According to a recent nationwide online survey conducted by The Harris Poll and commissioned by General Mills Foodservice, consumers are eating more breakfast foods than normal during the COVID-19 pandemic and not just in the morning hours.

Nearly a quarter of Americans report eating more breakfast foods during the COVID-19 pandemic than normal (24 percent) with items such as eggs (72 percent), cereal and pancakes (both 51 percent) and bakery items such as donuts (36 percent), cinnamon rolls (34 percent) and muffins (33 percent) among the top favorite breakfast items. Nearly four in five Americans (79 percent) say they have eaten breakfast foods outside of the traditional breakfast meal in the past year.

“The recent poll shows that people are eating more breakfast foods during the pandemic and enjoying them for lunch, dinner and even dessert,” says Mark Harmon, a consumer insights analyst for General Mills Foodservice. “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.”

Consumers who report eating more breakfast foods during the pandemic over the past year are doing so for a number of reasons. Among them are that they feel they have more freedom in what and when they eat, since they have more time in their schedule (52 percent), they’ve been craving their favorite breakfast foods (37 percent), they want to eat something fun that brings them joy (33 percent) or breakfast favorites remind them of childhood (24 percent).

Additional finding from the recent survey of more than 2,000 adults ages 18 and over in the United States include:

  • 62 percent say breakfast is their favorite meal of the day and 56 percent say they love breakfast food more now than they did a year ago.
  • 79 percent have eaten breakfast foods for meals other than breakfast in the past year and 59 percent say they have eaten breakfast foods for dinner, 49 percent have enjoyed breakfast foods for lunch and 20 percent have eaten breakfast items for dessert.
  • 75 percent look forward to eating breakfast/brunch at their favorite restaurant once the pandemic is over with 36 percent saying they would like to be able to purchase breakfast/brunch meal kits (e.g., biscuits and gravy, pancakes) or “take and bake” breakfast items like cinnamon rolls or muffins to cook and bake at home from their favorite restaurant.
  • 66 percent say they love creative twists on breakfast menu items.

“Consumers’ love of breakfast is strong, giving chefs and foodservice operations the chance to reimagine breakfast,” says Harmon, who says breakfast often has an impulsive nature that restaurants can appeal to with new and different menu 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.”

General Mills Foodservice, together with Pillsbury, its premier baking brand for foodservice professionals, shares tips for foodservice operations to appeal to consumers’ changing eating habits:

  • 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 & 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).