McDonald’s is trying all-day breakfast—again

Herb Peterson, creator of the Egg McMuffin, would be proud.
Herb Peterson, creator of the Egg McMuffin, would be proud.
Image: AP/John Hayes
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McDonald’s is planning to test all-day breakfast at some locations in California starting in April, keeping the McGriddles and hash browns coming all day instead of cutting off breakfast orders at 10:30 am.

This isn’t McDonald’s first attempt at frying up breakfast past the early morning. The company has been dreaming of serving all-day breakfast at least as far back as 2006, when then-CEO Jim Skinner told a group of analysts that his buddies kept asking him why they couldn’t get their favorite breakfast items all day.

In fact, so many people have been asking McDonald’s about all-day breakfast that the fast food chain added it to its list of frequently asked questions, which are featured on its website. The obstacle, the company says, is one of logistics:

Here’s the thing: it comes down to the sheer size of kitchen grills. They simply don’t have the room for all of our menu options at one time — especially considering we use our grill to prepare many items on our breakfast menu.

So what’s changed to get McDonald’s griddle hot on all-day breakfast again?

It’s the same trend that has Starbucks, Taco Bell, and other competitors moving into the morning market in a big way: America’s new habit of eating breakfast out instead of making it at home, and the corresponding uptick in breakfast sales at restaurants. According to market research firm NPD, restaurant visits by US consumers at lunchtime and dinnertime have been waning, but visits at breakfast have been on the rise for the past three years.

Of course, none of this on its own proves that people want breakfast past breakfast time. But if Britons will eat a burger for breakfast, who’s to say Americans won’t eat an Egg McMuffin for dinner?

“We know our customers love McDonald’s breakfast and they tell us they’d like to enjoy it beyond the morning hours,” McDonald’s said in a statement confirming it will test all-day breakfast “at select restaurants in the San Diego area.”

If fast food breakfast has indeed reached a tipping point, influencing what customers want to eat during other times of the day, then the sales potential here for McDonald’s is undeniable—and no doubt very welcome for a company that suffered a 15% drop in profit last year. The question is whether the chain can finally make enough room on its griddles to cook both eggs and burgers, at the same time.