“Variety and a wide range of options are part of what keeps diners coming back to the breakfast daypart,” says Shane Schaibly, culinary director and corporate chef for First Watch restaurants.

Breakfast, one of the fastest-growing dayparts for full-service restaurants, has exploded into all-day menus, lunch, and dinner dishes—all accented with flavors of maple or coffee, or the now ubiquitous garnish: the fried egg. What has become abundantly clear is that diners want breakfast, and they want to be able to eat it all day. As more and more diners explore this category, operators are pushing the boundaries of what counts as breakfast.

At First Watch, a restaurant group featuring breakfast and brunch concepts in more than 270 locations across the U.S., the menu has all the traditional breakfast staples like bacon and eggs but also includes dishes that are not on the typical breakfast menu. The company’s new menu offers options like whole-grain quinoa bowls and toasts that are topped with unexpected combinations like smoked salmon and cucumber.

Chris Tomasso, chief marketing officer for First Watch, agrees that variety is one key to the success of breakfast, but he also thinks that the inherent “freshness cues” that this daypart offers is another reason why it has become so popular. Breakfast consumers know that they will be able to find a healthy item on the menu. Both the health-conscious diner eating breakfast out and the indulgent brunch reveler can find a home at the breakfast table with healthy options like protein-packed egg dishes alongside more decadent menu items like French toast or pancakes. Tomasso says that the healthier options on the First Watch menu are also some of the bestsellers, and he doesn’t see that trend changing in the future. “Health will never be a fad,” he says. “It’s here to stay.”

The health aspects of a protein-packed breakfast have also helped make it a meal with all-day potential. “Breakfast really lends itself to clean eating and a healthy lifestyle,” Schaibly says. For instance, the Healthier Side menu includes a Power Wrap, with egg whites, turkey, spinach, house-roasted crimini mushrooms, and Swiss cheese in a sundried tomato–basil tortilla, as well as Fresh Fruit Crepes topped with low-fat organic strawberry yogurt. In addition to new dishes, First Watch has also expanded its line of fresh fruit and vegetable juices.

As far as what’s next for the trend, both Tomasso and Schaibly agree that the health benefits of breakfast will continue to fuel its growth. “I think we’ll continue to see a focus on local ingredients and getting the best quality possible,” says Tomasso.

Chef Profiles, Feature, Menu Innovations