By Sourish Bhattacharyya
FOR THE second year in succession, McDonald's celebrated National Breakfast Day, which is its own invention, on Monday, March 24, by handing out thousands of McMuffins gratis to early-bird customers at designated outlets. The five in Delhi-NCR even test-marketed the idea of an all-day breakfast served from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., taking a leaf out of similar packages now offered by five-star hotels to the cater to the requirements of the many body clocks of world-travelling international patrons.
Out-of-home breakfast may seem to be an idea that is alien to India (why would anyone want to have breakfast at a McDonald's when you can dig aloo parantha or dosai at home?), but as the demographics of our cities change, the trend seems to be catching on.
|A McDonald's Breakfast Favourite:|
Sausage Egg McMufffin. The QSR
chain can draw solace from the
success of the breakfast offerings
of standalone restaurants
Actually, it is not as foreign to our culture as it may seem at first glance. The breakfast offerings of Saravana Bhavan, Murugan's Idli and MTR are established favourites; the crispy stuffed paranthas of Murthal dhabas continue to attract Delhiites by the carload at breakfast time; the popularity of jalebi-and-hot creamy milk treats at places as varied as Jodhpur, Lucknow and Varanasi shows no signs of diminishing; and Purani Dilli's bedmi-aloo is worth a trip to Chandni Chowk, especially on a Sunday.
McDonald's is simply tapping into this market, and if the following at home of its Egg and Chicken Sausage McMuffin and pancakes bathed in molten butter and maple syrup is any indication (though my personal favourite is the McEgg Burger, which I recommend strongly to all!), then it must be succeeding. Restaurateurs offering breakfast share the fast-food chain's confidence in this segment of the organised restaurant market, or what its spokesman, Rajesh Maini, calls the "massification of breakfast".
The All American Diner at Habitat World took the lead about 15 years ago by introducing a breakfast offering. Today, according to Old World Hospitality's F&B Director Rakesh Anand, as many as 175-200 people daily have the Diner's breakfast between 7 and 11 a.m., and the number goes up to 250-300 a day for the weekend breakfast (in the summer months) or brunch (in the winter) buffet laid out on the lawns.
Most of the people opting for the weekday breakfast option are Lodi Garden walkers; Habitat World has 58 guest rooms, but not more than 15-20 of the guests come down for breakfast, for most of them prefer to have it served in the comfort of their room. The rest of the breakfast guests are residents of Golf Links next door, students unwinding after all-nighters and professionals working in offices in the neighbourhood. Anand, in fact, claims that it was the Diner that popularised the idea of breakfast meetings.
Families and specialised groups, such as those devoted to cycling or to burning Harley Davidson rubber, dominate the weekend turnout. The only flip side of the business, Anand points out, is that "breakfast is the most difficult service in terms of human behaviour". Apparently, if you are doing breakfast shift, you get to know all about people getting up from the wrong side of the bed. "That explains why for breakfast shift we only have cheerful, non-intrusive staff who are sensitive to guest feelings," adds Anand.
At Smoke House Deli, Khan Market, whose breakfast menu matches that of the All American Diner in both variety and quality, the morning turnout can be split into two time bands: 25-30, mostly expats on their way to work, between 8:15 and 9-9:30, and another 20-25, mostly desi, opt for a "lazy breakfast" between 9:30 and 11.
Sharing this information, Sid Mathur, F&B Director of Impresario Hospitality & Entertainment, the company that owns Smoke House Deli, said the out-of-home breakfast market has been growing for three reasons: "A lot of people, especially young professionals living away from their families, don't have full-time help at home; people's tastes have changed -- they're moving away from paranthas; and young double-income couples are increasingly finding it more convenient to eat out."
Well, paranthas are no longer hot in this market segment. At Smoke House Deli, Eggs Benedict is the reigning favourite. McDonald's, then, has a good reason to be confident about the future of the Egg and Sausage McMuffin.