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Bring on the Bacon

These days, breakfast is the sunny side of the food business.

In restaurants nationwide, the skillets are out and the battle is on for what might truly be the most important meal of the day. Consumers are eating out for breakfast to accommodate their busy lifestyles, and restaurateurs seeking to counteract rising labor, food and real estate costs are capitalizing on the early part of the day, says Aaron Allen, founder and CEO of Quantified Marketing Group, a marketing and PR firm for the restaurant industry. Estimated by Packaged Facts to increase from $65 billion currently to $83 billion in 2015, breakfast sales are heating up.

Starbucks is rolling out a line of upscale breakfast sandwiches, Wendy's is refocusing its breakfast efforts and McDonald's has launched a "Breakfast Dollar Menu" in more than 20 U.S. markets. "Everyone recognizes that breakfast is where it's at right now," says Chris Mann, 35, a McDonald's owner/operator who introduced the new breakfast menu at his Baltimore location in 2006.

Meanwhile, higher-end restaurants are competing on their own terms. China Grill in Chicago specializes in Asian-inspired cuisine but also serves up an American-style breakfast. Last year, it enjoyed an almost 80 percent increase in the number of its breakfast customers by adding a breakfast buffet and extending its morning hours.

Breakfast is even finding its way onto dinner plates. Whether eggs are poached or coddled, Bill Telepan, founder of fashionable New York City restaurant Telepan, doesn't consider a dinner menu complete without egg dishes. He says, "People are using [eggs] in ways that are pretty creative for dinner."

As hot as breakfast is, there's still room for more chefs in the kitchen. "You don't want to be better than the competition," advises Allen. "You want to be considered the only one that does what you do." Think about catering to a business clientele with upscale d├ęcor and Wi-Fi to accomodate meetings. And provide efficient service for diners on the run. You may just find that breakfast is your cup of tea.

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This article was originally published in the June 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bring on the Bacon.

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