Breakfast: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

Research reveals consumer habits during pandemic, what this might mean for spring, summer menus
Breakfast items on a table
Photograph: Shutterstock

MINNEAPOLIS During the pandemic, consumers have been eating more breakfast foods than normal at more times during the day, a recent nationwide online survey by the Harris Poll and commissioned by General Mills Foodservice shows.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of Americans report eating more breakfast foods during the COVID-19 pandemic than they normally would, with the following items among the favorites:

  • Eggs (72%).
  • Cereal and pancakes (both 51%).
  • Bakery items such as donuts (36%), cinnamon rolls (34%) and muffins (33%).

Further, nearly four in five Americans (79%) have eaten breakfast foods outside of the traditional breakfast meal in the past year.

General Mills and Pillsbury share tips for foodservice operations to appeal to consumers’ changing eating habits while showcasing breakfast as a profit driver across dayparts. The nationwide poll surveyed more than 2,000 adults 18 and older to learn how the pandemic has impacted eating habits—at home and when dining out.

“The recent poll shows that people are eating more breakfast foods during the pandemic and enjoying them for lunch, dinner and even dessert,”  said Mark Harmon, who analyzes consumer insights for General Mills. “We also learned that consumers are eager to return to restaurants to enjoy their favorite breakfast and brunch foods, signaling that breakfast could be all the buzz on spring and summer menus.”

Poll results show consumers who are eating more breakfast foods during the pandemic are doing so because they feel they have more freedom in what and when they eat because:

  • They have more time in their schedule (52%).
  • They’ve been craving their favorite breakfast foods (37%).
  • They want to eat something fun that brings them joy (33%).
  • Breakfast favorites remind them of childhood (24%).

Other findings reveal that consumers have a deep affection for breakfast, with three in five Americans (62%) saying breakfast is their favorite meal of the day and more than half (56%) saying they love breakfast food more now than they did a year ago.

Over three-quarters of survey respondents (79%) have eaten breakfast foods for meals other than breakfast in the past year:

  • 59% for dinner.
  • 49% for lunch.
  • 20% for dessert.

Three-quarters of Americans (75%) look forward to eating breakfast/brunch at their favorite restaurant once the pandemic is over, with more than a third (36%) saying they would like to be able to buy breakfast/brunch meal kits or “take-and-bake” breakfast items to cook and bake at home from their favorite restaurant.

More than half (66%) said they love creative twists on breakfast menu items.

“Consumers’ love of breakfast is strong, giving chefs and foodservice operations the chance to reimagine breakfast,” said Harmon, who added that breakfast often has an impulsive nature that restaurants can appeal to with new and different items. “For instance, consumers may not have breakfast for dinner in their regular rotation of eating, but they may be tempted to splurge on it for a memorable experience.”

Minneapolis-based General Mills and its Pillsbury brand offered these tips to boost breakfast business:

  • Serve breakfast all day with a special menu of morning favorites or a signature breakfast item of the day.
  • Celebrate “brinner” with a limited-time offer or buy-one-get-one-free breakfast menu.
  • Get creative with fun menu items that feature a breakfast flair (a grilled cheese doughnut, savory doughnuts or pancakes, waffles as a sandwich carrier).
  • “Plus up” traditional breakfast foods and give them a new twist (biscuit avocado toast, smoky mac and cheese waffles, cinnamon roll waffles or fiesta French toast).
  • Introduce a menu of “bresserts” or dessert items made from traditional breakfast items (cinnamon roll cobbler, strawberry scone shortcake, cereal-flavored ice cream waffles sandwiches, birthday cake pancakes).
  • Offer tempting take-and-bake options for breakfast foods (a tray of cinnamon rolls or muffins, a breakfast casserole to-go or baked French toast).
  • Bundle breakfast foods together for a family brunch meal kit (biscuits and gravy, pancakes with sausage or bacon and fresh fruit, breakfast sandwiches and yogurt parfaits).

Click here to read about a survey by General Mills and Pillsbury regarding baked goods cravings during the pandemic.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a CSP member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.

Related Content


More from our partners