Day in the Life: breakfast and brunch

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Breakfast: so many statistics, often entirely contradictory, are rolled out regarding the various benefits or otherwise of different food and drink....

Breakfast: so many statistics, often entirely contradictory, are rolled out regarding the various benefits or otherwise of different food and drink. So publicans could be forgiven for taking them with a pinch of salt - not too big a pinch, of course, otherwise you'd be in grave danger of exceeding your recommended daily sodium allowance.

One thing that the white-coated boffins are pretty much agreed on, though, is that eating breakfast is a good way of staying healthy.

In a recent survey in the US, doctors from Harvard Medical School, who looked at the eating habits of almost 3,000 people, came to the conclusion that skipping the first meal of the day increases the chances of becoming obese, developing diabetes and having a heart attack.

For pubs, there is also growing evidence that breakfast can be a healthy option in terms of generating extra trade. In many licensing areas, the flexibility introduced by the Licensing Act 2003 makes earlier opening possible for pubs. For most licensees, though, the period before the traditional opening time is uncharted territory.

It's worth making an early start one morning just to have a look at the local businesses which are busy at that time of day. Depending on the location, it's likely to be traditional cafés, new-fangled coffee bars, workplace canteens and even mobile caterers. There's no reason why pubs shouldn't take a fair share of that custom.

Research from Datamonitor shows that UK consumers skip around 90 breakfasts a year - more than any other European nation. And when they do eat breakfast, it often tends to be 'on the go'. Data-monitor call this 'flexi-eating', with food consumption fitted around people's needs and lifestyles - something pubs already tap into with causal dining.

Given that longer trading hours will always have an impact in terms of staffing and running costs, the best approach is probably to stick a toe in the water with a test run of a breakfast offer.

Talk to your regulars, especially the lunchtime and after-work crowd. Find out what they do at breakfast time, and come up with a morning offer to match. This could follow a number of models:

Sit-down meals

These are most likely to appeal to customers who work away from a fixed location, such as bus or taxi drivers, construction workers and postal workers. This is probably the most expensive option for pubs, so you'll need to be confident that there is a reasonable trade out there.

Hot takeaways

If most workers in the area are deskbound, the chances are they're picking up a takeaway coffee and sandwich to eat at work. Try marketing a morning takeaway offer with 'meal deal' vouchers handed out at lunchtime or evenings - coffee and a bacon roll for £1.50, for example.

Healthy options

Those Harvard medics would be appalled if their study was being used just as an excuse for a fry-up. A sausage or bacon sarnie is great, but healthier options such as takeaway wholemeal toast, croissants or porridge could also appeal.

Morning coffee

If you already have a good coffee machine, this could be a very cost-effective way to test the breakfast market. One member of staff who knows

the difference between a cappuccino and a latte, armed with a supply of takeaway cups and a selection of pastries and croissants, could generate considerable extra trade. In town centres, making a few tables available for shoppers to sit down with their coffee should also pay off.


The chance to relax with friends over the papers and sharing platters of food can generate substantial trade at an otherwise quiet time, especially at weekends.

Tony Goodger, foodservice trade manager for the Meat and Livestock Commission, says: "A full English breakfast will set most people up for the day. Using best-quality, well-sourced, fresh ingredients gives customers a real taste of the region and ensure they remember their meal for the right reasons.

"We would suggest a cooked breakfast consists of good-quality thick sliced back bacon - pubs should consider visiting their local butcher as many will cure their own bacon and will often produce sliced bacon to the desired thickness.

A strongly flavoured sweet cure or smoked bacon is ideal for breakfast time. "We would also advise serving a good traditional pork sausage with a minimum meat content of 65 per cent. This recommendation is based on our own findings which revealed that poor-quality sausages reflect badly on the establishment in which they are served, not the images of sausages in general."

One thing to bear in mind is the need to ensure that you retain the factors that make your business special. At the Sun Hotel in Lancaster, the breakfast offer has been extended to non-residents, offering specialities such as eggs benedict as well as the traditional 'full English'.

Customers are advised that the food is all cooked to order, and encouraged to enjoy a coffee and read the paper while they wait. "We had one customer who raised hell because he had to wait 20 minutes," says manager Dominic Kiziuk. "He said he'd be served in five minutes at the Hilton. I did point out that his breakfast at the Hilton would have been kept warm in a bain marie for an hour or more, not freshly cooked."

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