Pro Tips for Profitable Power Breakfasts
Three industry vets share best practices and insights.
Ask someone what a power breakfast is, and you’ll likely receive one of two answers. The cinematic definition is executive-level professionals negotiating a high-stakes deal in a restaurant, where the setting and the food take a backseat to business. But ask a chef to define a power breakfast, and you might hear something closer to the kitchen.
“I think a power breakfast is one packed with lots of fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients,” says John Brand, executive chef of Hotel Emma in San Antonio. “I try to incorporate ancient grains, vegetables, and superfoods into breakfast dishes to give guests a boost to start their day. It could also be a dish high in clean protein and fiber, and a conscious attempt not to load up on refined carbs, which can cause insulin to spike and energy to drop.”
Brand successfully sells a variety of power breakfast items on his morning menu at Supper, Hotel Emma’s main restaurant, as do two others we interviewed: Bryan Podgorski, executive chef at Kimpton Hotel Palomar Los Angeles-Beverly Hills, where breakfast is served at its Double Take restaurant; and Chase Underwood, restaurant manager of Rosswood at River’s Edge Hotel & Spa in Portland, Oregon. Here the three offer strategies for executing profitable power breakfasts.
All three we talked to say the majority of their breakfast menus feature a mix of traditional (two eggs, any style) and indulgent (waffles, pancakes, bacon, sausage) because those are the items that sell consistently. So when it comes to power breakfasts, anywhere from 20% to 30% of the menu should be enough to satisfy those looking to start their day seeking superfoods.
“The decadent items are still the bigger sellers. Of all the meal periods, breakfast is the one where people tend to eat the same regardless of where they are. But there’s about 30% of the market looking for a healthy alternative, and we give them lots of choices,” says Podgorski.
Foodies searching for the next trendy item to latch onto (then dismiss as passé), regard avocado toast as ancient history. However, from a business standpoint, avocado toast is money in the bank. All three of our subjects say avocado toast is at or near the top-selling item overall on their breakfast menus, and the low cost to produce it means this healthy dish consistently turns a healthy profit.
“Hands down, avocado toast is our number-one seller. It outsells everything else on my breakfast menu four-to-one,” Brand says. “We use toasted ciabatta with smashed avocado, arugula, tomato Provençal, and a poached egg on top. It’s so simple and delicious.”
The avocado toast at Double Take features avocado mousse, diced Hass avocado, spicy radish, and preserved lemon on seven-grain bread, with an optional poached egg on top.
At Rosswood, avocado toast comes with regionally sourced vegetables for additional nutritional impact. “We use sliced seven-grain bread from a nearby bakery in Portland, and we add thinly sliced avocado topped with lemon juice, sea salt, and Aleppo pepper, along with two poached eggs on the side. We serve it with a mixed greens salad using produce from Sauvie Island just north of us,” notes Underwood.
Another profitable power breakfast staple is the smoothie. From a culinary standpoint, it can be updated seasonally when certain ingredients are at their peak, and those that sell well can become permanent fixtures on morning menus.
“Smoothies are quick, easy, and palatable, and it doesn’t take a ton of time to consume, which is great for guests that want a power breakfast on the go,” Brand says. “My favorite is almond butter, spinach, and banana with a shot of espresso. It’s tasty and you feel satiated. We also make a turmeric and hemp-heart smoothie with banana and ginger, and it’s a brilliant yellow, so it looks and tastes like sunshine in the morning. I’m always experimenting with ingredients, and I’ve recently been adding chia seeds and tahini into some of our newer smoothies.”
Smoothies also can be an effective way to motivate meeting groups in the morning, according to Podgorski. “For banquets and private events, mini and full-sized smoothies are popular,” he says. “We feature whatever fruit is in season at the moment, and we’re asked to include alternative milks as well, like soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk, which is something that’s newer on the market and completely dairy- and nut-free.”
Ancient grains are another ingredient with a health halo around it and can be incorporated into traditional breakfast items to bring those dishes up to power breakfast standards on menus.
“Oatmeal is great, but a whole bowl of it can be too much. For years I’ve seen people order oatmeal and never finish it because it’s too dense. So I make a 50/50 oatmeal and quinoa bowl, where I cook the oatmeal and quinoa separately, then mix them together with poached fruit. I cook the oatmeal in apple cider versus water or milk which gives it a lot more flavor, and the quinoa adds nutrition and protein. I want guests to know quinoa can be used for more than just salads,” says Brand.
At Double Take, the Grain Bowl is among the top-sellers overall for breakfast. “Our Grain Bowl is nutrient-dense with a variety of textures and tastes. It can change every few days depending on what we find at the farmers market. We start with pearl barley, then add a mix of roasted wild mushrooms, and market greens, which can be turnip greens, beet greens, or collard greens depending on what’s in season. We then add pickled red onions and a green harissa sauce—which adds a nice herbaceousness to the dish—and put a soft poached egg on top of that,” Podgorski says.
Customers choosing a power breakfast also want to know what ingredients were sourced locally, so even if a restaurant doesn’t list what purveyors supplied the superfoods on the menu, our experts advise educating staff to explain where the components come from to enhance the experience for that health-conscious demographic.
“We’re right on the banks of the Willamette River, and very close to Sauvie Island and the Columbia River, so we want our guests to know what they’re eating comes from right outside our doors,” says Underwood. “For example, our smoked salmon comes from Cascade Locks on the Columbia River, and that dish is served with a side salad sourced from Sauvie Island and low-fat cream cheese we make here in our kitchen using fresh chives, dill, chervil, and lemon zest.”
Underwood also observes an emerging trend in power breakfasts today: putting a sensible amount of food on the plate, where value lies in the quality of the meal, not the quantity. “People are understanding that when food is viewed as fuel, moderation is key,” he says. “We’ve seen a reduction in portion sizes, but there’s no sacrifice of flavor, and the nutrient density of a dish becomes the focus.”
This feature originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Hotel F&B. It is one of our Reader Favorites and is updated regularly.