Breakfast is seriously biting back when it comes to competing with brunch for the most profitable time of day pre-noon. We look at the trends and consumer eating habits that are shaping the market and learn how best to drive custom to this part of your business. Move over avocado, there could be a new cool kid in town.
The days of a soggy bowl of Shreddies for breakfast are long gone and brunch has muscled in to become the eating-out occasion not to be missed. But for hoteliers it’s a hard act to juggle the transition from breakfast for resident guests to targeting the lucrative brunch consumer come mid-morning.
The brunch phenomenon has been growing for a few years now and while it shows no signs of abating, breakfast is biting back bolstered by venues introducing a whole new variety of creative, inventive and surprising dishes.
Brits, on average, spend £13bn a year on dining out at breakfast – according to foodservice bakery Kara – with egg consumption last year rocketing by 18%, so whether it’s scrambled, boiled or poached, they mean big business.
If you haven’t made avocado and sourdough a permanent staple of your breakfast and brunch menu by now, then luckily neither look like they will be falling from their popularity pole anytime soon. The rise of the avocado over the last few years has demonstrated the shift in consumer tastes as more people opt for healthy alternatives to the traditional bacon butty.
But 2017 has been the year health came into focus in a major way, led by the Millennial shift towards wellness, and the beginning of the decline of the boozy five-hour brunch.
Mood-boosting natural ingredients and protein-packed dishes become even more favourable, with the likes of congee porridge and acai bowls not just for the London trendy set.
Lance Perkins, the director of food and beverage at The London EDITION says: “Jason Atherton has certain breakfast items like the crushed avocado on toast that are now classics, which will always be on the menu. You also have those staple British items that locals and travellers expect; Full English and a bacon sandwich. But there is also the move away from the heavier/traditional breakfast dishes to lighter and healthier ones which you are seeing the demand for increasing and now. With that we sit down twice a year and look at immerging trends from all across the world, to tweak the offering and to make sure that the style of service is still right for the guest’s needs.”
For chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who heads up the kitchen at Nobu Shoreditch and also oversees the brand’s food offering internationally, even his distinct style of cooking and creating has had to adapt to the breakfast scene in London. Plus since the group’s remit expanded to hotels, menu choices have had to attract a broader range of guests.
“In Japanese cooking and in our restaurants we never use bread or a lot of eggs,” he says, “Now that we have hotels as well, our menus need to have these kind of ingredients to accommodate our guests. You can find these traditional dishes in our restaurants, but what I really wanted to do was create breakfast dishes done Nobu-style.
“Japan is a rice culture, we use it as our staple rather than bread which is found more commonly in London, and breakfast is a very different affair in Asia.”
According to Kara, some 40% of Millennials are now choosing to avoid gluten dishes, with only a small number having to switch to gluten-free for medical reasons alone. The demand for ‘clean eating’, paleo, vegan and other diets, a lot of which have been popularised online, is reflected in the supermarkets with standalone shelves dedicated to catering for these consumers.
Not only this, but number of vegans in Britain has risen by 360% in 10 years, a 2016 survey from the Vegan Society highlighted. More people are opting for a plant-based diet to gain on the perceived health benefits of a vegan diet.
So when it comes to breakfast and brunch, what health-inspired dishes are finding favour right now?
“People understand the importance of eating healthy in this day and age,” say Mariano Russo and Peter Del Campo, the head chef team at Blakes Hotel. “We work and party hard in London, so have to have a balance. We have a special section of healthy choices on our breakfast menu. Our chia seeds and coconut cream pudding is one of the best sellers from this side.
“Our most popular dish among millennials however is avocado and poached eggs. We serve ours on sourdough toast, and with mustard cress,” they add.
At Nobu Shoreditch, Matsuhisa has seen more people ditch the diet and incorporate healthy options into their lifestyle on a permanent basis.
“We have also seen a rise in demand for lighter, healthier breakfast options as well, like our Acai ‘Donburi’ with banana, fruits and sesame granola, Soba Gaki oatmeal and buckwheat porridge,” he explains.
“I think also the way we see ‘healthy’ has also changed in the last few years. At the moment when eating out, the health-conscious are thinking less about what to cut out of their diet and more about the quality of ingredients and where they are coming from.”
While breakfast stands out as one of the busiest times of day for hotels, restaurants and café in the city during the week – breakfast has proven to be the best time for conducting meetings and brain functionality – brunch finds its form come the weekend.
“Brunch is an opportunity to eat at a luxurious and leisurely pace and indulge in special dishes that are different from all others eaten throughout the week,” explains Matsuhisa. “I think brunch allows people to really indulge in the process of eating out in a way they might not when it isn’t the weekend.”
With larger dishes on a brunch menu you can charge a higher price point, resulting in an increase in spend per customer, the social aspect means guests are inclined to stay that little bit longer in one place. Also brunch can also help bump up the alcohol spend per booking.
“Our weekend brunch is such a family affair,” says the head chef team at Blakes Hotel, “and because the service is generally longer than breakfast we have seen our brunch revenue overtake our breakfast; plus you can have eggs all day and no one cares if you have a bloody Mary at 11am…”
At The Ivy Kensington Brasserie, which opened its doors in 2016, weekend brunch covers are currently higher than its weekend breakfast covers, with later seating options available.
“Our weekend “Build Your Own Waffle Menu” is certainly a highlight for millennials visiting the restaurant,” says Artan Mesekrani, general manager, “as well as everything from our hot buttermilk pancakes to lobster benedict.”
Perkins adds: “Brunch has been on a steady rise in popularity, first on Sundays and now the whole weekend. Just wait for ‘brinner’…”
What dishes for breakfast and brunch have you seen gaining momentum recently?
Lance Perkins, the director of food and beverage at The London EDITION: “You can most definitely see the move away from the heavier breakfast items, or at least the desire to be more healthy, so there are more and more dishes with almond chia seeds and the like. But for brunch it is the big classics, both British and American that are the biggest sellers; full English, pancakes, waffles and eggs Benedict.”
Mariano Russo and Peter Del Campo, the head chef team at Blakes Hotel: “Gluten free and vegan options are really taking off now, not just from people that are intolerant to certain things, but from people that want to say have a Vegan Day! Our gluten free pancakes, are as good as the ones made with flour.”
Nobu Matsuhisa, Nobu Shoreditch: “My Japanese Breakfast Bento with Umami Seabass (goma tofu, fresh fruit, rice, field greens salad with grilled shrimps, homemade pickles and miso soup) is a great example of a more traditional Japanese-style breakfast These are definitely very popular amongst gusts that have come from Asia, and as more and more people are visiting the east we have found these dishes have grown in popularity.
“But I have also taken classic European dishes and put my own twist on them, such as the Nobu-Style ‘Full English’ (British & American Bacon, Korobuta pork sausage, shiitake, Japanese poached egg, cherry tomato, crispy boudin noir, adzuki beans with tomato jalapeno jam) and the Matsuhisa Benedict (poached eggs with crispy tofu, spinach, snow crab, shiso béarnaise and salmon). These have been very successful in Shoreditch because people are intrigued by something that almost seems familiar but comes with such a surprise.”
Artan Mesekrani, general manager at The Ivy Kensington Brasserie: “Our avocado and spinach Benedict and Garden Breakfast (our vegetarian take on the traditional English breakfast) have definitely proved very popular over the last few months. Our light & healthy dishes, particularly in January, have also been popular including crushed avocado on gluten-free toast and Greek yoghurt with berries. Guests also regularly opt for our healthier juice options, including our green and beet it juices.”