Breakfast and brunch chains, which cater to routines and don't necessarily translate to off-premises, experienced heavy headwinds in the early days of the pandemic as dining rooms were restricted and customers remained home.
But there's evidence to suggest the daypart is coming back in full force. In the last three months ending November, online and physical visits to restaurants for breakfast increased by 11 percent, compared to a 10 percent in the year-ago period, according to The NPD Group. Also, visits to dine-in at breakfast increased by 51 percent in September through November in 2021 versus last year, when on-premises traffic dropped 55 percent.
Multiple brands in the category are fully aware of the pent-up demand and are growing their footprint to meet customers' needs. Here are seven breakfast chains below 50 units that are likely to make an impact in 2022.
Andrew Smith, managing partner of the $200 million Savory Fund, said the group was focused on the a.m. eatery category and looked at more than 100 brands in the past year and a half. But none seemed to stand on their own or punch above their weight class. That is, until Hash Kitchen jumped onto Savory’s radar.
What Smith saw was a restaurant with “one of the largest Bloody Mary bars known to man,” including more than 50 toppings. There’s also a DJ stand beside the hostesses, and "social media worthy" artwork along the walls, showcasing phrases like “brunch goals,” “the brunch life,” and “bloodies are for breakfast, breakfast is for bloodies.”
Founded in 2015 by celebrity chef, Joey Maggiore, his wife Cristina, and partner Flora Tersigni of The Maggiore Group, Hash Kitchen’s menu features high-quality and next-level breakfast and boozy brunch offerings.
The plan is to open five to six new restaurants in 2022, depending on logistics with construction, city inspections and permitting, and overall inflation. In 2023, Savory hopes to debut 15 more.
In 1998, founder and CEO Kirk Ruoff purchased a small lunch and dinner restaurant in Little Silver, New Jersey, and transformed Turning Point Restaurants into what it is today. Having started with just one location, the company now has 21 units across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, with additional corporate-owned stores under development.
In late January, the chain announced its first franchising strategy.
Turning Point’s spacious interiors are decorated with natural wood floors, bright traditional colors, and fireplaces. Its menu offers elevated daytime meal options that change with the seasons. Popular items include lobster avocado toast, bacon lollipops, and seven different origins of French press coffee.
“With nearly two decades of experience perfecting our craft and building a concept that we are really proud of, the timing of launching our franchise opportunity is truly ideal,” Ruoff said. “Turning Point has been a labor of love for the last 23 years, so when we knew we wanted to launch our franchise opportunity, we were patient, made sure our business model was sustainable, and waited until the right moment to ensure that our franchisees work with an experienced leadership team.”
Heritage Restaurant Brands, which also oversees steakhouse concept Cool Hand Luke’s and Perko’s Cafe and Grill, purchased Huckleberry’s in 2016 when the restaurant had seven restaurants throughout the Golden State. Instead of jumping into expansion mode, the restaurant company spent 18–24 months investing in the brand and streamlining key systems and processes.
As the company started implementing those changes, franchisees expressed approval and a desire to grow. Huckleberry’s opened about five restaurants in 2021, and it plans to double that total this year with 10–12 debuts. Afterward, the brand will eye 15–20 openings in 2023 and 20–30 restaurants in the next year. In total, that would be at the most, 60 restaurant openings in the next year, which would nearly quadruple the current footprint.
The breakfast concept began 2022 with an opening in Reno, Nevada, marking its first restaurant outside of California. The franchisee is Raman Dhillon, who owns five other Huckleberry’s stores. The franchise deal also calls for future California sites in Gridley and Stockton.
After reaching roughly 35 stores in 2018, Famous Toastery has slimmed to 25, including a franchise bankruptcy that resulted in the closure of three stores in North Carolina’s Triangle market. A franchise hasn’t been sold since before 2019, back when the chain first realized “things were getting a little weird.” That includes the opening of 14 restaurants in one year, which the CEO described as “just too much.”
CEO Robert Maynard said one of his errors was he never fathomed an operator spending hundreds of thousands of dollars without listening to what the brand has to say, but that was the case with Famous Toastery. The company realized operators “bit off more than they can chew,” they weren’t properly communicating when certain things weren’t going well, and even paid themselves too much.
Maynard promises those same issues won’t happen again as the brand looks to sell eight to 10 deals in 2022 and open about four or five restaurants next year. Long-term, the goal is to reach 50 locations by 2024.
“If people are looking for me to tell them how great it is, how you can build all this wealth, which you can, we're not that group,” Maynard said. “We're going to tell you how you may get divorced and lose all your money because this is not an easy business.”
The Toasted Yolk has more than doubled its size over the last 24 months and currently operates 19 locations, with more than a dozen units in the development process.
In December, the brand opened in Dothan, Alabama—its first restaurant outside of Texas. The 5,100-square-foot outlet features a scratch kitchen, full bar service, online ordering, multiple delivery partners, several flat-screen TVs, an expansive patio, and a dedicated table for first responders.
More stores are coming beyond Texas' borders. In November, the chain announced a deal with Christopher Heck and Denita Taylor to open a 4,100-square-foot restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in the spring.
But the Lone Star State is experiencing growth, as well. In late January, CEO and cofounder Chris Milton revealed the signing of an area development agreement with Ron and Val Claypool to bring the breakfast joint to Austin. And in October, The Toasted Yolk said it signed a franchise agreement to add three Dallas-Forth Worth locations to its pipeline.
IHOP first announced fast-casual spinoff Flip'd in December 2019, with the first site supposedly opening in Atlanta during the following spring. However, the COVID pandemic hit the U.S. three months after the announcement, and opening plans were scrapped. It wasn't until March 2021 that IHOP President Jay Johns announced that plans for Flip'd were back on.
The first location came in in September in Lawrence, Kansas, featuring 3,500 square feet and 55 seats. Another store has opened in New York City.
The restaurant serves made-to-order, on-the-go breakfast, lunch, and dinner that can be ordered either through a digital kiosk, at the counter, or via online for takeout or delivery. The menu includes signature pancake bowls, a build-your-own pancake bar, egg combos, egg sandwiches, made-to-order burritos and bowls, chicken and steak sandwiches, salads, wraps, baked goods, orange juice, signature coffee brews, and espresso beverages.
Grumpy's Restaurant is looking forward to continuing its success this year as it plans expansion across Northeast Florida and beyond. The brand currently has locations open in Orange Park, Middleburg, and St. Johns, Florida.
Grumpy’s is opening its fourth location in Wildlight this year. The restaurant will be at The Crossings at Wildlight (Publix shopping center), and will be owned by husband-and-wife duo and longtime Yulee, Florida, residents LeAnne and Ray Rhoden. The store is expected to open in May.
The breakfast concept is targeting expansion opportunities in Mandarin, Julington Creek, San Marco, Riverside, Beaches, and St. Augustine. CEO Daniel DeLeon hopes to sign three development deals this year.
“We are so thankful to have had such a great year and cannot wait to continue to bring our award-winning diner food to new communities in 2022,” DeLeon said. “Despite the challenges we faced this past year, our team has remained resilient and is excited to continue on our path of growth this year.”