What McDonald’s is calling 'National breakfast day' is really a hard sell of its breakfast business. This is because despite being launched more than 20 years ago, breakfast still makes up 20 per cent of McDonald’s total sales, even in established markets like Hong Kong and Singapore. In other Asian markets, that number is lower.
“The sheer scale of this regional initiative—5 million free egg McMuffins across 5000 restaurants in over 30 countries in a single morning—reflects our ambition to strengthen our customer base for breakfast across Asia,” Andrew Hipsley, chief brand officer for McDonald’s Asia-Pacific, told Campaign Asia-Pacific via email.
McDonald’s did a test run of the initiative late last year in Indonesia and Malaysia. It also held an eight-week long breakfast giveaway promotion in Japan.
According to Hipsley, such campaigns are designed to introduce more users to breakfast in McDonald's. “Given that more Asians are eating breakfast out more regularly, this represents a significant growth opportunity for us,” he added.
According to a recent report by Elizabeth Friend, Euromonitor analyst for consumer foodservice, breakfast lends itself well to certain categories like fast food and street stalls and kiosks because convenience is such a high priority.
“Busy consumers are often time-poor at the beginning of the day and foodservice given them the opportunity to pick up a quick, inexpensive meal on the way,” she observed. However, she noted that despite this, consumers report that breakfast is the day part in which they are least likely to dine out, according to a survey conducted in 15 major markets including China and Indonesia.
According to the survey, 60 per cent of surveyed consumers dine out for dinner at least twice a week, while just 40 per cent go out for lunch. Even fewer at 30 per cent eat breakfast out twice a week. “This suggests that there are growth opportunities to be had if operators can find ways to encourage these consumers to form new morning habits.”
Friend also suggests that fast-food giants should tailor breakfast strategies to individual market preferences, especially in Asia. “Those markets where consumers are already dining out for breakfast very frequently, such as China or Indonesia offer an opportunity to take greater share by making their breakfast more appealing to local palates.”
She also recommends that in markets like Japan where the majority of consumers report never buying foodservice breakfasts, there is scope to persuade a change of habit.
In an effort to grow its business in Japan, McDonald’s launched a campaign to promote its new breakfast offerings, including a sausage and egg McMuffin for ¥300 (US$3.30). “The campaign is designed to encourage busy consumers to indulge in an inexpensive breakfast treat, as well as draw breakfast traffic away from Japan’s convenience stores.”
Timing is another factor in breakfast consumption, Friend noted. In China, for instance, people tended to have breakfast between 6 a.m and 9 a.m, making up 73 per cent of those who had breakfast out. However, the tail end of breakfast is equally important. Both China and Indonesia show a brief but highly concentrated second wave of breakfast purchases around noon. “This shows a valuable opportunity for operators in those markets to drive additional sales during that time.”
McDonald’s, meanwhile, is leaving no stone unturned. Some days ago, the fast-food giant announced plans to launch an egg-white version of its muffin sandwich in an effort to appeal to health-conscious consumers. That item will go on sale in the US next month.
“We want to demonstrate to our busy consumers in a truly tangible way that we are an affordable and tasty way to start the morning,” said Dave Hoffman, president for McDonald's Asia.