(Nov. 26) Some people think breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s certainly becoming increasingly important for the folks at McDonald’s.

McDonald’s USA spokeswoman Danya Proud said breakfast accounts for roughly 30% of the Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain’s U.S. sales, and president Don Thompson recently told AdAge.com that breakfast business has increased 45% in the past few years.

McDonald’s introduced a breakfast burrito, which includes onions and peppers, more than a decade ago, and the company has been testing a Sausage McSkillet burrito. Proud said that breakfast item, which also which includes onions and peppers, will see a wider launch by the end of the year.

The fast-food giant hopes more early-morning eaters will circle its drive-throughs and plans to introduce premium coffee drinks during the next 18 months.

Thompson told AdAge.com that the drinks are expected to add $125,000 a year to the bottom line of each of McDonald’s 13,700 U.S. locations.

That could mean more sales of fruit and walnut salads, fruit and yogurt parfaits and Apple Dippers, which Proud said are popular items during morning hours as well as other times of the day.

McDonald’s has been highlighting Apple Dippers for a few months in a television commercial that shows a young boy dip-ping his sliced apples to the tune of “The Cha-Cha Slide.”

McDonald’s was one of 11 food companies that announced last year that it will put restrictions on youth marketing. The companies followed through with specifics in July.

Chief among McDonald’s promises is committing 100% of its advertising aimed at children to healthy meals.

Proud said McDonald’s ads targeting children will focus on chicken nuggets, apple slices or low-fat milk.

McDonald’s stock was trading at $58.51 Nov. 20 on the New York Stock Exchange.

OTHER CHAINS’ EFFORTS

It isn’t the only hamburger joint spending advertising dollars to promote healthy menu options.

Wendy’s International Inc., Dublin, Ohio, ran national television ads in October and November highlighting options in its combo meals.

Spokesman Bob Bertini said allowing consumers to replace french fries with a baked potato, side salad, Caeser salad, manda-rin orange slices or a small chili in combo meals has helped increase sales since the chain created that ordering option in 2004.

“We think it’s revolutionized the way people think about combo meals from quick-service restaurants,” he said. “It plays to our strengths and highlights the variety of menu options we provide. It’s helped us attract people that otherwise wouldn’t order a combo meal.”

Bertini declined to discuss sales related to the menu options.

Wendy’s announced in April that it had formed a committee to explore strategic options for the chain, including a possible sale. Bloomberg reported Nov. 14 that Triarc Cos. made an offer to buy Wendy’s, but the bid was below the $37 to $41 a share that investor Nelson Peltz had said he would consider in July. The amount of the cash and stock offer was not disclosed.

The company’s stock dropped to a 52-week low of $28.47 after Triarc’s lower-than-expected offer. Wendy’s said in a Nov. 16 news release that the committee was “continuing its review of the company’s strategic options.”

The stock was at $27.52 during mid-day trading Nov. 21 on the New York Stock Exchange, well below its 52-week high of $42.22. Elsewhere, Burger King Holdings Inc., Miami, announced a secondary offering of 18 million shares of its common stock Nov. 14 at a price of $25 per share.

Burger King said it would not receive any proceeds from the sale of the shares, which are being offered by private equity funds controlled by TPG Capital, the Goldman Sachs Funds and Bain Capital Partners.

Burger King stock was at $24.96 Nov. 21 during mid-day trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has a 52-week high of $27.93 and a low of $17.50.

Burger King spokesman Keva Silversmith said Nov. 13 that the company had not yet started a test of the Fresh Apple Fries it announced plans for in September. Silversmith said a test of the red apple slices — cut to look like french fries — is sched-uled to launch in January.

Fast-food breakfast menus call for more produce
Burger King’s Frypod with apple “fries.”