Until recently, the fast-food industry didn’t seem to realize that Americans love eating breakfast for dinner. According to a recent consumer survey, 90% of Americans say they have breakfast for dinner, with 53% doing so at least once a month. With only a few exceptions, most major quick-service restaurants cut off their breakfast menus at 10:30 or 11 a.m.
McDonald’s recent move to offer some of its most popular breakfast items all day long could very well change the landscape, and quickly. The Golden Arches will offer Egg McMuffins, hotcakes, sausage burritos, and hash browns for lunch and dinner nationwide beginning October 6 following a test run in some markets. Previously, McDonald’s famously only offered breakfast until 10:30 a.m., which inspired a memorable scene in the 1999 Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy (NSFW), and prompted fans to create the “Mc10:35,” a secret menu item combining breakfast and lunch items.
This is a game changer. McDonald’s is far and away the industry’s biggest player, and will undoubtedly prompt competitors to follow. In fact, soon after McDonald’s announcement, White Castle announced that its entire breakfast menu would be available all day long.
Last year, Taco Bell started offering morning food, and with its ad starring a group of men named Ronald McDonald, clearly sought to take aim at McDonald’s. Its newest campaign touts “Breakfast Defectors” who have changed their breakfast habits from other chains to Taco Bell. Carl’s Jr. seems to come out with something new for breakfast every month, and advertises its made-from-scratch biscuits heavily.
Still, no fast food breakfast has reached the iconic status of the Egg McMuffin. When it’s offered all day, will it help increase lagging sales? And what effect will it have on the industry as a whole? Only time will tell, but in the long-running breakfast battle, McDonald’s has unquestionably fired the biggest shot thus far.
Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage analyst for Industry Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based market intelligence firm. It's the perfect job for him: He loves junk food, he often works besides a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, and anytime one of the health nuts in his office gives him grief for eating a Big Mac, he gets to smile and say: "Hey, this is my job." Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.