If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, why not have it for lunch and dinner, too? It seems the all-day breakfast trend is being embraced by cafes across the UAE, with options appearing at many venues.
Much like the age-old chicken or the egg question, it is unclear whether the birth of the ‘Breakfastarians’ – a term popularised on the internet and in IHOP adverts a few years ago – is the result of restaurants shaking things up in an attempt to attract more customers, or is being driven by diners craving breakfast food all day long.
When the global appetite for breakfasts throughout the day started to grow, the Tom & Serg cafe was one of a handful that decided to test the concept in Dubai.
“We realised there was massive demand for an all-day breakfast,” says Troy Payne, the cafe’s executive chef, who also oversees the menu of sister venues The Sum of Us and Common Grounds. “We looked around at other places in Dubai to find that it wasn’t all that common.
“We believe that breakfast is meant to be relaxing. On weekends especially, people are waking up a lot later and you shouldn’t set time constraints to have breakfast. Food is food – it shouldn’t have to be broken down into when you should eat it. Who says you can’t have ice-cream for breakfast?”
Payne says breakfast dishes are bestsellers, compared with lunch or dinner items, at all his cafes.
“Eggs Benedict is one of the most popular items at The Sum of Us cafe,” he says. “People have it for lunch and dinner, as well.”
He says it all boils down to providing innovative takes on dishes that are tasty, wholesome options at any time of the day.
“Our options aren’t very typical breakfast items, they are versatile, like the Mama Tita’s Spanish Omelette,” he says. “It’s an omelette served with a salad, which you could quite happily have for dinner.”
A Restaurant Industry Forecast survey by the National Restaurant Association in 2015 found that seven out of 10 consumers in the United States wanted restaurants to serve breakfast throughout the day. It noted that millennials were more interested in having breakfast for dinner than any other age group.
Annika Stensson, the NRA’s director of research communications put this trend down to busy lifestyles that are blurring the boundaries between traditional meal periods, and the fact that breakfast dishes tend to be easier on the wallet.
Dubai resident Fatima Mansoor Ahmed says she has noticed many more cafes offering all-day breakfasts.
“Not everyone has the time to make it for an early breakfast,” says the 37-year-old South African expat, who is particularly fond of the breakfast menus at Tom and Serg, Circle Cafe, Raju Omlet and Fraiche Cafe.
“Also, it can be a lighter option for those not looking for a heavy lunch or dinner.”
Ahmed, who is also a food blogger, says eggs can be combined with many ingredients to give breakfast dishes variety.
“Eggs and breakfast meals are often flexible in terms of how they can be served, which allows for a wide range of options,” she says.
One traditional Middle Eastern breakfast dish that is popular with residents all day long is shakshouka: poached eggs in tangy tomato sauce, served in a frying pan. That and eggs Benedict are among the most-snapped meals posted on Instagram.
“The shakshouka is filled with loads of flavourful spices and can be easily varied by adding cheese, meatballs or sausage,” Ahmed says.
Gaganjeet Singh, an auditor who likes the food at Clinton Street Baking Company in Dubai, says that when he craves a hearty breakfast for dinner, the food scene in the UAE does not disappoint.
“People love to eat out at all times of the day,” the 28-year-old says. “Also, people love trying different kinds of food and breaking the norm.
“They also like photogenic food that they can share on social media, and eggs Benedict is a favourite.”
At Tawa Bakery, a gluten-free restaurant in Abu Dhabi, the eggs Benedict and Emirati-style scrambled eggs are popular throughout the day.
“Breakfast is comfort food and when you are out with family and friends, that’s what you crave,” says head chef Joseph Sciberras.
“And often pancakes and French toast, which are typically eaten at breakfast, can make for fantastic dessert options.”
He says whipping up a breakfast dish at any time is not a problem at Tawa, as the team makes everything from scratch using the freshest ingredients.
“We make our waffle batter every morning, and a new batch of hollandaise sauce is prepared every three hours,” he adds.
Jasmine Pereira, an environmental consultant in Dubai, is a frequent all-day breakfast diner.
“Eggs, for me, have long surpassed the barrier of being eaten only for breakfast,” she says. “When opting for an all-day breakfast for lunch, I often tend to switch between sweeter options to a more wholesome meal, such as French toast or full-English breakfast.”
Australian expat Simona Youlten, co-owner of The Living Room Cafe in Abu Dhabi, says that breakfast has a strong sentimental connection for most people. Cafe patrons often come back for steak and eggs, a dish that includes 100 grams of Australian beef tenderloin, alongside eggs and hash browns.
“Breakfast is where you feel at home, a safe option that you are going to enjoy and feel satisfied with,” she says, adding that their breakfast menu continues to expand, with customers’ own creations being added as well.
“If we like their suggestions, we name the dish after them. That’s how the Jacque’s Croissant was created – it’s a croissant with turkey ham, cheese and scrambled eggs. That’s a popular one.”
It’s not only boutique cafes and restaurants that have recognised the business potential of an all-day breakfast. Fast-food chain McDonald’s introduced all-day breakfast this year in an attempt to end sales slumps in several parts of the world. Sales in the US subsequently rose by 5.4 per cent.
Taqado Mexican Kitchen, which has 11 outlets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, also recently introduced an all-day breakfast. Nadine Benchaffai, one of the founders of the restaurant, which specialises in burritos and tacos customised with locally sourced ingredients, says it was a natural addition to their made-to-order menu.
“Most of the items we have on the menu work quite well with eggs and we wanted to attract a completely different customer by offering more combinations,” she says.
New dishes on the menu include spicy chorizo and chill con carne burritos, Mexican hash and omelette, and Huevos Rancheros. This last option, which includes fried eggs on corn tortillas topped with tomato-chill sauce, is a classic Mexican breakfast item. Add rice and guacamole and it makes a fine choice for lunch or dinner as well.
Also fuelling the trend, cafe owners say eggs are becoming the most popular go-to source of protein. They are inexpensive and also have vitamins B2 and B12, plus minerals including zinc and iron. “Eggs are the new protein kick,” says Benchaffai. “They’ve been resurrected as the nutritious-protein and good-fats-packed food for the health-conscious diner.”