assess if you can handle adding breakfast on your menu. As part of the logistics, here are the things you need to think about:
Breakfast Equipment - you may need to purchase new equipment if you are planning to serve breakfast.
Depending on the kind of food you want to have, you may be required to buy kitchen appliances like coffee makers, coffee cups, and saucers, coffee mugs, waffle irons, burners, etc.
Also, you need to ensure that you have adequate storage for breakfast supplies, in both your walk-in fridge and dry goods area.
Shift Staffing - Who among your existing workers would be willing to give up a busy lunch or dinner shift for breakfast?
Average tickets tend to be low during this time, so they may not be making as many tips.
Also, if you don't have enough people to manage the breakfast shift, then you may need to hire new employees to cover it.
Additionally, you need to know your break-even point.
For instance, your staff currently arrive at 10:00 AM, and then you will need four members to come at 6:00 AM to attend the breakfast shift.
That means you have to pay four hours extra for each. So if you have five servers, times four hours, that is 20 hours of payroll.
For an easy Math, if you pay $10 per hour, that's 20 hours multiplied by 10, it's going to be $200 break-even, daily.
Then, you would think about what is the average labor you want to shoot?
For example, the average labor is 25%. You need to figure out if the labor cost is $200, what should your gross sales, so the labor percentage is within range?
For $200 worth of payroll, if we have 25% going with our labor percentage, then the breakfast sales you need per day must be around $800.
From $800, you will have your breakfast schedule from 6:00 AM to 11:00 AM, for instance, you need to hit $800 worth of sales.
So if you are to do that, your average dish, for example, is $10, how many customers per day do you need?
This will lead you to think about what kind of marketing you must have in place to bring in that many customers every day?
I hope this simple computation makes sense to you. That's a quick Math you need to do for you to understand what is the break-even daily that you need to hit.
When you do this, you are not just guessing, but you obtain real numbers.
Timing - Timing is everything. Speed is incredibly essential in the restaurant business.
What is your current reputation in town for your lunch and dinner?
If people expect you to be slow because you have that reputation, it's going to be hard for you to get people in for breakfast.
Why? Because a lot of morning customers, especially during the week, are on their way to work or school. They won't have as much time.
So you need to set a standard on what's going to be the time you want folks to be in and out within 8 to 10 minutes.
Remember that those big companies, like McDonald's and Chick-fil-A, are both successful for their breakfast because, in 2 minutes, they want people in and out.
Sit-down or on-the-go breakfast - Figure what you are going to be.
For instance, you can choose if you want to be a sit-down, or on the go breakfast place.
Is it like Denny's, which is a sit-down where people wait for their food? Then that's going to be different than with what McDonald's and Chick-fil-A are doing, which is fast.
Free WiFi - If you are thinking about adding breakfast, you need to make sure that you offer WiFi.
A lot of customers, including myself, go to coffee shops or restaurants for breakfast to work on their laptop computers most of the time. So it is necessary to have WiFi.
2. Research Phase
The research phase is where we need to study and analyze data. As a proficient researcher, you should not go into something with a preconceived notion. You need factual information.
The first thing to do in this phase is to look into the 3-5 mile radius of your restaurant and observe the following:
Restaurants and Coffee Shops - What are the restaurants that are currently serving breakfast? Is there a coffee shop within walking distance that has a waiting line every morning?
Are you located near a business district where professionals could get a quick breakfast on the go or gather for a morning meeting?
Then go to these places, sit down, and order a slice of bread or a cup of coffee.
Spy on them and assess their menu, their staff, and their ticket times.
Observe the demographics of their customers, are there a lot of college students, professionals, or moms?
It will give you numerous ideas about what is it that the people want.
Examine the traffic around breakfast time. People will drive out of their way for a nice dinner, but breakfast? It’s all about convenience.
Price range - List down and compare the prices of every restaurant and coffee shop that you visit.
What is their average ticket? Write the variety of prices you see to give you ideas to meet your daily sales target.
SWOT Analysis - Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis of the breakfast offerings within the 3-mile radius of your restaurant.
Where is the gap? Why your community needs another breakfast place?
People may already have a go-to place for their breakfast or morning coffee. Maybe they go to Starbucks or McDonald's. Why should folks come to your restaurant for breakfast?
If you can't give a clear answer to these questions, then you have a lot of work to do before you invest for the staff, equipment, or promotions. Otherwise, it's going to be a flop.
