Restaurants Have Seen A Boost In Breakfast Visits In 2023

Sitting down to dinner out might feel stressful for foodies on a budget. But who couldn't justify grabbing an iced coffee and a hashbrown on the drive to work? In recent years, the hospitality industry has weathered major social and economic shifts in consumer dining behavior. But, in 2023, restaurants shaped up to be a popular destination for a perhaps underrated vein of the dining-out experience: breakfast.

The data comes from a new report by consumer research analytics company Circana. In 2023, foodies visited restaurants for breakfast 4% more than in 2022, with the bulk of visits occurring between Tuesday and Thursday. Male customers aged 45 to 54 with an annual household income of $100,000 or higher led the pack, eating breakfast out the most often and shelling out the most money when they do (more than any other consumer demographic). But, the trend seems to be increasing universally across the board. Even the least-frequent breakfast-goers — Gen Z foodies, aged 18-24 — upped their visits this year compared to last year.

Why the shift? Folks are increasingly headed back to the office, and that means they need to be fueled. As of September, the number of in-person workers has crept back up, reaching around 40% to 60% of office building occupancy, depending on the city. Indeed, the booming brekky trend was led by gourmet coffee and tea chains offering grab-and-go breakfast items, particularly specialty caffeinated drinks and handheld baked goods or breakfast sandwiches, which don't require utensils to eat.

A working professional's gotta eat

The dining trend is representative of an on-the-go lifestyle, the busy working class, and young professionals who might treat themselves to a quick oat milk latte and pan au chocolat on their morning commute. Also, for many remote workers who might take laptops to local coffee shops to do work each day, that daily bagel and mug of drip coffee is the price of a seat.

A broader trend may also be at play. It seems like breakfast traffic was increasing industry-wide even before 2023. In fiscal Q2 2022, foodies went out for dinner 2% less than in Q1, but their restaurant breakfast habit remained unphased. Brunch used to be a weekend thing, but the surge in remote workers came with a surge in restaurant orders on Monday through Friday. Many fast food chains even started rolling out breakfast deals. Soon after, Q1 2023 saw an increase in same-store breakfast sales fueled by early-rising remote and hybrid workers. Even businesses with morning- and daytime-exclusive operating hours enjoyed a sizable uptick in traffic.

Restaurants have adapted (and continue adapting) to challenges like staffing and wage issues tied to the nationwide labor revolution, post-COVID health adjustments, and record-high inflation. But, even as the purchase of other non-essentials grinds to a halt, consumers with limited discretionary budgets can splurge on the affordable indulgence of a croissant or pumpkin spice latte — promising potential for the growth of convenience-oriented breakfast concepts looking forward.