DC Restaurant Chains Show Breakfast Can Be a Winner by Staying On-Trend

By Rick Zambrano, Foodable Industry Expert

In the restaurant industry, breakfast is a daypart that is getting a lot of attention as of late. Increasingly, restaurant operators that offer breakfast are playing up to its strengths. Consumers are also looking for snacks, lighter meals at anytime of the day, and switching up breakfast with dinner or lunch, part of what is known as the fluid dining trend. McDonald’s is in the process of implementing all-day breakfast throughout all of its U.S. stores after a successful test. Subway and Taco Bell have also looked to add incremental business with launching breakfast in recent years. 

In the DC area, brunch may get weekend socialites’ blood flowing and calendars packed, but it's the more traditional breakfast daypart that is the focus of restaurateurs as they provide and expand choices that are on-trend for diners:

  • All-day breakfast
  • Global influences
  • Healthier choices
  • Measured decadence

Healthy and Global

Silver Diner has 13 locations in the DC market, including 11 in the DC-Metro region. About five years ago, the chain revamped its menu, adding locally sourced ingredients, lower calorie fare, and emphasizing non-fried preparations. Additionally, it revamped the kids’ menu, adding lower calorie options and removing french fries, home fries and sweet potato fries from the sides menu. The work it did on the menu was studied by researchers at the Tufts University’s ChildObesity180 program and was lauded as a successful way that restaurants can offer healthier kids’ menu options and increase the purchase of those choices. 

Silver Diner's Oaxaca Omelette  | Yelp, Sara R.

Silver Diner's Oaxaca Omelette | Yelp, Sara R.

The Silver Diner chain is also using influences from Mexico to bring excitement to breakfast. The Oaxaca omelette is prepared with black-bean salsa, pepper jack cheese, salsa roja, and cilantro, topped with mashed avocado, and served with fresh fruit, including strawberries and wheat toast. For weekend brunch, diners can opt for the Bison Huevos Rancheros, a medley of Amish eggs fried over-easy, crisp multigrain tortillas, chorizo hash with organic bison, peppers, salsa roja, scallions, cilantro, goat cheese, and mashed avocado. Using influences from Mexico, El Salvador, Peru or Brazil are just some of the ways that restaurants can add south-of-the-border flavors to dishes, part of a larger growing trend of American restaurant concepts drawing upon global flavors to attract customers.

Measured Decadence

Consumers are looking to put better ingredients into their body and redefining what is healthy, focusing on their own paradigm of important attributes, including organic, non-GMO, local, and gluten-free. And lower calorie and low-fat options are still on the radar. With consumers more frequently paying attention to what they eat, they also look for occasions in which they can let loose. It’s on these occasions that chains like Ted’s Bulletin have excelled. The all-day breakfast throwback to the ’40s and ’50s, a tribute to Ted Neal, the father of founders Mark and Ty Neal, is a comfortable eatery that has earned a reputation for its gourmet pop tarts and decadent milkshakes. 

Gourmet pop tarts and a milkshake at Ted's Bulletin  | Instagram, @tedsbulletin

Gourmet pop tarts and a milkshake at Ted's Bulletin | Instagram, @tedsbulletin

Chicken n’ Biscuits and the The Walk of Shame Burrito are some examples of giving consumers the ability to indulge when they want to. The former is a combination of mini honey biscuits with fried chicken, while the latter is a burrito stuffed with marinated tri-tip steak, scrambled eggs, cheddar, hash browns, and green chile sauce. The milkshakes alone make Ted’s Bulletin a destination: one Yelp reviewer noted, “I ordered the Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake (Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Banana) and was in heaven.” Other milkshake treats include the Heath Almond, Oreo, and the S’mores varieties. Customers can opt for “Adult (liquor-added) Milkshakes,” which include the White Russian, with vodka and Kahlua, and the Toasted Coconut, with coconut rum.

There are currently five Ted's Bulletin restaurants in the DC market, and DC-area, diehard fans have clamored for more openings, getting just that in February 2015—a new restaurant in Gaithersburg, MD, just 15 miles north of the big city. Diners can grab breakfast from 7 a.m. daily up until as late as 11:30 p.m. on weekends. Amid the decadent breakfast treats, the restaurant also serves lunch and dinner after 11 a.m., and lower-calorie menu selections for those who may not have indulgence on the mind.

Croque Monsieur waffle at Wicked Waffle  | Yelp, Teddy C.

Croque Monsieur waffle at Wicked Waffle | Yelp, Teddy C.

A French Chef Elevates the Decadence of Waffles

Wicked Waffle, with a location in downtown DC and at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD, is a perfect example of measured decadence. The inspiration behind the chain was chef Thierry Jugnet’s dream of serving quality waffles that needed no butter or syrup to make them taste great, opting instead for waffles with cut-above, indulgent ingredients and European tradition. Waffles in themselves are decadent, but to create a menu exclusively served on waffles is to make each visit to the chain a guilty pleasure. Customers can feast on the Tiramisu Waffle or the Strawberry Cheesecake Waffle for a sugar overload. For a heartier breakfast, try The Peking Duck Waffle, which is not the waffle one’s father grew up on—duck meat, crispy skin, hoisin and plum sauce sandwiched between two waffles.

Silver Diner, Ted’s Bulletin, and Wicked Waffle show that operators can develop successful breakfast programs by staying on trend and providing breakfast choices throughout the day. Whether menu programs and concepts are developed locally our outside DC, the burgeoning foodie culture in the power capital of the U.S. will reward restaurateurs who provide ample choices, flexible breakfast options, and selections that encompass a variety of healthy and decadent ingredients, as well as global flavors.