Hit hard, breakfast brands hope experience is irreplaceable
BY CALLIE EVERGREEN
When COVID-19 hit and dining rooms were shut down, breakfast and brunch brand Another Broken Egg Cafe struggled with how to stay open and keep staff employed. Morning meal customer transactions have suffered the steepest declines during the pandemic, reported The NPD Group, with those transactions falling by 18 percent at major restaurant chains in June.
Prior to shutdowns, takeout business only comprised 2 to 5 percent of sales at Another Broken Egg. The brand attempted multiple menu iterations, family meal kits and even tried expanding into dinner kits during the pandemic.
“We didn’t have any success with that, though our ‘zees were desperate and willing to try things,” said Paul Macaluso, Another Broken Egg’s president and CEO. “We were flexible and tried, but the reality is, what we’re known for and what we’re great at is brunch offerings.”
At their deepest trough, the 60-plus-unit brand’s sales fell 95 percent year over year.
“There was a really bleak period there. At one point, we only had five cafes open—four company stores and one franchisee who stuck it out the whole time,” Macaluso said. “We were determined to keep company stores open because we needed to try some of these things like DoorDash, and we needed stores to test it.”
In less than a week, Another Broken Egg started working with DoorDash. Within three weeks, it was set up with Uber Eats.
“Those third-party delivery systems are getting our brand accessible to people for pickup and delivery, which was huge for us,” Macaluso said.
The brand launched an online ordering system with Olo in about a month and had it up and running at a few select company restaurants. In June, the process of rolling it out to franchisees began.
“We focused our energy on making it as easy as possible for people to order,” Macaluso said. “I think this is actually going to make us stronger in the future as we get back to full dining rooms.”
Another Broken Egg flipped to a limited menu during the takeout-only phase of pandemic shutdowns, but quickly shifted back to its full menu once half its dining rooms were allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity in June. The brand also sells hard alcohol and brunch cocktails, which sets it apart from similar franchises and helped Another Broken Egg coming out of COVID-19.
“Not all of our breakfast competitors have this, but we have full bars in our cafes, and we do a pretty good mix of mimosas and bloody Marys,” Macaluso said. “We’ve seen that spike coming out of this in alcoholic beverage sales. This not only helps the top line but it’s also very profitable.”
Another Broken Egg typically releases four seasonal selections each year, and in June relaunched its summer selections menu with dishes such as creole shrimp benedict and tzatziki tots.
“It’s obvious what people really come to us for. We’re known for being more advanced, culinary-forward with menu items,” Macaluso said. “We have a high level of culinary innovation in our menu and have very indulgent and chef-driven dishes.”
The brand opened six new cafes since January and was up 5 percent in sales going into the pandemic. In June, company stores were still down between 10 to 15 percent. On the franchise side, Macaluso said sales are down between 15 and 25 percent. However, a franchise group with four cafes started to see positive growth at the beginning of June.
“There are pockets of positivity,” Macaluso said. “We’re continuing to see growth in our system, store by store, week by week. We’re seeing things stronger in terms of sales.”
Macaluso is “very optimistic” the adjustments the brand made to align with changes in consumer mindset will help it succeed in the long run. Online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery services are here to stay, and Macaluso is hopeful the full bars will continue to drive dine-in sales.