Looking to spur growth within their existing concept, many restaurant operators turn to adding a daypart to their scope of service. Of course transitioning into a new daypart brings with it considerable operational and financial considerations. Here four foodservice industry veterans share their experiences.
Some say late-night dining was the "fourth meal" recently added to the traditional dayparts of breakfast, lunch and dinner. But daypart innovation was actually born more than a century ago. Brunch was first offered in 1895 and still thrives today.
Now, menus feature brinner (breakfast at dinner), linner (meal between lunch and dinner), slunch or drunch (meal between supper and lunch, around 5 p.m.), and pressert (dessert served anytime). All of these occasions provide diners with round the clock access to the foods they love. These new dayparts can also be a siren's call to operators, promising an opportunity for increased sales and profitability.
However, adding a daypart — or increasing the scope of an existing one — can lead to all kinds of problems, culminating in lost revenue and compromising the bottom line. Projects not well thought out from start to finish may end up being a disaster. The key to success is to take a serious and sober analytical look at the pros and cons from the very first germ of a "let's add a daypart" idea.
The decision-making process of adding a daypart includes three distinct stages: ideation, design and execution. Operators expanding a daypart by adding menu items or delivery options that will require changes in equipment, product flow, staffing or training should also consider this three-step process, which basically consists of asking the right questions. To help FE&S readers understand and manage the process, four foodservice consultants have shared their expertise.
Ideation: The First Critical Conversation
Ways to build new business range from adding new menu items to adding a new menu category to adding an entire new daypart. Each initiative requires careful planning and execution. It will have an impact on an operation's core concept and brand identity as well as operations and logistics. It is important to ensure that the impact is positive and supports the goal rather than compromising the bottom line or the brand equity built up with customers.
Operators may consider adding a daypart for several reasons, according to Karen Malody, MSW, FCSI, principal at Culinary Options, a Santa Fe, N.M. consulting firm. For example, an operator might want to add breakfast after reading that breakfast is a growing segment. Or an operator might add a daypart to offset slowing sales in another area. Or it could be to capitalize on labor that is already inhouse — if the prep crew is there in the mornings, adding breakfast might maximize return on labor investment.
While any of these reasons may be a good solution, assuming an outcome before exploring every aspect of the impact the decision will have can be dangerous. In other words, adding a daypart can be pretty complex. So it is advisable at this stage to consult an expert in concept and menu development, specifically one with management advisory services (MAS) experience, even before bringing in a design consultant.
Some issues do not relate directly to design. Interestingly, the experts say that the people factor is just as important to consider in the beginning. Adding a new daypart will require additional front- and back-of-the-house staff so be sure to include the cost of adding staff in financial projections. If the decision calls for extending existing staff hours, the operation may have to provide benefits, which represents yet another significant financial consideration.
Additional training may be necessary for food prep, food handling and serving, as well. The type of culinary staff necessary to manage the new daypart may be different. For instance, a line cook may now have to be a chef, says Lisa Kennedy, AIA, a registered architect and director of design for BF Companies, which owns and operates restaurants across the U.S., including Wendy's and Chili's locations.
The manager's schedule is particularly important, points out Juan Martinez, PhD, PE, FCSI, principal at Profitality, a Miami-based industrial engineering and consulting firm. He notes that an operation that offers lunch and dinner all week has 14 managerial shifts. Adding a new daypart, say breakfast, will add seven shifts, probably requiring an additional manager. The cost of that additional manager has to be part of the projections. High turnover adds pressure to the need for additional staffing as well.
When adding an evening daypart, like late-night or 24-hour service, security becomes an issue. The foodservice operator may need to hire a guard or guards, not to mention the insurance issues.
Menu development, whether it involves adding new items to an existing daypart or creating a new menu for a new daypart, will drive design and decisions about equipment. Martinez stresses the need to be clear about how the concept and the menu fit. He also says that the functional operating parameters must focus on making work easy for employees. Within these parameters, he says there are six "Ps" that must be considered: procedures, platform (the equipment), people, place (the physical space), products and promotions (how to market the new menu/daypart). In other words, the new venture will impact every aspect of the operation.
The menu development process, according to Malody, not only predicts what food items will be necessary but how the culinary staff can cross utilize them for economy and helps identify secondary uses that the foodservice operator can parlay into an additional menu item. There are also the issues of whether a new physical menu is necessary and how the operation will market the new items.
Melanie Corey-Ferrini, AIA, FCSI, an experience strategist at Dynamik Space in Seattle, a full-service group of designers, architects, project managers, contractors and strategists, spends time with her clients looking for menu flexibility. When adding new menu items, she also looks for similar ingredients that the operation can use in a number of preparations. All of this determines the design process in terms of equipment for preparation and for storage. All the items added, she says, have to support the operation's brand identity in terms of quality, consistency and taste. The menu is an operation's brand, she points out, and she and her fellow consultants design around it.
Ideation questions to answer
Malody discusses these questions with clients in the early planning stages.
- Is this brand extension valid for our location and core brand identity? For example, if the operation is urban and serves lunch to business people and dinner to theater and event goers who live in the suburbs, a weekend brunch, when no one is in the city, will not be successful.
- How much income will the new venture bring in; what will the traffic be?
- What additional staffing will be necessary? Will increased sales justify an increase in labor and management?
- What current equipment can be used to execute the new menu items?
- What new equipment will be needed, will it fit, and will it be cost effective? What older equipment can be eliminated?
- Will the entire kitchen need to be reconfigured and what would that cost?
- Will the existing HVAC accommodate new equipment?
- What new storage will be necessary?
- Will a new daypart require additional seating? Will it require a new service style?
Don't forget to consider the competitive element. There is fierce competition for the breakfast daypart, as an example. If there are three restaurants providing unique breakfast offerings in the vicinity, it may be a better idea for an operator to investigate an alternative that would result in a better opportunity for success.