For as long as I’ve been reading travel websites, one of the biggest advantages of having status with a hotel chain was getting free breakfast. At first, I wondered what all the fuss was about. I mean, I’d received free breakfast at hotels before. They consisted of some stale bagels, bread and pastries, powered eggs, flimsy bacon, one flavor of yogurt, a vat of oatmeal and maybe some unripe bananas. Oh, don’t forget the really bad coffee.
The breakfast rooms were usually packed at the normal eating times and the food wasn’t refreshed nearly enough. Why were people so excited with this benefit?
Broadening My Horizons
As I traveled more, I discovered that some hotels have nicer breakfast spreads. When we stayed at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York, we had access to the lounge where they served breakfast in the morning and snacks in the afternoon. The atmosphere was nicer, we had real silverware and china plates but it was the same basics. The bagels weren’t stale, just bland. The eggs weren’t powdered, just overcooked from sitting in a chafing dish. The coffee was drinkable, but still not fresh. There were additions of cold cuts and cheeses but nothing more than Boar’s Head from the deli.
Breakfast at the Hyatt House in Raleigh, NC was surprisingly good. Items were fresh and service was prompt and pleasant. It was like we were eating in a restaurant and not side room off the hotel lobby. The spread at the Sheraton Times Square was great for our needs (read: we didn’t have to go outside the hotel in February and freeze just to get a coffee and bagel). I still wouldn’t put any of these breakfasts on the list of life altering experiences.
I know that in other areas of the world, breakfast is more important. Travelers from the United Kingdom will look for hotels which include a full breakfast every morning, but I just can’t see how you cat eat a full English breakfast and then do anything else that morning. When we were in Australia, our hotels had a full spread set up (including Vegemite, EW!) When we visited Paris, our hotel had a breakfast setup where you were required to sit down and have the waiters bring the items from the buffet to your table. When we were in Salzburg, our first hotel, Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron, had a full buffet in the main building every morning (we went more to see the rooms that inspired The Sound of Music than for the food).
However, when we stayed at the Goldener Hirsch (one of my most memorable hotels ever) we went for breakfast at the Starbucks across the street from Mozart’s house.
When my dad and his wife visited Southeast Asia, they were treated to a full breakfast for every morning of their six week trip. After a week or so, they just wanted to have some juice, maybe oatmeal and fruit. The overall value of an over the top breakfast spread diminishes each additional day you have access to it.
Has My Opinion Of Free Breakfast Changed?
Previously I didn’t care about getting a free breakfast because I didn’t have the status necessary with a hotel to get one. Now that I have status with hotel loyalty programs which gives a free breakfast as a benefit, I’ve come to the conclusion I still really don’t care about hotel breakfasts. Like, at all. Zilch, Nada.
Even with access to breakfast, it’s not a big deal for us. In Key West at the Waldorf Astoria Casa Marina, I had to ask for our free breakfast vouchers only to find out they didn’t cover the full cost of breakfast. We much preferred going to Sarabeths and paying for our breakfast. In Washington D.C., the hotel breakfast was nice but the restaurant was understaffed. I had to wait to be seated, to get my coffee and then for a check (for a free buffet breakfast) before I could leave. All I had to eat was coffee and a bagel with peanut butter; hardly worth the time spent. I’ve already mentioned our two New York hotel breakfasts; they were suitable but if I’m in New York I’d much rather walk to Ess-A-Bagel than eat a bland copy at my hotel.
What Does The Future Have In Store?
Due to Sharon’s newly minted Platinum Marriott status, we’re going to have access to breakfasts when staying at (most of) their hotels for the next year. I imagine we’ll approach it as we do with breakfast at home. We can grab a coffee and a quick bite but if we’re going to be in a city with great food, we’re not going to spend every morning stuffing ourselves with scrambled eggs, bacon, oatmeal and pancakes from the hotel breakfast buffet.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary