According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, breakfast accounted for nearly 60 percent of the restaurant industry’s traffic growth over the past five years. If not for the breakfast daypart faring relatively better than other dayparts, restaurant visit declines over the last two years would have been steeper.

Two of the fastest growing menu items these restaurant visitors order are specialty coffee and breakfast sandwiches, both of which contributed to the breakfast daypart growth. From February 2005 through February 2010, servings of specialty coffee and breakfast sandwiches grew twice as fast as the industry.

NPD’s foodservice market research shows that for the year ending March 2010, there were over 12 billion morning meals served at U.S. restaurants, and 80 percent of restaurant morning meals were purchased from quick service restaurants. Over the past five years, morning meal traffic increased an average of +2 percent per year, comparatively, while lunch visits were flat, and supper traffic declined by -2 percent per year on average.

“Breakfast has been and is projected to continue to be a bright spot for the restaurant industry,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst.  “A restaurant morning meal serves a variety of needs. In addition to helping us jump start our day, it satisfies the need for convenience, is less costly than other restaurant meals, and is readily available to us.”

Recognizing the importance of the morning meal as an opportunity to capture share as well as build consumer loyalty, major chains have recently announced expansion into the breakfast daypart. NPD's QSR Market Monitor, which monitors local market activity for quick service restaurant chains, finds one reason for this expansion is that consumers who visit a chain for more than one daypart, tend to be more loyal, more likely to recommend the chain, more frequent visitors, and contribute more volume.