Responding to consumer tastes, Denny’s, for example, offers its Grand Slam Slugger breakfast consisting of two pancakes, two eggs, two bacon strips, two sausage links, with hash browns or toast, juice and coffee. “Americans want to eat everything,” Britt says.
The rise in dining out for breakfast contributed to the formation of Metro Diner, which offers comfort food at every meal and has struck a chord at breakfast time. Yelp aficionados praise its “unique pound cake French Toast” and noted the “long wait, which is worth it.” That kind of reaction has contributed to Metro Diner’s rapid growth to 60 locations (58 company-owned) in four years with 25 new outlets planned for 2019.
Hugh Connerty, co-chairman of Metro Diner and founder of Hooter’s and partner in Outback Steakhouse, attributes the spike in dining out breakfast at full-service eateries to “the changing dynamics of society. People aren’t about ducking in and grabbing a McMuffin’s on the road anymore,” he says. Many breakfast customers aren’t tied to 9-to-5 jobs and are operating in creative-style freelancing jobs.
Connerty says that there are shifting crowds most weekdays at a Metro Diner. The 7 a.m. crowd attracts working people like construction workers, and then starting around 9 a.m. it draws more diners with a “leisurely lifestyle or for business meetings,” who congregate in groups of four to six people, he says.
On weekends, the crowds line up and mostly consist of friends and family, not business-related, he says.
Connerty says they’re aiming to keep Metro Diner’s restaurants compact, accommodating about 100 to 125 guests to ensure personalized service.
Hearty breakfasts prevail at Metro Diner as well. Fried chicken and waffles is the No. 1 seller, with egg dishes close behind. “You can’t eat what we put in front of you, and almost everyone takes food to go,” Connerty says. But for the health conscious, there’s avocado toast, fruit, and egg-white omelets.
“There are about 1,600 IHOP’s and 1,600 Denny’s and 755 Outback’s. And we think wherever there are Outback’s, there could be at least one if not two Metro Diners,” he says.
Metro Diner’s concept of strong service, healthy portions, and comfort food appeals to a wide audience, ranging from retirement communities at the Villages in Florida and with millennials and college students in Gainesville, near the University of Florida.
But forthright Connerty reveals that it hasn’t clicked with one audience: kids. “You see a few kids at Metro Diner, but most parents take their kids to McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A. We consider ourselves a family restaurant, but it’s been a challenge,” he says.