Breakfast, Brunch Making Big Comebacks

Here’s an eye-opener: even as the pandemic continues, breakfast visits to restaurants have increased significantly.

In the three months ending in November, online and physical visits to restaurants for breakfast increased 11% year over year, according to new data from The NPD Group. Breakfast is now at roughly the same level as it was in Fall 2019, pre-pandemic.

Meanwhile, morning snacking visits saw a 6% uptick in the last quarter.

NPD noted that employees returning to workplaces no doubt aided restaurants last fall. Lunch, for instance, improved by 4% in the reported period compared to a year ago, when visits during that daypart were down 11%.

Visits to dine-in at breakfast increased by 51% in September through November in 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, when on-premises traffic was down 55%, according to NPD research. Morning snacking also increased dine-in visits by 51%, compared to the reported period last year when on-premises traffic declined by 48%.

“The increased mobility this fall contributed to year-over-year gains at key restaurant dayparts,” said David Portalatin, NPD’s food industry advisor, in a statement. “We’re in a steady state for the next several months, perhaps with a bump up or down here and there, but we expect to lag pre-pandemic traffic levels through 2022 slightly.”


During a November webinar hosted by The Food Institute, industry leaders noted top restaurant investment trends (FI members can view the entire webinar by clicking here). Mark Leavitt, co-founder of Enlightened Hospitality Investments, said he’s “dying” to invest in restaurants that focus on breakfast and brunch these days, due to one main factor:

“In one labor shift you can get three or four turns,” Leavitt said of such restaurants. “At 7 in the morning you get the old [customers] that are up, then at 8:30 or 9 o’clock you get people that are working. Then, at 10 o’clock, you get the drinking crowd that’s coming in.”

Meanwhile, Andrew K. Smith, the managing director of the Mercato Partners Savory Fund, said the breakfast/brunch space is ripe for innovation and investment in new concepts, like a “boozy brunch” during which alcohol is sold.