3. Marketing Phase
No matter how brilliant you are with the logistics and research phase, if you do not do a good job marketing your offerings, this whole thing is not going to work.
Any ideas that you create for your restaurant, marketing is what's going to make customers come in.
Free food - Chick-fil-A is excellent in providing its customers with free food.
We have a Chick-fil-A in our Strip Center, and they are very successful. When they added their breakfast just a few years ago, they pushed, and have a vigorous campaign to get exposure for their breakfast.
They do give loads of breakfast sandwiches out for free, which generates a lot of traffic. They focus on this kind of campaign for the entire month or the whole quarter.
Now, if you think that free food is too much for you, you can give free coffee with the purchase of a breakfast meal.
Coffee has a low food cost, so that could be a good idea to start with your breakfast promotion.
Food drops - It is a must for you to visit, offer, and drop your food to establishments within your area, like local schools and offices.
Take some of your food, maybe coffee or pastries, and offer those as a complimentary breakfast.
Costume by the side of the road - you can buy an outfit on Amazon for as low as $30-$40.
As a pizzeria, we have several pizza costumes for our staff. They go out by the side of the road, where people are passing by.
There are so many costumes you can use to promote your breakfast, like egg, bacon, coffee, etc. They are pretty affordable on Amazon, and you can use that over and over again.
You can get one or two of your team members to wear a breakfast food outfit. Let them stand by the side of the road to invite customers to come in. It would certainly draw attention from the passers-by.
Four walls - Whenever you are promoting, always think about how you can use the four walls of your restaurant.
Maybe you have a lot of folks who come in for lunch or dinner, how are you going to make sure that they know that you are offering breakfast as well?
You do need to come up with a campaign as to how you can put up a sign, literature or a picture, your menu, etc. It will make your current customers aware of your breakfast offerings.
You can also have your staff get on a costume, go and tell customers on each table that you are offering breakfast, and take photos with their kids.
Facebook Groups - Facebook Groups are free, and they have tremendous reach and engagement.
Most people are on Facebook Groups. So take advantage of posting creative posts, videos, or photos that you can share on your local Facebook Groups.
Let everybody know that you serve breakfast. Make sure to share your promotions as well, so people will be interested in visiting your restaurant.
Email and Text Message Marketing - You need to maximize the opportunity to communicate directly with your customers.
Every time we send emails, we add at the bottom part of our message the promotions that we have so people will know about it.
On the other hand, Text Message Marketing offers a "Just In Time" factor. For example, in our restaurant, our text messaging system usually goes around 4:30 PM, that's when people are thinking about dinner.
You can do the same thing for breakfast. Remember that the text message has a 98% open rate.
It means that every time you send a text, and you have 100 contacts on your list, 98 of them will see your message. And that's very powerful.
If you can create a list of folks who love grabbing free coffee that you offer, you can send a text to them like this, "Text the word COFFEE to 40691 to receive a free coupon for a free coffee."
Also, you can promote your breakfast offerings through your Facebook page, Facebook groups, and your four walls. It will help you gather customers who like breakfast.
Lastly, you may consider a trial run before you commit to offering breakfast every day.
One excellent way to gauge how great breakfast will go over to your restaurant is to offer it as a promotion. You can have it month-long or only during a weekend.
You may also apply one of the following options:
Breakfast Catering - You can offer breakfast as a form of catering, so you don’t need to be open very early in the morning to promote it.
Offer catering to office workers who conduct morning meetings. Maybe, they like bagels and cream cheese or fruit platter for breakfast.
Host meetings BEFORE hours - Make your restaurant available for breakfast meetings for companies.
We hosted a network meeting at 8:00 AM at our restaurant for two years, and it's a success. People paid for the place, and I made coffee for them.
This kind of experience in your restaurant can create a more serious and lasting relationship with your customers as well.
Host kids events BEFORE hours - We established a good relationship with our local Daycare Centers.
A lot of times, they hold field trips and look for places where to take the children.
For us, in the pizza business, this works very well. We offer a "Build Your Own Pizza" event for these preschools. They come in at 9:00 AM or earlier, and we set it up in our dining room since it is still empty during those times.
They leave by 11:00 AM, and as early as that, we've made a few hundred dollars even before opening our store.
So think about hosting events in your dining room before your regular opening schedule. Let's make some dough!
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