Breakfast: Expanding your offering in pubs

Breakfast at Wetherspoon

With some of the biggest high street pub brands moving into the breakfast market, BigHospitality takes a look at why early morning trade makes sense – for some pubs.

Location location location

Location is by far the most important success factor when it comes to capturing breakfast trade.

Pub operator Wetherspoon, which was one of the first to start serving breakfasts on a mass scale over a decade ago, has made a success of it because most of its pubs are on the high street so they are well positioned to take advantage of people passing by early in the morning.

Pubs in rural locations – for example The Star Inn at Harome, North Yorkshire – or even town pubs that are simply less centrally located, have decided not to go down the breakfast route because they have no chance of capturing enough passing trade to make it worth their while.

“Unless you’re in a high footfall location you won’t succeed,” warns Steve Gotham of Allegra Strategies.

Get the message to customers

Another challenge for pubs is to make sure you properly communicate your expanded offering to customers and make it crystal clear that you’re open for business.

For example, although customers had become used to Wetherspoon serving food at other times throughout the day, when the group decided to introduce earlier opening hours – 7am – in April last year, it accompanied the move with an extensive communication campaign.

This included communications at point of sale in the pubs, in magazines, A-boards and press briefings, all hammering home the message of breakfast.

Get the time right

Different breakfast times work for different locations. Just six months after introducing its 7am start, Wetherspoon decided to scale back its opening hours, keeping only 40 per cent of sites open at 7am, with 30 per cent going to 8am and 30 per cent opening at 9am.

“It made sense to do this as some pubs in certain areas were better suited to the 7am trade and others for later (this is in line with McDonald's, Starbucks etc, who have different opening times at breakfast),” explained Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon.

Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), the managed pub and casual dining operator that recently started trialling breakfasts across its Harvester brand as well as its Crown Carveries, is also opting for a 7am start only in some of its venues.

Do the numbers add up?

But with all this in mind, consumer spend at breakfast is traditionally low, so is it really profitable to extend your operating hours?

The big players who have tried and tested breakfast are clear on its business benefits.

“Having a good breakfast offer is worth its weight in gold,” says Wetherspoon. “For a start, it does make money. It also attracts people that might not ordinarily go to a pub, but choose to go for breakfast and/or coffee and they, in turn, might start using the pub at different times.

“Also, by serving breakfast, the pub is up and running and in great shape earlier than its competitors.”

Wetherspoon serves 15 million breakfasts and 25 million hot drinks (mainly coffee, much of which is served at breakfast) every year.

Last year, the operator cut the price of early morning coffee and tea to 49p in order to drive more breakfast trade. Customers in all the pub’s sites get to enjoy what chief executive John Hutson calls “the best value cup of coffee and tea available on the high street” from 7am to 9am every day of the week.

“The figures show that there is a great demand for breakfast and hot drinks etc at Wetherspoon and we believe the appetite for breakfast in our pubs will only increase.”

Next week, BigHospitality will look at the pros and cons of breakfast trade in restaurants.

More articles in our Breakfast feature can be accessed here.

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