Why Breakfast Is The New Lunch—And Dinner

The phenomenon of breakfast-all-day has completed its sweep of the nation, and the results are in:  Americans love it. Current research predicts that breakfast food consumption will increase faster than the U.S. population over the next two years—as much as five percent through 2019. The National Restaurant Association reports that almost three-quarters of all adults wish restaurants would offer breakfast items throughout the day. So why has the most important meal of the day become the most important meal all day?

Everybody Loves Breakfast

The short answer is, it’s simply too profitable a trend to ignore. Demand for breakfast items has always been high, and with the advent of a new, free-thinking generation—Millennials—starting to call the shots, vendors have seen an uptick in consumer interest in unorthodox mealtimes. The event of breakfast-all-day at McDonald’s, which made quite a few national headlines, is largely credited with the chain’s revitalization in the United States. Other fast food chains were compelled to follow suit, and the rest is breakfast history, with an entire nation waking up to an idea first conceived by the classic American diner.

Diners As Harbingers

In a sense, the recent trend is nothing more or less than an old concept finally achieving near-universal popularity. Diner restaurants have been capitalizing on the classic comfort-breakfast-food-for-dinner idea almost since their inception. The diner itself came about as a solution to patrons looking for food in the small hours but finding only closed restaurants. When the traditional diner arrived, around the turn of the 20th Century, cooks often found themselves serving lunches in the middle of the night—leading to an “anything goes” mentality. Naturally, the “anytime” appeal of comfort foods like pancakes and eggs played no small part in breakfast’s takeover—as NRA Director of Research Communications Annika Stensson observes, “Who doesn’t like some good pancakes, no matter what time of day it is?”

The recent breakfast takeover is likely tied to the influence of fast-food restaurants finally removing the shackles from their breakfast menu stop times—traditionally 10:30 or 11am—and allowing service to continue through the day, just one more example of business shifting to meet (high) customer demand. Happily, diners have seen a renewed interest in patronage thanks to the recent trend—perhaps due to the realization that, at least in terms of breakfast-all-day, they essentially invented the concept.

The Millennial Factor

Millennials are driving the breakfast-all-day trend—they are more interested in the concept than any age group in history, and because the youth demographic tends to dictate market shift, restaurants are mobilizing to meet demand. The twenty-something workforce tends to live life at a more hectic pace, and their busy lifestyles have led to an unprecedented flexibility in how they consider traditional mealtimes.

Trends

One trend to surface within the restaurant breakfast menu relates to the texture of the items being offered. Reports that restaurants are moving toward a “crunchier” menu in 2017, emphasizing entrées like chimichurri and fried chicken while eschewing smoother options like oatmeal and grits. (And as Forbes remarks, restaurants will no doubt tout these choices as ideal hangover cures). The recent proliferation of the gourmet breakfast chef, especially in culturally-shaping urban markets like New York City and Los Angeles, also has the industry abuzz. All-day-breakfast appears to be here to stay, and restaurants across the nation are sitting up and taking notice.