What Americans Eat For Breakfast

What are the common breakfast foods in the U.S.?  

Many say a good breakfast gets your day off on the right foot. There are many common breakfast foods Americans eat before going to work, on their way to work, or at work, depending on their schedule. I will share some common foods I have seen people eat for breakfast at home, in hotels, and at work for breakfast.Keep in mind, most of my observations are based on what I have experiences in cities in the northeast (Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Maryland, etc.). While many of these options may be common in other parts of the U.S., some may vary based on region. 

What Americans Eat for Breakfast at Home 
Weekday breakfast:
cereal & milk 
Because people are very busy in the morning before going to work, it’s most likely working professionals won’t be cooking a hot breakfast at home. Most Americans may start with their morning joe (coffee).  

Following that, if they eat breakfast, they may, eat things picture to the right, like:
  • cold cereal (cornflakes, and others)
  • hot cereal (sweet oatmeal, cream of rice, grits, or something simple and quick)
  • toast with butter and jelly
  • bagels with cream cheese
  • yogurt
  • fruit
  • others
What Americans Eat for Breakfast in Hotels 
Most business professionals and expats in the U.S. stay at hotels. Most mid range priced hotels like Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, Country Inn & Suites, and others, would have a breakfast buffet. The options include: 

Self-Serve Breakfast Buffet Bar
Typical at American Hotels

Sausage, scrambled eggs, and
biscuit with gravy.
  • Coffee, tea, juice (canned, not fresh), milk
  • Do it yourself (DIY) pancake
    machine at Holiday Inn Express.
  • Yogurt flavored with fruits, fresh fruits (apple, orange, banana)
  • Bread, bagels, English muffins, biscuits (toaster is available, customer toasts their own)
  • Cinnamon buns, donuts and/or Danish/pastries
  • Cold cereal with milk or hot cereal (oatmeal)
  • Eggs, sausage, bacon, sausage gravy (Though hot, they are not really fresh made, in most cases. Pictured above.)
  • Waffles and/or pancakes (These are hot, but self-made in a pancake or waffle machine, as pictured to the right) 
Keep in mind: In these settings, everything is self serve. Hotel staff do clean tables in between sittings, and fill the foods on the buffet, but they do not serve you foods, make the pancakes or waffles in the machine or make your coffee. It is the customer (guest’s) responsibility to get their own food, make their own coffee, and clean up after themselves. While the staff would clean your plates and empty cups off the table, the better etiquette is to clean up after yourself.

What Americans Eat On the Way to Work
Egg McMuffin from McDonalds.
Biscuit with egg and sausage.
Eating while driving to work is common in the U.S. Working professionals may stop at a fast-food drive through like McDonalds, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks or others. Coffee, donuts, bagels or breakfast sandwiches are common. 

Breakfast sandwiches could be a biscuit cut with eggs and/or meat in the middle. Or, a croissant with eggs and/or meat in the middle. Cheese can also be added if you like it.
Whatever one may choose to eat while commuting to work is easy to eat by holding it in one hand. Eating while driving should not include food that is eaten with cutlery or very messy foods.

Learn how to order at a fast food restaurant by walking in or using the drive thru

What Americans Eat in Restaurants
Eating breakfast in a restaurant before going to work probably is not common. I rarely have seen this in the Northeast due to the on-the-go culture. People may have sit-down lunches or dinners in a restaurant, but weekday breakfast outings to restaurants are not so common.
If one were to eat breakfast in a restaurant, typical Western continental breakfast foods are common: 
A typical breakfast with scrambled eggs,
breakfast potatoes and a biscuit.
  • Eggs of any kind, some with meat filling or vegetable filling. Cheese is optional.
  • Toast, bagels or English muffins.
  • Breakfast potatoes, hash browns or some version of potatoes as a side with eggs.
  • Pancakes or waffles with maple syrup (sweet sauce from tree)
  • Meat sides: sausage, bacon, ham (ham is more often seen in omelettes)
  • French toast
    Spreading cream cheese
    on a bagel.
  • Biscuit and gravy. While this option is more of a southern food, some restaurants in the northeast serve it. A biscuit is a thick, sourish bread. This is cut in half, and flour sausage gravy is poured over the top. Some restaurants do not add the sausage in the gravy and some do.
  • For drinks: coffee, tea, hot chocolate, hot apple cider (in season), milk, juice, others

Phrases used in restaurants. 
Behavior expectations and mannerisms in American restaurants

What Americans Eat for Breakfast at Work
A typical breakfast food display
at a morning conference.
Professionals from some cultures find this category strange! Depending on the office, some offices may hold breakfast meetings. Breakfast meetings are typically business meetings; have an agenda and happen first thing in the morning (9 on the dot). In my experience, team mates are asked on a rotating basis to volunteer to bring in foods and drinks for the meeting. Foods include bagels, donuts or fruits. If you find a bagel to be too big, it’s ok to cut it in half length-way, and share it with a colleague. Most would spread butter, cream cheese, jam or peanut butter on it. Usually there is no toast in the office to toast it. Most eating bagels in restaurants or at home may toast it.
The other area you may see breakfast being served in a work-related situation is at a conference. Often conferences, workshops and training programs start first-thing in the morning- 8:30 or 9am. Often, outside the training room or meeting area, a table will display some of the foods already mentioned: bagels, donuts, pastries, fruits. Usually there is no hot, cooked food at these events. Drinks like coffee, tea, hot chocolate or juice are also available. In most early morning training programs I have been to, participants collect drinks and food, take them to their table and slowly eat them throughout the session. Often eating during meetings and training programs is tricky. Most of us tend to make sure we are not eating anything too crunchy or messy (with crumbs).

Summing it Up
Americans may seem to prefer sweet and cold breakfast foods. While not all breakfast portions are small, many would be during a weekday. While not all breakfast menu items are sweet (like the stuffed, fruit french toast, to the right) or cold, such as eggs and toast, many may of these are not typical on a weekday. One thing you can bank on is that American breakfast foods won't be as spicy as Indian breakfast foods, that's for sure!


Author, Jennifer Kumar, works with your offshore teams to bridge the culture tip in and out of the boardroom. For a U.S. culture preparation program tailored to your business need, contact us today.

Related Posts: 

American Meal Times
Money Saving Tips in U.S. Hotels

Picture credits:
Laptop with coffee & cereal: eltpics@flickr
Holiday Inn Breakfast Buffet:  Holiday Inn Express, San Jose @ Flickr
Make your own plate, Greg Chow @flickr 
Pancake maker: Haydn Blackey@ flickr
Egg McMuffin: Jen R@flickr
Breakfast platter: Jennfier Kumar
Spreading cream cheese on a bagel: Quinn Dombrowski@ flickr
Conference food table: Aaron Hockley@ flickr
French toast: Jennifer Kumar

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