A number of players in the bakery café segment are beefing up their food offerings in efforts to broaden their appeal during breakfast — the only major daypart that’s growing these days — while some are seeking to improve their competitiveness during lunch.

Au Bon Pain is doing both. At breakfast, the 310-unit chain is introducing its answer to the Cronut — the doughnut-croissant hybrid by New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel that has inspired many imitators.

The CroisBun, available through May 4, is a flaky sweet roll available in Sweet Cheese and Strawberry flavors. The item is part of a spring lineup of limited-time offers.

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For lunch, Au Bon Pain is emphasizing Asian flavors. The chain uses all-natural chicken marinated in ginger and teriyaki in two light preparations: a salad with romaine lettuce, Napa cabbage, edamame, cucumbers, carrots and almonds with sesame ginger dressing, and a wrap with sesame seeds, romaine, Asian slaw, edamame, cucumbers and wasabi sauce in a whole wheat tortilla. The menu also includes a pureed Carrot Ginger Soup with onion, celery and a touch of honey.

For dessert or as a snack, the chain is offering Raspberry Rugelach, a flaky Jewish pastry, and Mini Cranberry Almond Macaroons. The latter, traditionally made without wheat flour, is a favorite dessert during the Jewish holiday of Passover, which falls on April 14-22 this year.

Starbucks has expanded its breakfast offerings to appeal to a wider array of customers with two new vegetarian options and an indulgent item, bringing its total number of breakfast sandwiches to eight. It also has revamped an existing sandwich to improve its nutritional profile.  

The new sandwiches are:

• Slow-Roasted Ham & Swiss: Served with an egg on a croissant bun

• Vegetable & Fontiago: A vegetarian option with egg, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and caramelized onions with melted aged Fontiago cheese, served on multigrain ciabatta

• Egg & Cheddar: A vegetarian sandwich served on multigrain toast.

The chain, which operates more than 11,000 units nationwide, also has revamped its Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich. The item, made with cage-free eggs, is now served on a thinner organic wheat English muffin. At 230 calories, it has the fewest calories of the chain’s breakfast sandwiches, and it also provides a second option for people who prefer cage-free eggs. An existing sandwich, the Spinach & Feta Breakfast Wrap, is also made with cage-free eggs.

Starbucks has retained its Sausage & Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich, with sausage, egg and aged Cheddar on a toasted English muffin, as well as two sandwiches with premium cues: A Parmesan frittata with bacon and aged Gouda or ham and Cheddar, both served on an artisan roll that is similar to ciabatta.

Dunkin’ Donuts also is expanding its breakfast offerings to appeal to lovers of both light and indulgent items. The 10,800-unit chain has added a Sliced Turkey Breakfast Sandwich to its DDSMART menu of healthful offerings. The sandwich has three slices of turkey, an egg and a slice of reduced-fat Cheddar cheese on multigrain flatbread. Dunkin’ Donuts also added a whole wheat bagel at the beginning of the year.

For diners looking for something a bit more luxurious, Dunkin’ Donuts has introduced an Eggs Benedict Breakfast Sandwich made with Black Forest ham, egg and a Hollandaise-flavored spread, served on an English muffin.

Although the Eggs Benedict Breakfast Sandwich speaks to indulgent customers, it has only 300 calories, about the same as the Sliced Turkey Breakfast Sandwich.

Einstein Bros. and Peet's

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Einstein Bros. Bagels is offering items for customers looking to cut calories, as well as those seeking premium offerings.

The 685-unit chain has introduced its Thintastic bagel, which has 35-percent fewer calories than its regular bagel and is available in plain, whole wheat and everything varieties.

It also added several premium items. For Lent, it added a Honey Smoked Salmon sandwich, served on a bagel with tomato-cucumber relish and an onion-and-chive schmear. It’s being marketed at breakfast and lunch.

The chain has also introduced new premium bagel egg sandwiches. The new Applewood Bacon & Cheddar Sandwich features bacon that is 85-percent thicker than what the chain used previously, as well as a new seasoning mix for its scrambled eggs. Its new Santa Fe Turkey-Sausage Egg Sandwich features scrambled eggs with turkey sausage, melted pepper Jack cheese and a jalapeño-salsa shmear.

Peet’s Coffee & Tea is also offering new food items, but only in its core market of Northern California, where about a third of its approximately 460 locations are located.

The menu, which focuses on the lunch and snack dayparts, was developed by Arnold Eric Wong, who has worked in and owned many restaurants in the San Francisco area. He is using some of his own distinctive recipes for flourishes such as pumpkin seed pesto aïoli and fig balsamic vinaigrette. The meat comes from Columbus Distributing, which Wong said sources from smaller operators and cooks in smaller batches.

“They don’t over-process, which is really important to me,” Wong said.

Peet’s Northern California locations now offer:

• Herb Roasted Turkey Sandwich: Made with slow-cooked turkey, Monterey Jack cheese and pumpkin seed pesto aïoli

• Super Greens & Kale Salad: Made with a green mix including chard, beet greens and different types of kale, mostly sourced locally, with Greek feta cheese and fig balsamic vinaigrette

• Black Lentil Salad: With Greek feta and red wine vinaigrette

• Quinoa Salad: Made with rainbow quinoa, roasted red peppers and herb vinaigrette

• Fruit Bowl: With an emphasis on berries, but also with pineapple, grapes and melon, depending on the season. Wong said each Peet’s location gets fruit deliveries five days a week.

• Cheese and Fruit Box: With aged Dubliner Irish Cheddar, Monterey pepper Jack and Danish brie served with apples, roasted almonds and organic rice crackers.

• Hummus & Carrots: With hummus produced in Wong’s facility and carrot chips.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary