As eating habits change, does breakfast still have traction?
Americans love breakfast. A recent survey indicates that 62% of Americans chose breakfast as their favorite meal of the day. It looks like an opportunity. Kirk Ruoff, Founder and CEO of Turning Points Restaurant, thinks so as he embarks on transforming his award-winning restaurant into a franchise concept. He spoke with The Main Course about his 24-year journey and why now is the time to spread the breakfast cheer to others.
When Ruoff bought Turning Points, it was a failing lunch and dinner establishment. It didn’t take long for him to realize that the dinner crowd wasn’t enough, and he moved on to breakfast and lunch. Within three to six months, Ruoff had a hit on his hands.
Ruoff said he finds diners today are changing their eating behaviors. They don’t always eat three big meals a day and choose breakfast as their starter for the day. Often a hearty breakfast will carry people through to dinner. “This concept of brunch, this meal between breakfast and lunch, is gaining a lot of traction,” Ruoff said.
Even the concept of breakfast is changing. Over the past two years, Ruoff’s Restaurant has begun offering vegan choices and other menu items that people might not have expected during traditional bacon, egg, and pancake hours. It’s about keeping things new and exciting and giving diners a chance to try something they might not be able to do easily at home.
It’s a competitive market, and for any restaurant owner and operator, it’s essential to look for ways, big and small, to differentiate themselves. Ruoff employs a beverage manager to explore new beverage options, find quality beans for his coffee, and create a fun assortment of beverages for kids. Creating a breakfast experience gives the customer a reason to seek out a particular restaurant, and Ruoff now wants to expand his brand beyond the New Jersey area. Turning Points Restaurant currently has 21 locations serving three states (New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.) Ruoff is considering expansion along the East Coast with franchising as the preferred method.
“Looking at our industry and how restaurant managers and people who run restaurants are treated day to day, they typically post 65 to 80 hours a week,” Ruoff said. “They work almost every night. They lack value with their families. A lunch/dinner franchise offers these individuals the opportunity to succeed while achieving a healthy work/life balance.