TORONTO — Two of Canada's more well-known restaurant chains are rolling out all-day breakfast across the country in response to a growing consumer appetite for their morning staples.
McDonald's Canada will start serving breakfast beyond its usual cut-off time of 11 a.m. at 1,100 of its 1,450 restaurants on Feb. 21. Six days later, A&W Food Services of Canada (TSX:AW.UN) will launch all-day breakfast, aiming to have it at 95 per cent of its 879 restaurants by spring.
Serving up pancakes, eggs and hash browns is a growing market in Canada, said Robert Carter, executive director of food service for market research firm NPD Group.
According to NPD data, 1.24 billion of the 6.5 billion visits to Canadian restaurants between December 2015 and November 2016 took place during breakfast. That's an annual increase of 6.3 per cent, one that came at the expense of traffic during other meal times, especially dinner.
Canadians also ate nearly 49 million more breakfast sandwiches at quick-service restaurants for a total of 536 million, NPD said.
"When you look at where the growth in the marketplace has come from for the quick-service segment, it's all about the breakfast day part," said Carter, explaining that the generation born after 1980 tends to opt for a convenient breakfast to-go over making the meal at home.
McDonald's Canada CEO John Betts said the company has been experimenting with extended breakfast hours for a little over a year at its two stand-alone McCafe locations in Toronto, as well as at various restaurants throughout the Greater Toronto Area, Vancouver and Montreal since the latter half of last year.
In early January, McDonald's announced the arrival of all-day breakfast at 17 of its restaurants in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
"Folks are looking for and have been looking for this kind of offering for the longest time," said Betts, estimating the company received thousands of tweets last year requesting the option.
"We know we're going to do well with it."
A&W also tested all-day breakfast at 40 of its restaurants early last year and said it received a tremendous response, especially from millennials.
People have different schedules and traditions around when people eat have changed over the years, said Susan Senecal, president and chief operating officer.
"We started hearing from people saying, 'Gee, I wish I could get this any time of day.'"
McDonald's and A&W aren't the first major fast-food players to offer all-day breakfasts nationwide.
Starbucks Canada, for example, has offered breakfast during all its regular store hours in Canada since 2008.
But not all fast-food chains believe breakfast hours need to be extended.
Burger King and Tim Hortons both stop serving breakfast midday and the chains' parent company, Restaurant Brands International (TSX:QSR), has no plans to change that.
The company is focusing on other priorities, like expanding its lunch and coffee business at Tim Hortons, said RBI CEO Daniel Schwartz before the companies announced their national rollout plans.
"We don't shift our agenda based on what our competitors are doing," he said, adding he's unaware of any consumer demand for lengthened breakfast hours at RBI's two chains.
Both A&W and McDonald's will offer a limited menu for the extended breakfast hours.
McDonald's will serve McMuffin sandwiches, hash browns, hotcakes and sausages, though Betts said customer demand may drive additional items to the menu in the future. A&W customers will be able to purchase its Egger sandwiches, hash browns and a wrap.
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Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press