Breakfast Wars: Fast Food Giants Battle for Morning Market Dominance

by Ella

Fast food titans, including McDonald’s (MCD), Wendy’s (WEN), Burger King (QSR), and Taco Bell (YUM), are engaged in a fierce competition for a slice of the breakfast pie.

In a bid to counter declining foot traffic and expand beyond the saturated lunch and dinner markets, breakfast has emerged as a battleground for these industry behemoths.


According to Danilo Gargiulo, an analyst at Bernstein, intense competition is driving these fast food giants to ramp up their efforts to win over morning diners.


With the cost of dining out remaining consistently high, consumers are opting for breakfast as a more affordable indulgence, as noted by Sean Dunlop, an analyst at Morningstar. While a morning McMuffin sale may not necessarily cannibalize an evening Big Mac sale, consumers may opt for fast food breakfast options instead of more expensive sit-down brunches.


A successful breakfast strategy has the potential to attract new visitors to fast food establishments and complement their core offerings, asserts Gargiulo.


Currently, McDonald’s holds the lion’s share of the breakfast market. In 2023, the Golden Arches accounted for 35.4% of all visits to fast food, quick service restaurants, breakfast joints, coffee shops, bakeries, and dessert shops between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Starbucks followed with a 15.9% market share, Dunkin’ Donuts with 14.0%, and Burger King with 4.5%.

Now, Wendy’s is making a concerted effort to catch up. CEO Kirk Tanner highlighted breakfast as “one of the most compelling levers” to boost sales and margins during a recent earnings call. The chain is investing $55 million in advertising across the US and Canada to drive morning sales and recently introduced a Cinnabon pull-apart cup in February to mark its four-year presence in the breakfast arena.

Dunlop emphasizes that breakfast items contribute significantly to a restaurant’s revenue as they are truly incremental to the brand. With lower staffing requirements and cheaper ingredients such as bread and eggs, breakfast offerings represent a lucrative opportunity for fast food chains to bolster their bottom line.



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