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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, September 6, 2003

Breakfast provides fast-food boon

By Mary-Kathryn Craft
Knight Ridder news service

Kitchen tables these days are pretty much deserted at breakfast time.

Most people eat their first meal of the day in cars, at desks or walking from one place to the next.

Thanks to fast-food restaurants and their portable breakfast innovations, the ability to dash around while dining gets easier every day.

Most chains have some sort of breakfast sandwich or biscuit designed with convenience in mind. McDonald's this summer introduced McGriddles, sandwiches made with maple syrup-flavored griddle cakes, sausage or bacon, egg and cheese.

"People have time on weekends to eat pancakes and sausage," said Lisa Frick, McDonald's director of marketing and menu management. "We thought it would be great to deliver something that would taste like that but in a sandwich, making it very easy to eat anytime."

McGriddles, which McDonald's is billing as "bizarre but yummy," have bits of maple syrup baked into the two cakes that hold together the sandwich. The result is a sweet, salty and cheesy sandwich layered with flavor.

Hardee's recently introduced the Loaded Omelet Biscuit with sausage, ham, bacon, egg, Cheddar and American cheese, and Sonic Drive-In has Toaster Sandwiches — various combinations of sausage, egg, bacon, ham, egg and cheese on Texas toast.

Breakfast has been a main draw at McDonald's since it introduced the Egg McMuffin in 1975. Today about 25 percent of the chain's business is breakfast, according to Frick.

Sonic restaurants nationwide last spring began serving breakfast foods throughout the day.

"What people want is they don't want to be told when they pull up to a fast-food place at 10:35 in the morning that they can't have breakfast," said Debbie Nance, Sonic's breakfast program director. "We designed a program that's easy for us to serve all day."

According to Nance, 45 percent to 50 percent of Sonic's morning sales is breakfast food; 2 percent to 3 percent of lunch and dinner sales is breakfast items.

At the suggestion of a customer searching for convenience on the road, Sonic created the Pancake on a Stick, she said. The item looks like a corn dog but is a sausage coated with pancake batter and cooked. It's served with syrup for dipping.

Biscuits are a classic, portable breakfast item, and Chick-fil-A jumped into the breakfast biscuit business when its first freestanding restaurant opened in 1986, according to Jerry Johnston, senior manager of public relations. The restaurant's signature morning item is the Chick-fil-A Chicken Biscuit, which is made with a smaller version of the breast found in the chicken sandwich.

"Obviously people have the option to come in and sit down (at breakfast), but the chicken biscuit is very portable and can be eaten in the car or taken in to work," Johnston said.