It's a good idea--as two smaller chains already know.
San Diego-based Jack in the Box, which in 1969 introduced the first breakfast sandwich, has offered all-day breakfast "for years and years," a spokeswoman says. The lineup includes croissant and biscuit sandwiches, a breakfast burrito, and two types of French toast sticks.
The spokeswoman wouldn't disclose the percentage of overall sales that breakfast items account for. However, she says breakfast all day attracts a broader demographic--beyond fast food's prized 18- to 34-year-old males.
"The products we've introduced in recent years [among them a ciabatta breakfast sandwich] have broad appeal that goes beyond the typical fast-food user," the spokeswoman says. Jack in the Box has about 2,000 restaurants nationwide.
Sonic Drive-Ins, the 3,000-unit Oklahoma City-based chain, has offered everything on its menu (not just breakfast) at any time of day since 2003. The company uses breakfast for limited-time offers. A current special is the Spicy Southwest Burrito with chipotle sauce and crispy jalapeno strips.
"The flexibility has made customers very happy," says Todd Townsend, chief marketing officer at Sonic, although he declined to give specific sales figures or percentages.
Breakfast contributes to both sales and profits at both chains, says Walter Butkus, principal at Restaurant Research LLC, a Redding, Conn.-based firm that tracks chain-restaurant performance.
Extending the breakfast menu "gives customers more choices, more options, and that's what this industry is about," Butkus says. Breakfast all day also appeals to shift workers who might want breakfast when it's traditional dinnertime. "America is going 24 hours a day," Butkus says. "Not everyone eats breakfast at 7, 8 in the morning."
As for Oak Brook, IL-based McDonald's, the strategy "makes sense," considering breakfast accounts for about 25 percent of sales, Butkus says. He adds that Columbus, Ohio-based Wendy's is also testing breakfast all day for possible rollout in 2007.