Breakfast: Is it right for your restaurant?

Prescott & Conran's The Albion does a raoring breakfast trade from people working in the area

Some restaurant operators have been serving breakfast successfully for years, while others are only just beginning to understand the potential revenue stream afforded by the early morning mealtime.

The breakfast trial at Pizza Express’s Living Lab in Richmond proved so successful that the chain is making breakfast pizza and milkshakes a permanent addition to its main menu, which is available all day.

Even ethnic restaurants are catching onto the trend, with Thai chain Busaba Eathai opening earlier at its Bicester Village and Old Street branches to serve breakfast items such as Thai Rice Porridge, Banana Pancake, Egg and Soldiers and traditional English breakfasts.

However breakfast isn’t for everyone, and just four months after launch Italian restaurant chain Zizzi has aborted plans to roll out its Brunchetta menu – a concept consisting of mini pizza breads, both savoury and sweet.

Consumer demand for breakfast exists, but how can you get your offer right and make a meal out of it?

Meeting space

“Location is important,” says Clive Watson, operations director for Village London. “Any operator thinking about starting a breakfast offer must be mindful that most people coming in for breakfast during the week will be under a commercial guise, so if you’re located in a residential side street it’s probably not a good idea to do it.”

Village London’s bar/restaurant the Garrison in Bermondsey Street does a roaring breakfast trade, the success of which Watson and business partner Adam White put down to a trend for early morning business meetings and a demand for meeting space in the area.

“People are coming around to the idea that it’s a productive time to meet from a business perspective – it’s informal and people are enjoying spending breakfast together, getting their laptops out, having something to eat and being done without it going into a long lunch or dinner engagement,” he adds.

“There are also a lot of freelancers where we are. It’s sometimes inconvenient for them to work from home and we’re a place they can come in on their own, get on our Wi-Fi, have some toast or a bagel and beaver away. We’re just an additional meeting space really.”

Of course it would be foolish to embark on expanding your business without sussing out the market first, especially the working hours of the businesses nearby.

“There’s two different types of office population, claims Peter Prescott, co-owner of Prescott & Conran that operates Boundary, The Albion and Lutyens. “Some have a culture of being in early while others tend to start later and head out for breakfast first. At the Albion in Shoreditch we don’t start breakfast service until 8am, but in Lutyens we start much earlier and it’s all over by 9am. You need to tailor your offer to suit the lives of the people nearest you.”

English or Continental?

The breakfast offer you decide upon should also complement your existing lunch and dinner menus, as well as the atmosphere of your venue.

Prescott advises operators to include an extensive menu with a variety of choices to cater for every breakfast desire. Some consumers may only want a croissant and a coffee while others desire a more satiating breakfast like a full English or an omelette, so your menu, he says, needs to cater for every taste while staying in line with your existing offer.

“Also it depends on the feel of your venue as to whether you should do takeaway. We wouldn’t do it at Lutyens because it’s smarter and off the street, but the concept works well at Albion because people can just pop in and dash off.”

But whether you do takeaway or not, one important aspect of the offer to get right is coffee.

“People won’t put up with crap coffee,” says Watson. “You need a dedicated person trained to make good coffee or you’ll find repeat business tails off. If you get your coffee offer right first then you can start doing takeaway coffee to get people through door in the early hours.”

Personal service

Village London also realised that the continuity of its staff was integral to the success of its breakfast offer – particularly as they noticed the same customers returning regularly.

“People are used to cooking their own breakfast at home and they know just how they like it. You get a lot of requests from people asking for eggs and coffee a certain way, so if you have regular staff every morning who are building a relationship with customers you’re more likely to fill breakfast times with regulars than non-regulars.

“The other advantage is that if staff are working back to back evening and morning shifts they can struggle to get to work in time. So we have a breakfast team that just work the daytime and get to know the regulars and make friends with them. It makes sure that we’re a welcoming place in the morning.”

A warm welcome from the staff is vital to securing trade at any time of day, but first thing in the morning it’s also important to make sure your premises is clean, light and airy – and not smelling of beer from the night before.

But most important to the success of your burgeoning breakfast offer is your own attitude and dedication to making it work.

Next Monday we'll be looking at how hoteliers can improve their bottom line at breakfast time, in the final part of our special feature.

You can view all articles in this series here.

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