CHICAGO – Restaurants added more than 460 new breakfast items to their menus in 2009, more than in 2007 and 2008 combined, according to Mintel International Ltd. The new menu item introduction stood in stark contrast to another Mintel finding that half of consumers surveyed by the research firm in November 2009 said they are spending less on restaurant breakfasts compared to 2008.

“We see an increasingly competitive market for restaurant breakfast, even though sales have declined,” said Eric Giandelone, director of research for Mintel’s Foodservice unit. “Restaurants are refreshing their breakfast menus, but I believe reduced consumer spending, as well as relatively high unemployment, will limit sales growth over the next year.”

Restaurant breakfast and brunch sales declined 3.4% during the period of 2007 to 2009, according to Mintel. The company that the breakfast category is expected to grow only modestly through 2011.

“To overcome contracting sales, restaurant operators need to be keenly aware of what drives people into restaurants for breakfast,” Mr. Giandelone said. For example, Mintel found people are mostly looking for low prices and convenience on weekdays, while food quality and menu variety are more important to weekend breakfast diners.

“Restaurant operators can also perk up sales by realizing that many diners crave breakfast outside traditional breakfast hours,” Mr. Giandelone said.

The top thing breakfast diners told Mintel they’d like to see more of at restaurants was breakfast served throughout the day and more value meals.