CHICAGO – In recent years, the extremely competitive and overcrowded breakfast market has been very challenging for US restaurants. In order to generate increased breakfast sales, more restaurant operators must offer consumers a healthy breakfast – 66% of diners say they are interested in healthier breakfast options, according to Mintel research.

Breakfast sales are expected to rebound in 2011, resulting in 4.1% growth. Adding to the drive for healthier breakfast menu options is the finding that 39% of restaurant diners claim breakfast options at their local eateries are too unhealthy. What’s more, two-fifths of consumers who eat breakfast out (39% on weekdays and 40% on weekends) say healthy breakfast options are the leading factors in choosing a place to buy and eat breakfast.

As the new menu labeling laws go into effect, expect the demand for better-for-you menu options to continue, said Eric Giandelone, Mintel’s director of foodservice research. "Once customers see how much fat and calories are in their favorite breakfast foods, they will be more inclined to try a healthier alternative, and restaurant operators should adjust their menus accordingly," he advised.

While 43% of restaurant users say they rarely have time to eat breakfast at home during the week, 50% say it's too time-consuming to stop for breakfast at a restaurant. Almost half of diners say convenience is an important selection dining feature when eating breakfast at a restaurant.

Popular breakfast menu items vary by the day of the week, Mintel's research also discovered. On weekdays, breakfast sandwiches are the most popular with 42% of diners, while platter meals are the items of choice on the weekends with 43% of restaurant patrons.