Food costs consistently rank as one of the greatest concerns restaurant operators face in today’s market. Specifically, rising meat costs are a growing concern across the industry and it is driving the need for innovation. One of the trends currently driving menu innovation is the rising importance of breakfast. According to Mintel, “There exists great potential for limited service restaurants to ramp up breakfast sales by understanding consumer needs and adapting their offerings.”

The breakfast menu can function across various dayparts and appeal to many different tastes. A recent consumer goods Top 10 Trends prediction forecasted that in 2014 consumers will look to add more protein to their first meal. Mintel also has been following the breakfast trend, reporting that consumers are looking more at foods like eggs, meats and Greek yogurt to contribute to the breakfast meal.

A lot of operations struggle with adding new breakfast items because of rising meat prices. By adding more meat to the menu offerings, it can be difficult to control food costs. An innovative way to combat the rising price of meat is to use small portions of value-priced meat products. One example could be combining eggs with pork shoulder and introducing delicious flavor through sauces that are typically in the pantry. By adding sauce to the value-priced meats it opens up opportunities without negatively affecting the quality perception of your meat. A good place to start could be with Buffalo sauce. Since 2009, Mintel reports that Buffalo flavor has seen a 20% growth in menu incidences and consumers are looking for it across the menu. From Buffalo chicken pizzas to Hardee’s Buffalo Blue Cheeseburger featuring Frank’s® RedHot® Sauce, this flavor profile is permeating the marketplace. An example of this for the breakfast menu might be a Buffalo Pork & Egg Bagel. Take shredded pork tossed with Frank’s® RedHot® Original Buffalo Wings Sauce and top with scrambled eggs and Swiss cheese then toast it on a buttered bagel.

Breakfast is already perceived as an area of dynamic growth and as a way alternative proteins can be integrated into a successful menu. By expanding breakfast menus to appeal to a broader audience it gives alternative proteins and different types of meat a more prominent role. Technomic reports, “But now that rising meat costs are beginning to impact restaurant prices, it’s more essential for operators to learn consumers’ current attitudes and preferences towards beef and pork dishes—trends that can be addressed via menu development and innovative preparations.” The traditional beef and pork dishes still play an integral role to the menu; however, in breakfast, the plate is not as dependent on them and they can be a feature of a meal, not necessarily the focal point. This also integrates well with the sauce and meat pairings option, which is the simple solution to maintain flavor integrity.

One strategy for integrating leftover cooked meats like ham or sausages is to build breakfast options that take advantage of all-day menu slots. Featuring a sauce that is already high in demand provides operations with a chance to be on trend and drive margins. Mintel Menu Insights also points out that brunches that increase check averages and on-the-go solutions have become a mainstay. One way to introduce an item like this to the menu is with an Argentinian Steak & Egg Flatbread. This features melted Cheddar Jack cheese, a fried egg over easy and thin slices of grilled sirloin. Top it off with fresh herbs and a Chimichurri sauce made with Frank’s® RedHot® Original Buffalo Wings Sauce.

In addition to flavor exploration and new menu items, there are other ways to take advantage of the breakfast momentum. Trying a late night or a midday breakfast menu can lead to increased sales as well as lowered food costs by lowering the dependence on meat proteins to fulfill menus. Different dayparts also allow for creativity and different flavors to make their way onto the menu. "Opportunities to promote breakfast can extend far beyond conventional morning hours," said Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic, Inc. "Operators looking to promote this daypart can leverage consumer interest in all-day or late-night breakfast programs.” Taco Bell has been testing a breakfast menu in select markets and announced in late February that they are going to be rolling out their breakfast menu nationwide. They are planning to take advantage of the late night breakfast cravings as well, exploiting the market searching for breakfast options.

By integrating breakfast menus across dayparts there are opportunities to be innovative while saving expenses. Adapting lower-priced meats with sauce combinations is one way to turn inexpensive plates into sharable menu items that will drive revenue and increase profit margins.

With more and more restaurants examining the opportunity that exists around breakfast, French’s Food Company has developed a tool to help operators create insight-driven and cost-effective breakfast solutions that are full of flavor. To learn more visit www.inspiredflavor.com.