Breakfast is Disappearing amidst COVID-19

Many Quick Service restaurant brands have bet on breakfast in recent months - McDonald's launched two chicken breakfast sandwiches in January, Wendy's rolled out a new breakfast menu in early March, and Taco Bell introduced breakfast burritos to its menu.

But the restaurant world has been shaken up by the coronavirus pandemic, and this competitive daypart is now shrinking for QSRs. In our daily COVID-19 blog series we explore which breakfast occasions were hit the hardest, and which ones continue to attract guests.


When we look at the relative changes in share of stomach by daypart over the two week period, we see the same trends are generally pronounced across dayparts, but is most pronounced at Breakfast for QSRs.

ft-by-daypartSo with this context in mind, let’s begin our exploration into the customer journey and what’s changing that underlies these shifts during Breakfast.


Understanding Breakfast Occasions

One way we examine the customer journey is by understanding Occasions. Sense360 segments each visit we observe into Occasions by using three primary dimensions:

  1. Time of day that the Visit occurred,
  2. The duration of the Visit, and
  3. The distance traveled.

Every visit falls into one of twenty-four Sense360 Occasions, after taking into account the dimensions. Occasions will vary in size based on your subcategory, and even brand.

Below we'll focus on the five Breakfast Occasions: Quick Nearby, Commuter, On the Go, Hangout, and Relaxed Weekend.

breakfast-occasionsAs an example, a Quick Nearby Breakfast is an occasion where the person travels less than 1.5 miles and makes the visit in less than 20 minutes during the hours of 5am-11am. 


Which Breakfast Occasions are performing better/worse?

In the table below, we’re showing the relative change of the distribution of Breakfast occasions for QSR.

yoy qsr breakfast occasionsThe data shows that Commuter Breakfast has decreased the most within Breakfast. This is a result of people staying at home due to the coronavirus, remote working policies, and fewer people on the road each morning commuting from home to work.

Breakfast Hangouts are also down as a result of dining room closures, which started to pick up midway through the week of March 16th.

Overall, we’re seeing consumers shifting their journey from dine-in, relaxed occasions to fast breakfast on the go, with fewer of these visitors heading to work in the morning.

These foot traffic findings align with our recent survey findings on what factors are influencing people's food decisions the most.

People are reluctant to leave their house, unable to dine-in at restaurants, not receiving their usual income, and not making their usual commuter trips to work/school.


Quick Service restaurants should keep these factors in mind when deciding how to market to their customers: people are less willing to travel, more focused on speedy visits and value, and they are sensitive to cleanliness.

Sense360 has developed a COVID-19 Insights Tracker that combines foot traffic, transaction, and daily survey data to help you understand how your customers are coping with the new landscape, and help you identify ways to reach them. Contact us if you would like to learn more.