Ali Carter: Are you embracing the breakfast opportunity?

By Ali Carter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Breakfast

Carter: 'Coffee is probably the single most lucrative profit maker on any menu.'
Carter: 'Coffee is probably the single most lucrative profit maker on any menu.'
Somerset Maugham said that to eat well in Britain you should eat breakfast thrice daily and perhaps he was right. It’s certainly big business - the UK cereal market alone is worth £1.55bn and pub chain JD Wetherspoon sells more than 350,000 breakfasts every week.But things have changed in the breakfast market, largely driven by the health police and anti-obesity brigade. So what should you be offering?

Let’s face it, the ‘Full English’ is here to stay, it was developed by the Victorians in the early 1800s and is still going strong. But with the nation becoming more health conscious, albeit slowly, savvy retailers are making it hard for calorie-counting customers to resist by offering alternatives to the traditional fry-up such as tropical fruit, Greek style yogurt and honey; bagels and cream cheese; smoothies; eggs Benedict; American-style pancakes with maple syrup and just cereal.

Don’t dismiss cereal in your breakfast offer, hot cereals is a massive growth segment, with value sales up 83% in the last five years. Growth in porridge, for example, has been driven by continued innovation as manufacturers respond to consumer demand for added convenience with new formats such as sachets and pots that provide more options for breakfast-on-the-go while also offering a wider range of new flavours. There is no reason you cannot tap into this market but tart it up a bit by adding ingredients that people won’t have at home or won’t want to faff around with. So, Creamy Apple, Cinnamon and Sultana Porridge or add anything you can put a ‘superfood’ label on such as blueberries or goji berries.

Other morning goods such as croissants are also showing growth of 12% year-on-year as British consumers continue to become more continental in their breakfast habits

With our increasing health-consciousness, it’s well worth having a calorie count beside each dish on the breakfast menu to allow people to make informed choices (Wetherspoon’s menu ranges from ‘Superfood Blueberry Boost Smoothie’ at 243cal to the ‘Large Breakfast’ at a whopping 1463cal!)

One important thing to remember is that you are going to have to open early to make it work – it’s a bit pointless serving breakfast ‘from 9am’, people do but they’ve missed everyone on their way to the office. If you feel that it would be uneconomical to do this then tap into the lucrative weekend brunch market – you’ll have a full team in and it’s ok to open later, say, from 10am.

How to market breakfast

There are plenty of clever slogans you can use on your chalk boards, on your menu or in advertising both on and offline

  • Breakfast is good for the brain – loads of research has been done on this and basically, a high-carb breakfast provides glucose, the brain’s preferred food. In adults eating breakfast significantly improves performance at information retention tasks.
  • Breakfast helps you lose weight. Perhaps not the Wetherspoon Big Breakfast but many people who skip brekkie cite wanting to lose weight as the reason. The opposite is true – eating breakfast helps to balance food intake throughout the day, making overeating less likely.
  • Breakfast eaters are healthier – research confirms that breakfast cereal eaters have: consistent energy intake; better nutrition; lower BMI; lower cholesterol; higher fibre intake and are less susceptible to illness.
  • Breakfast makes you happier – a high carb cereal breakfast can help combat fatigue and improve mood. Breakfast eaters are less stressed.


Coffee is probably the single most lucrative profit maker on any menu – just look at the plethora of small vans that have sprung up promoting mobile coffee sales - the average cup of coffee now in Britain is £2.20 for an outlay of approximately 16p for coffee and milk, but don’t forget speciality coffees, customers are willing to pay 30-40p extra for a single shot of syrup and that’s where you enter into serious GP territory.

People who skip breakfast – and Britain has the worst breakfast habits in Europe with more than 11 million missing out almost a third of the time, compared to the Spanish who eat brekkie on 93% of mornings – state that cost is their main reason for doing without. Why not do a coffee and bacon sarnie-type deal a bit like Subway does using the high GP coffee to offset any hit you may take on GP on the bacon sarnie? You may not be able to match Subway’s £2 deal but even if you charge £3.50 your customers are getting a decent coffee in decent tableware and somewhere nice to sit and read the paper.

A former BII Licensee of the Year, Ali Carter is known as The Pub Mentor, where she works to turn run-down neglected businesses into award-winning outlets. Carter is also the creator of food costing system CaterCost.

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