Has the Fast-Food Breakfast Battle Moved to Brunch?

Jack in the Box has been testing a new "brunchfast" menu. Image source: Jack in the Box.

Jack in the Box (NASDAQ: JACK) already has a breakfast menu that it serves all day long, but like most things the also-ran chain does, it's easy to forget.

Featuring croissant sandwiches, breakfast burritos, hash browns, mini-pancakes, and other familiar fare, it's tempting only if you happen to be in a neighborhood without any other choices. It's a menu devoid of anything as iconic as McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) Egg McMuffin or as embarrassingly captivating as the McGriddle.

This is not Yum! Brands' (NYSE: YUM) Taco Bell trying to give its audience a tailored breakfast menu featuring original (albeit sometimes silly) choices. It is a me-too effort designed to appeal to people who find themselves at a Jack in the Box and want breakfast items.

Now, however, the company has a big plan to change that by bringing some of its offbeat charm to morning staples. Jack in the Box wants to change perception and create something new in the way that Taco Bell legitimized the late-night, second-dinner concept by dubbing it the "fourth meal."

The fast-food chain wants to create what it is calling "brunchfast" and is testing the menu -- which includes burgers, eggs, bacon, chicken, and french toast -- in Southern California.

What is brunchfast?

Jack in the Box has filed a U.S. trademark registration for the term "brunchfast," a clear combination of breakfast and brunch, an odd combo given that brunch already involves breakfast and lunch items.

Although the concept itself is a bit silly, calling the new menu items "brunchfast" lets the chain have some fun. It has been testing the concept in about 20 California locations, reported InsideSoCal.com, offering a menu that blends items associated with each day part in clever ways. These include a burger served on a croissant topped with a fried egg, a fried chicken sandwich on an English muffin also topped with bacon and an egg, and an omelet sandwich served on sourdough bread.

Available beverages include sodas, coffee, and a new blood orange fruit cooler. In addition, hash browns and mini-pancakes, which are already on the all-day breakfast menu, are offered as sides. The brunchfast menu is available all day.

Why is Jack in the Box doing this?

While he did not directly name McDonald's, Jack in the BoxCEO Leonard Comma made it clear during the company's Q2 earnings call that its breakfast item sales had been hurt by the fast-food giant's efforts outside of the traditional morning window.

"We had mentioned back when we reported first quarter results that the breakfast items that were being sold outside of that 10:30 to noon timeframe had taken a hit, which we thought was largely due to the rollover from prior year's promotions for Jack in the Box," he said during the call, which Seeking Alpha transcribed. "And it was certainly compounded ... by the aggressive marketing of the breakfast all day promotion from one of our major competitors."

Comma noted, however, that the impact of McDonald's offering had waned and that allowed his company to focus on building share in what could be considered the traditional brunch hours."We are able to isolate it to the 10:30 to noon timeframe and [are] able to think about strategies that would help us to protect that timeframe and restore it going forward," he said.

Will this work?

As a smaller player in the space, Jack in the Box needs to be different. Simply having breakfast on the menu all day used to make a difference, but that stopped being the case when McDonald's started doing the same thing. Similarly, having an offbeat morning menu was an edge (albeit a derivative one), but Taco Bell stole that thunder as well.

With brunchfast, Jack in the Box has a chance to act differently, get some attention, and try to convince people to eat an extra meal. Those strategies have worked for others in the past, and even though the all-day breakfast and breakfast space in general has become very crowded, this new menu should garner some consumer interest.

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Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He is pretty sure he has not eaten at a Jack in the Box in over 20 years. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.