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Indeed, the early bird gets the worm, and QSRs are ramping up their breakfast offerings accordingly. The daypart is the fastest growing in the restaurant space, accounting for more than 60 percent of traffic growth in the past five years.
Still, according to research released in October by the NPD Group, 31 million Americans skip breakfast every day, leaving a gaping hole called "opportunity."
"With 31 million people skipping breakfast each day there is a significant opportunity for food and beverage marketers to reach these consumers," said Dori Hickey, director, product management at NPD and author of the study titled Morning MealScape 2011.
Anyone who's watched TV in the past few weeks, or who follows brands via social media, can attest that the major QSR players have recognized this void and have promptly taken advantage with creative spots focused specifically on breakfast.
McDonald's "Egg McMuffin" commercial launched in late December, featuring various people describing ideal situations as being "The Egg McMuffin of ..." The message has gone viral. According to the Boston Globe, the use of "The Egg McMuffin of (something)," used ironically or not, spawned 11,000 tweets and 1,200 Facebook mentions within the first two weeks of its airing.
McDonald's has also highlighted its oatmeal offerings as of late, and plans to launch a new variation – blueberry banana nut – later this year.
Burger King's social media channels have been constantly touting its breakfast menu as well, from coffee to oatmeal to hash browns. To complement the social message, the chain's new agency, mcgarrybowen, has shifted the focus back to the food, as evidenced by the recent ad for BK's Breakfast Croissan'wich.
Subway has taken a different, "better for you" approach with its campaign. The chain's three Mornin' Melt sandwiches – Black Forest Ham, Egg White & Cheese and Flatbread Mornin' Melt – are each under 200 calories, a message reiterated regularly on the SubwayFreshBuzz Twitter page. Subway also boasts the Breakfast B.M.T. Melt, Bacon Egg & Cheese and the Steak, Egg & Cheese options.
Just this week, Taco Bell threw its hat into the breakfast ring, dubbing its new menu as FirstMeal. The daypart rolled out this week in 10 states and is being introduced through full point-of-purchase (POP) advertising, including flutter flags, drive-thru picket signs, window clings and crew buttons. Radio remotes and free giveaways will be included in Taco Bell's initial marketing mix for FirstMeal.
Finally, Wendy's continues to test its breakfast line in an expanding number of markets. The chain has even created a website – wendysbreakfast.com – entirely devoted to the menu. Among the offerings is Wendy's proprietary Redheaded Roasters coffee, a nod to the brand's iconic namesake.
What's next is anyone's guess. But considering breakfast sales currently only bring in $37 billion of the near-$400 billion in total restaurant sales, it's likely the messages will continue to get louder.
Alicia Kelso /
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.