These days, any time I walk into the Taco Bell near my office, I see signs for its Waffle Taco and A.M. Crunchwrap.
And whenever I go through the drive-thru at my local Burger King, I’m greeted with a big “Now Serving Burgers For Breakfast!” display.
And during my morning commute, I always drive past a Carl’s Jr. billboard showing its new Hearty Breakfast Platter for $1.99.
The sudden appearance of all of these fast-food breakfast items and promotions is no coincidence. It’s all part of fast food’s attempt to attract diners and increase same-store sales as the industry tries to entice a consumer base that’s becoming increasingly health-conscious.
From a dollars-and-cents perspective, the move makes sense. According to research firm Technomic, revenue from breakfast items at U.S. fast-food and fast-casual restaurants annually rose by an average of 4.8% from 2007-2012, climbing to $31.7 billion. That outpaced total sales growth of about 2.5% annually during that time period.
That’s why last March, Taco Bell expanded its breakfast menu to 5,500 of its more than 5,700 U.S. restaurants. That’s why Starbucks reworked its breakfast menu with the help of both new breakfast sandwiches and baked goodies from its La Boulange bakery brand. That’s why McDonald’s recently considered expanding its breakfast hours beyond 10:30 a.m.
Not that serving breakfast will automatically solve a fast food restaurant’s problems. Just ask Wendy’s. Last year, the company announced it was discontinuing its breakfast menu at most locations after a yearlong experiment because…well, it flopped. Plus, any chain making a push into breakfast will find a major roadblock in McDonald’s, which commands about 31% share of the market. Taco Bell’s going to have sell a lot of Waffle Tacos to get Ronald McDonald to even flinch.
Still, the breakfast wars have begun. Take your time deciding whom you support, because there’s no end in sight.
"From the Front Lines of Fast Food’s Breakfast Battle" originally published on The Menuism Dining Blog.