What should you do during the gap between service rushes? Blend them together.

It is the nightmare scenario: the breakfast crowd has left and the lunch crowd has yet to come. The fryers and grills are running. The staff is standing idle. Time is money and right now, both are going wasted. But operators need not fear the lull between breakfast and lunch—or between any parts of the day.

By blending dayparts, operators create an opportunity between the large rushes of the day to increase foot traffic, the time a patron spends within the restaurant and possibly check sizes and profits. Outlined are some simple steps and guidelines for operators looking to maximize the blending of dayparts.

Don’t Confuse Mixing Breakfast and Lunch with Brunch

Before delving into the details of how best to blend breakfast and lunch, it is necessary to cover the most obvious question: Why not just serve brunch?

The question is fair, but it is a mistake easily made. Perhaps the easiest way to explain why a brunch menu is not an apt application for restaurants looking to blur the lines between its breakfast and lunch crowds is simply a matter of perception. For many, brunch conjures images of large-scale buffets and mimosas. The menu complexity, additional labor required and increased price to create a brunch are the opposite of what we’re discussing. By merging dayparts, an operator seeks to simplify and streamline. To use what is already present to their advantage, not to burden with additional product, labor and storage expenses that come with the standard interpretation of brunch.

Shared Ingredients Boost Profits and Minimize Labor

On average, breakfast normally has lower price point items and lower cost ingredients, with an abundance of breads and batters leading to higher margins that are generally more cost effective. Conversely, lunch items, tend to have high ticket items around proteins and is usually focused around handhelds and/or salads.

Shared ingredients are pivotal for making the transition. The egg is a great example. Eggs normally come in packaging flats 14–15 inches square. Storing eggs in a fridge and cooler takes up a lot of space. So operators want to optimize eggs and its versatile menu applications. Not only is the egg a cornerstone for most breakfast menus, but it also has a variety of uses on lunch menus—making a trending and tasty topping to lunchtime burgers and salads.

Eggs also add incremental dollars to the whole operation. Adding an egg for $1 or possibly $2 to a burger not only increases the chances of attracting customers looking for something to fill their hunger in the time between breakfast and lunch, but it also helps clear freezer space while raising the overall check average.

This principle works for breakfast-to-lunch blending, but also then opens up possibilities for operators who run operations from late night to early morning. Popular items like omelets, breakfast burritos and eggs benedict are popular dishes perfect for night owls looking for a late night bite with a taste of breakfast, or people who work the night shift and whose breakfast hour is different than the norm.

Shared ingredients help blending dayparts because it cuts down on menu complexity. Complicating ingredients can include niche products that do not have multiple uses or may necessitate additional training. Often, operators believe that in order to blend dayparts, they must have objects to fill the gaps in the day. This usually leads to operators spending more on ingredients that they don’t need. Ingredients that don’t have multiple uses take up too much space, and in some instances, require additional preparation time and incur more labor costs. What operators should be looking to do is take ingredients they know work and apply them across dayparts. These items—like bacon, cheeses, flatbreads and croissants—are easy to prepare and require no additional skills, training or preparation by the restaurant staff. Or, if they must add items, those items must be simple enough that they require no extra training and have multiple applications to serve the location’s needs.

Breakfast Elements throughout the Day Work Best

For operators who are looking to blur the dayparts between breakfast and lunch, it is better to do so with breakfast ingredients as consumers welcome breakfast items throughout the day than any other daypart items. Breakfast ingredients (eggs, bacon and buns) can be utilized for excellent snacks, small plates and blended items to use throughout the day, including: quiches, handhelds and benedicts.

These items are not just applicable at lunch, either. Burritos that incorporate breakfast ingredients like eggs and bacon along with lunch and dinner ingredients like ground beef are the perfect way to grab folks who are either ending their day late and looking for an early morning meal, or as an excellent grab-and-go option for people who are on the move early.

Breakfast offers a wide appeal because it shifts for people throughout the day. Take for example laborers, taxi and ridesharing drivers and civil servants like nurses, police officers and firefighters. These people tend to work shifts that begin and end at all hours of the day, so their breakfast occurs at a different time. Or, consider people who may not be hungry first thing in the morning. Despite the fact that they are not hungry for breakfast at the time that is often designated at breakfast time, there is still the recognition in their mind that they are about to eat their first meal of the day and want to consume something that is both breakfast related, but also might want something more lunch or dinner oriented to match the actual time of day.

Know Your Clients

The most effective way to know which dayparts to blend (or if your location should consider this practice) is to gather insights from your customer base. Observe their requests and appetites. Customers requesting eggs, bacon and other breakfast ingredients as add-ons to items later in the day that don’t normally include those on a frequent basis can be a sign that this practice may be right for your unit or units. Engage customers in a dialogue. Observe which menu items mentioned here—or possibly others specific to your location—that are popular ingredients with wide-reaching capabilities that are simple to implement. If you find that there is trend within your location, blending dayparts may be a simple and easy solution to increasing traffic and possibly even check sizes.

Be Efficient, Be Thrifty, Be Smart—Blend

Before implementing the trend of blending dayparts to increase their unit’s efficiency and drive traffic, operators should of course view what insights an information they can gather based on their clientele’s behavior and needs to determine what dayparts should be blended (or, in some cases, if dayparts should be blended at all). Once they do reach that decision, they need to remember that blending dayparts increases efficiency in its use of labor and ingredients, attracts customers at odd and off hours throughout the day, and increases check sizes to help operators improve their bottom line.

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