The breakfast wars are heating up as chains like Panera and Burger King double down. Here's why executives say it is becoming the most important meal of the day.

PaneraPanera

  • Panera is revamping its breakfast strategy with three new breakfast wraps and updated coffee options.
  • Chains including Burger King, McDonald's, and Dunkin' are all doubling down on breakfast in 2019.
  • The first meal of the day is one of the few areas of growth in the restaurant industry, and it provides more loyal customers than lunch or dinner.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Breakfast is becoming the most important meal of the day for fast-food giants.

On Monday, Panera launched a revamped breakfast menu.

The fast-casual chain added three breakfast wraps to the menu: bacon, egg, and gouda; chipotle chicken with egg, avocado, and peppers; and the vegetarian Mediterranean with egg whites, tomatoes, spinach, and feta. Panera is also revamping its coffee platform, adding new offerings such as cold brew and updating the chain's standard for brewing with new dark and light roast blends.

The chain is hoping to capitalize on customers seeking both convenience and quality in the morning, Dan Wegiel, Panera's chief growth and strategy officer, told Business Insider.

"There are tons of options out there in terms of convenience," Wegiel said. "But, there's a trade off when it comes to quality."

Panera is far from the only chain doubling down on breakfast in 2019.

Burger King is trying to win over coffee lovers with its recently launched BK Café, including a coffee subscription service that allows customers to pay $5 for a month of coffee. Dunkin' is working to build its credibility by rebranding and adding more espresso-based drinks. And, McDonald's is hoping to once again cement its position as the fast-food breakfast champion with its first new breakfast items in more than a decade.

Read more: McDonald's is adding its first new breakfast menu items in more than 15 years as the fast-food breakfast battles heat up

Why the breakfast battles are heating up

donut sticksMcDonald's

One of the biggest reasons that chains are obsessed with breakfast is that it is one of the few times of day when sales are still growing in the restaurant industry. Amid concerns that there are simply too many restaurants open in the US for same-store sales to continue to grow, it seems the breakfast market is not yet oversaturated.

"Breakfast is an increasingly growing day part in our business," José Cil, the CEO of Burger King parent company Restaurant Brands International, recently told Business Insider.

"It's one of the fastest growing day parts for the US and Canada. ... With Burger King, we already have a pretty good, sizable breakfast business, but we think there's a massive opportunity for growth for years to come," Cil continued.

Read more: The new CEO behind Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons reveals his plans for the future of the chains

Breakfast is additionally appealing because of morning customers' uncharacteristic loyalty. While people might want to change up their lunch or dinner routine, at breakfast, people tend to adopt patterns and stick with them.

"It's by far the most habitual day part. ... Once you have someone in a routine, they tend to want to stick with it," Wegiel said.

Chains are taking different approaches to win over these valuable customers.

Digital ordering is crucial, with Burger King recently rolling out a new app and Panera testing "Panera Tap," which allows customers to pour their own cup of coffee and pay via mobile app. New menu items are cropping up at Panera, McDonald's, and Dunkin'. And, as Panera courts customers seeking quality, other chains are hunting down budget shoppers with items like McDonald's $1.29 doughnut sticks and Burger King's $5 coffee subscription - which the chains brags is as cheap as a Starbucks cappuccino.

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