Ask a Chef: Eggs Play Increasing Role in Globally Inspired Dishes
Breakfast has been at the top of foodservice performance and growth for the past four years. According to industry experts, the early daypart will continue to shine, especially if foodservice operators keep finding innovative ways to deliver delicious and nourishing meals and snacks.
Chef Robert Danhi, consulting chef for the Chicago-based American Egg Board, is a chef, educator, TV host and author of “Southeast Asian Flavors” and “Easy Thai Cooking — 75 Family-Style Dishes You Can Prepare at Home in Minutes.” Danhi thrives on traveling around the globe — 35 countries and counting — and he’s encountered plenty of global ideas that are ready to wake up breakfast tastes here in the States.
Progressive Grocer: Breakfast and breakfast all day have been big business for the foodservice industry over the past three to four years. Is that still the case, and how do the next two to four years look for breakfast momentum?
Robert Danhi: Breakfast is the one daypart that continues to see consistent growth. In fact, NPD reports that “[m]orning meal (breakfast and a.m. snack) has shown consistent traffic growth over the last several years, the only foodservice daypart with year-over-year growth.” And according to the National Restaurant Association, 55 percent of consumers say they would order breakfast items more often if restaurants offered them all day.
PG: What channels — QSR, family dining — of foodservice have the best breakfast sales? What are some strategies that grocery stores’ prepared food programs can use to compete with these channels?
RD: According to NPD/CREST data for the year ending December 2018, QSR breakfast traffic was up 2 percent, retail breakfast traffic rose 4 percent, and fast-casual breakfast traffic increased 5 percent. People want breakfast on the go, especially during the week. So grocery stores need to offer grab-and-go items such as protein boxes featuring hard-boiled eggs, as well as other handheld breakfast items — sandwiches, burritos, flatbreads, muffins, frittatas, etc. — that can be quickly heated in the store or at work. Consumers want nutritious breakfast options without a lot of fuss. Some c-stores are doing a great job meeting this breakfast on-the-go need with their own brands of breakfast sandwiches and handhelds. They’re convenient and satisfying.
PG: What are some recommendations for ways that prepared food programs can bring new ideas and upgrades to grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches?
RD: Consumers expect egg sandwiches to be part of the breakfast lineup, and consumers are looking for new exploration of flavors, such as Roti John, a Malaysian-inspired breakfast sandwich, where the egg is cooked onto the bread, making it an ideal portable breakfast, also known as a “walking omelet.” It’s filled with julienned carrots, cabbage, scallions, herbs, and zesty flavors from lime and sriracha, so it’s a fresh way to interpret a breakfast sandwich.
PG: What are some global flavor and format influences you’re seeing in the breakfast daypart?
RD: There are more global interpretations of flatbreads and other egg-fortified sandwiches that can inspire U.S. breakfast menus. For instance, Vietnamese banh mi has been popularized for lunch and dinner, but this baguette sandwich filled with meats, vegetables and pickles is also a great breakfast option. Banh Mi Op La, the traditional fried-egg banh mi, is easy to prepare and has a low food cost. Instead of the classic pork headcheese, operators may opt to add other global meats with more mass appeal, such as ham or breakfast sausage, or the mortadella featured in a Cheesy Egg Banh Mi.
PG: As more people limit or avoid gluten, how can chefs and operators innovate around eggs, portability and convenience in the breakfast daypart?
PG: How about egg menu ideas beyond breakfast — what are some top trends there?
RD: Eggs are so versatile, we see them being used across all dayparts. Salads with eggs are familiar items on both lunch and dinner menus. We’ve also seen lots of menus with “add an egg” options for burgers, sandwiches, bowls, salads, ramen, and more. Plant-forward cuisine is another place we’re seeing eggs used beyond breakfast. Eggs and vegetables are a great pair, and they appeal to vegetarians as well. Global cuisines feature eggs beyond breakfast — think shakshuka from the Eastern Mediterranean/North African and Middle Eastern regions, Korean bi bim bop, or the egg on top of a steaming bowl of Japanese ramen.