Excerpt: The smoothie chain Jamba Juice plans to add oatmeal to the menu at its Chicago locations Thursday, the latest sign of how restaurants are trying to give the old-fashioned breakfast food an upscale makeover.
A combination of inexpensive ingredients and a healthy image are prompting more eateries to add or promote oatmeal on their menus. Starbucks Corp. began selling what it bills as "perfect oatmeal" in portable covered bowls this fall. Executives say it is one of the most successful food products the company has introduced. Jamba Juice, owned by Jamba Inc., plans to sell the oatmeal at all of its 749 locations by January as part of a broader effort to expand beyond blended fruit drinks into a breakfast destination.
While overall restaurant sales have been weak, breakfast foods remain a rare bright spot for the industry. Chains that want to get into the breakfast business without making a big investment are turning to oatmeal because it doesn't require elaborate cooking equipment, it has high profit margins and its components don't spoil easily like fresh breakfast foods do.