The phenomenon of brunch is one that many are very familiar with as they groggily reach for pancakes, bacon and eggs on a weekend morning, however breakfast could be poised to infiltrate other times of the day too. ‘Brinner’, breakfast dishes consumed at other meal times, is fast becoming a way consumers are fulfilling their desire to explore menu opportunities outside the norm.

How are consumers dining habits changing?

Despite the UK’s improving economy and rising consumer confidence, there has not been a notable uplift in dining out habits in the last year. Indeed, noticeably fewer people are managing to use foodservice outlets at least once a fortnight. This is likely to reflect the fact that for much of the year, inflation was rising ahead of consumer incomes, continuing the trend seen for several years.

In late 2014 we began to see wages increase faster than inflation, reducing pressure on household budgets – this trend is expected to continue in 2015. This uplift should, in theory, translate into greater consumer spending. However, whilst consumers are more confident, there is unlikely to be an immediate return to pre-recession spending due to ‘lessons learnt’ about how to be frugal during the recession.

So how can foodservice outlets entice the more reluctant consumer?

Menu innovation is required to re-ignite consumers willingness to spend on this category and capitalise on rising confidence, with just over a quarter of diners saying that they’d be likely to order and willing to pay more for dishes that are not widely available.

Launching more standout dishes such as chicken and waffles (an American dish combining fried chicken and sweet dough waffles) is one example of the type of product that could help foodservice operators to tap into consumer desire for something different, whilst shoring up their points of difference from cheaper in-home/ retail options. Indicating the popularity of the dish, some 17% of UK diners say they’d definitely consider ordering chicken and waffles, whilst a third say they’d possibly consider it.

Recent examples of operators using this unusual dish to add excitement on menus include Red True’s Barbecue chain, who added The Sleepy James (southern fried chicken breast in between two sweet waffles) to its range in November 2014 and Clutch Chicken similarly offer Wishbone Waffles, described as morning fried chicken, turkey bacon and bourbon syrup. Foxlow’s version is a ‘wafflant’, fried chicken and egg in a ‘croissant waffle.’ Finally, Bird, a new free-range fried chicken specialist in Shoreditch, offers chicken and waffle as a main dish. The dish features two pieces of fried chicken on a savoury bacon and cheddar waffle, as well as in burger form.

Aligning chicken and waffles with other ‘brinner’ dishes

Although consumers have an interest in trying these dishes, it is important that foodservice outlets help consumers to understand when to order this and more unusual dishes. This should support their uptake, for example by communicating how chicken and waffles can be part of brunch or ‘brinner’. This should allow them to tap into brunch as a current trend in the foodservice industry, bolstered by the ongoing growth in all-day dining.

Among examples of standout dishes straddling different occasions, the Loungers chain already serves American dishes such as ‘The Dinner Brunch’, featuring two buttermilk pancakes, streaky bacon, a sausage pattie, fried potatoes, ‘dirty’ beans, two poached or fried eggs and maple syrup. They also serve American-themed sandwiches, such as Salt Beef Bagels.

Standout dishes such as these should appeal to just over a third of diners who say that trying new dishes in restaurants is a fun hobby. As well as this, offering additional lines such as brunch should help restaurants secure additional sales in the post-recession era, given that consumers are unlikely to be willing to pay more for the same product simple due to rising confidence.

Global ideas for ‘safe adventure’

If UK operators are looking to venture further than chicken and waffles, they need look no further than American kitchens for ideas where the dish originated from. For example, in late 2014 American chain IHOP introduced two “Waffullicious Waffles,” one of which was the Very Blueberry Cheesecake waffle – consisting of a waffle with blueberries and New York cheesecake pieces baked in, topped with more cheesecake pieces and blueberry compote. The waffle can be added to breakfast combos with eggs, meat and hashbrowns.

Adding unusual twists to more familiar brunch items, such as waffles, on menus should help operators to create more engaging all-day dining menus whilst still catering to those diners who are looking for ‘safe adventure’.

Overall, standout dishes, such as ‘brinner’, are needed to re-ignite consumer’s enthusiasm for spending on the eating out category and have the added potential to be used to drive trade at other times of day. They also enable operators to take full advantage of rising consumer confidence.

Mintel’s Senior Foodservice Analyst, Helena is responsible for the UK Foodservice journal at Mintel, providing robust market coverage, in depth consumer research, analysis and strategic recommendations for the restaurant, pub and bar market. Helena regularly presents to clients as well as at industry and press events and frequently contributes towards articles published in the trade press, covering a wide number of foodservice topics.

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