Understanding consumer motivations and bringing authentic communication can add value to the morning daypart.

Just as with most aspects of the restaurant industry, the breakfast daypart has evolved and changed since COVID-19 began. Lockdowns, quarantine, and safety precautions have forced restaurants to change not only breakfast menu offerings but also how these items are being incorporated into diners’ pandemic-era lives.

The routine of breakfast has always provided a strong daypart for restaurants. As consumers adapt to new work, school, and home routines, restaurants should consider adapting along with them. By focusing on turning breakfast back into a special part of a consumer’s routine, brands have the opportunity to position themselves as part of a ritual.

In order to maximize the power of a consumer ritual, it’s important to first understand why it’s different from a habit or routine. A ritual brings structure to daily life, has deep meaning, and is grounded in values. Rituals typically trigger an emotional response and are a long-term practice. So why might restaurants invest in helping consumers create a ritual around breakfast? According to Grounding Data, consumers agree that their morning trip to dine out for breakfast is 1.5 times more motivated from being a part of their ritual versus dining out during the rest of the day.

Celebrating and supporting the way consumers engage with their daily breakfast ritual could help restaurants grow the daypart. The following are several key points that may help restaurants become an important part of a diner’s morning.

Identify consumer motivations

Consumers are motivated by several factors when deciding to eat breakfast outside of their home. According to The NPD Group, restaurant location, a craving for a specific menu item, price, quality, and the desire for a treat or reward are all attributes that affect when and where a consumer will dine for breakfast.

Restaurants may consider tapping into the emotional aspects of breakfast to connect with consumers on their morning rituals. Implementing marketing initiatives that highlight diner motivations can establish dining traditions and inspire customer loyalty.

Implement a digital strategy

Consumers, including restaurant diners, spend a lot of time using their phones, which also presents an opportunity to engage with them digitally. Loyalty programs and the apps on which they run are immensely popular. Half of all guests use at least one program, and that number has continued to rise throughout the pandemic, per data from customer experience platform Paytronix. Putting a loyalty program in place could be an excellent way to thank diners through rewards while encouraging them to choose the restaurant as their preferred breakfast dining option. To maximize the success of restaurants’ loyalty programs, it is best to keep the participation process simple and minimize the effort required from diners.

Implementing a digital program also brings about the opportunity for customizations, another popular trend among diners. Adding a name or a thank-you note to an order is a small but impactful way to make customers feel appreciated. These personal touches continue to build relationships with consumers, which may lead to continued brand loyalty.

Embrace the new normal

As consumers continue to navigate the challenges that the pandemic has brought into everyday life, restaurants should consider meeting breakfast diners where they are spending the most time. Many consumers are experiencing a hybrid environment where work, school, and home life are intertwined like never before.

Across the industry, unique strategies are helping brands keep the breakfast daypart thriving when diners cannot come to a physical location. Food trucks that bring breakfast into neighborhoods and innovative catering options for remote meetings are among these interesting pivots.  Additionally, expanding breakfast hours to allow consumers the option to visit outside of the peak dining rush may be a draw for consumers who are continuing to prioritize social distancing. Curbside delivery and to-go breakfast bundles that can accommodate the entire family are offerings that are fairly easy to implement and typically have a great return.

Keep it authentic

For consumers to adopt and maintain breakfast rituals, those rituals must add value to their mornings. If a ritual is not emotionally rewarding, a diner likely will not engage. By considering their diners, restaurants can evaluate what matters most to them before implementing any marketing that communicates a potential ritual.

Breakfast diners are intelligent, savvy, and able to identify when a brand is being inauthentic. What works to boost breakfast for one restaurant may not work for another, making it important for restaurants to stay true to their core values. Promoted breakfast rituals should correspond in some way to the brand’s purpose and vision.

Evaluate and evolve

Successfully building a ritual also involves establishing success criteria—or aspirational targets and metrics—and regular routines to track, measure, and analyze performance. Operators may consider evolving their programs based on consumer feedback while making sure all efforts are building an emotional connection and strengthening the consumer-brand relationship.

Erin Merritt is a Customer Insights Manager within The Coca-Cola Company’s Foodservice, North America Operating Unit. She has spent the majority of her career working with CPG, foodservice, and retail brands to build great strategies that win from all angles: consumer, market, and business. Known for her “reality checks,” Merritt specializes in helping brands see the full 360-degree picture of an initiative, including the past, present, and future implications of actions on the table. Her passion for fresh thinking and building strategic connections enables her to push teams to always challenge the status quo.

Expert Takes, Feature, Technology