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Once upon a time, McDonald’s did not offer any breakfast: no pancakes, no links, no nothing. Then in 1973, it introduced the Egg McMuffin, and within about 15 years, one-quarter of U.S. consumers were getting their on-the-go breakfasts from the fast food chain. But since that introduction, there has been one persistent problem suffered by night owls and morning laggards: Breakfast stops at 10:30 am sharp. After this time, hungry diners must select a burger or wrap to wake them up, because no restaurants allow them to purchase traditional morning fare.

mcdees2All that may be about to change. McDonald’s has started testing, in limited regions, a “Breakfast After Midnight” menu in some of its 24-hour restaurants. This expansion has been relatively secretive, in that customers have to be in the local store at 2:00 am to learn whether they can get their fix of egg, cheese, sausage, and biscuit. Some reports suggest the test markets appear already in Texas, Delaware, and Illinois (the site of McDonald’s corporate headquarters). In addition, some overseas stores already have the all-day breakfast in place.

For late morning risers everywhere else, the real excitement came when McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson acknowledged, on a national news segment, that expanding the breakfast menu to make it available all day was a real possibility. The demand is clearly there, in that observers have identified breakfast as the biggest potential growth category for the brand, as well as its competitors.

The challenge is capacity. According to one franchise owner, because McDonald’s continues to ask employees to use toasters and griddles to prepare its fast food offerings—rather than faster options such as microwaves—selling both breakfast and dinner items simultaneously would strain the preparation capabilities of stores. Furthermore, McDonald’s has already expanded its menu into other categories, such as wraps and salads. Perhaps adding another entire category of items would overly tax the busy employees.

For young adults rolling out of bed at noon on a Saturday though, such arguments likely have little weight. Ultimately, McDonald’s may be forced to provide what its customers want, exactly when and where they want it.

Source: Ashley Lutz, “McDonald’s Comes Even Closer to Offering a 24-Hour Breakfast,” Business Insider, June 6, 2013