Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series exploring the growth of breakfast concepts. The first article details real estate opportunities in the segment, and the second explores how these restaurants are adopting delivery and technology.
From avocado eggs benedict to blueberry margaritas, breakfast eateries are spicing up morning menus to stand out from traditional full-service chains in an increasingly competitive daypart.
“I think the category as a whole was really underserved,” Famous Toastery President Mike Sebazco said. “What really cracked the code was when folks started making it a one-shift operation and really focusing on traditional breakfast items.”
Snooze offers “creative twists on breakfast classics,” Snooze CFO Bill Long said, adding that menu innovation also has to be approachable for its guests across the 10 states in which it operates. Such offerings include Snooze’s Bountiful Buddha Bowl, a plant-based menu item with various vegetables, black rice, quinoa, kale and golden raisins, and its Burrata & Prosciutto Toast.
Snooze said 95% of its ingredients are free from artificial colors, flavors, preservative and subtherapeutic antibiotics. The restaurant also uses cage-free eggs.
“We really focus a lot on the supply chain and making sure that what we’re bringing in isn’t just the freshest, but also the most responsible ingredients we can get on the plate,” Long said.
Famous Toastery serves menu items like corned beef hash, avocado benedict and mimosas made with fresh-squeezed orange juice as a point of differentiation. The company doesn’t have robust data to use for menu development, so it relies on franchisees to provide opinions on what dishes they believe would fit the brand, Sebazco said.
The next iteration of Famous Toastery’s menu will feature lifestyle-focused items that can better accommodate special requests from guests for gluten-free, keto and pure protein options, he said. The restaurant is also developing some alcoholic drinks for brunch, but Sebazco was unable to share details.
Another Broken Egg Cafe, which features menu items like Southern-inspired chicken and waffles, and shrimp and grits, offers four seasonal menu rotations each year building on pancakes, French toast and eggs benedict, CEO Paul Macaluso said during the ICR Conference in January.
First Watch typically offers new seasonal menu items five times a year, which helps drive new diners and increase frequency with its core customers, CEO Christopher Tomasso said.
“It’s exciting for our staff. It’s exciting for our customers and it keeps the menu fresh and relevant,” he said. “But it also comes with discipline with our core menu to make sure that our menu doesn’t grow so much that it bogs down operations like we’ve seen other concepts have to deal with.”
‘Brunch without alcohol is just a sad breakfast’
While other casual chains offer alcoholic beverages for lunch and dinner, breakfast eateries excel in brunch-led beverages. These concepts have a wide berth for innovation. Sixty percent of casual and 63% of family chains consider their alcoholic offerings mainstream rather than trendsetting, according to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Restaurant 2023 report.
First Watch launched its alcohol program in 2020 alongside its existing fresh-squeezed juice platform. The restaurant predicted juices would be a long-term consumer trend eight or nine years ago, when it started the beverage program, Tomasso said. Its alcohol lineup includes items like mimosas, bloody marys and cocktails including a Pomegranate Sunrise and Cinnamon Toast Cereal Milk.
Famous Toastery offers a bloody mary and mimosa, and uses scratch ingredients like fresh-squeezed orange juice in its mimosas. It also has a few more alcoholic beverages in the works to add to its brunch menu, Sebazco said.
Another Broken Egg’s beverage lineup starts with its coffee, which includes seasonal single-sourced coffee. The chain serves a full bar, which includes mimosas and bloody marys and margaritas, such as a blueberry margarita.
“Alcohol is a big part of our brand,” Macaluso said. “We have an internal saying that brunch without alcohol is just a sad breakfast.”
Another Broken Egg is also using alcohol in more of its menu items. During the fall, it offered items such as Spiked Chocolate Chip Pancakes, which come with a side of Godiva liqueur, and Tropical Maker’s Mark bourbon tacos.
“We are really leaning into alcohol as we see some of our competitors get more and more into alcohol, even brands that are more indirect competitors like Cracker Barrel,” Macaluso said. “We’re really continuing to own that as part of our differentiation.”