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Breakfast: from Lost Leader to The Definition of The Guest

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Every had an amazing stay experience either for business or for pleasure, everything went right from the check-in to the room and everything in between, and now you are going home or on to your next destination, but before you go, how about a spot of breakfast before hitting the road?

So down to the restaurant you go…. What comes next will determine whether this will be a memorable occasion that will be long remembered or one of those ‘I am never coming back here / we paid how much for our stay’ experiences that will be ruled by one last hospitality interaction……. Breakfast.

The breakfast experience was never meant to be a money maker or cause and impression on our guests as even ever being impressive, it was a function, not profitable just something to make our guests feel happy and send them on their way to check-out and through our front door, full, happy and with an intent to return, and for a long time that is exactly what it represented. When we did it right, it was simply perfect, and when the menu, plate presentation, temperature and service failed it gave guests a sour taste and representation of their stay experience the only thing the guest would remember is the ‘Room Rate Paid + Bad Breakfast Experience = No Intent to Return’

In the beginning we really did not see anything wrong with this, in fact we would offer breakfast included in the room rate or offer free breakfast as an incentive to encourage room sales during low occupancy periods while all along producing the same tired product while pretending that it was the greatest incentive to buy guest loyalty. Sales strategies even competed within their market competitive sets to offer breakfast as a competitive advantage, and soon everyone was doing it taking what profit this meal period at the beginning of the day offered and turning into and all market / all inclusive environments.

Change had to happen, the same old formular of eggs, bacon and toast was not going to work anymore, and that was just the full-service offering, the select service hotel offering was even more meager with just coffee, muffins and juice, this was coupled with just average service and the seeming inability to create a welcoming offering that guests really needed to kick-start their day on a positive experience.

Source: Silver Hotel GroupSource: Silver Hotel Group
Source: Silver Hotel Group

Breakfast Menu Evolution

Menus began to take chances, as mentioned eggs, bacon, and toast was a tried and tested menu creation which still works to this day, but as our guests have evolved and changed, so has our menus to ensure that a level of breakfast enjoyment can be achieved through menu diversity. Health and wellness have played a major factor in this evolution, entire menu sections were devised to allow for specific nutritious selections appealing to guests on a journey of health and physical wellness. Nuts, cereals, and dried fruits started to make appearances to move the health breakfast a step further to be in keeping with guest lifestyles.

Moving beyond 2% and skimmed milks, yoghurts, other new and previously unknown milk offerings began to appear, oat and nut milks began to be seen on menus and on buffet offerings, hotels began to take notice of the success of health food stores and why they were popular with a new breed of business traveller, who combined a good food start to the day combined with an early morning workout or yoga session. Breakfast coffee and its origins began to more important to guests who wanted new and quite different blends whose value included free trade agreements with the producers of the beans as much of the taste in their morning cup. Tea became more than just bags, it became about blends, leaves and the healing properties of one of natures most natural plants.

One of the more unusual items to find its way on to an a la carte menu was avocado and more notably that of Avocado toast, often served with hard boiled eggs, pickled red onions and spinach with vinaigrette, which for the more health inclined made for the more perfect breakfast offering. Fruits of the more exotic nature began to be visible with menus taglines explaining to those who were searching for the new healthy options that new taste adventures were on the horizon, and when that wasn’t enough the combination of these fruits and superfoods like spinach were then combined as smoothies and smoothy shots applying nutrition directly to the body. We had come a long way from eggs, bacon, and toast, suddenly breakfast was exciting, diverse, and plain good for you.

Source: Silver Hotel GroupSource: Silver Hotel Group
Source: Silver Hotel Group

The Rise of Select Service Breakfast Offerings

Full service properties were not the only hotel segment to make new and exciting changes, select and limited-service hotels who while not being able to offer the same extensive selections as their larger counterparts suddenly began to reinvent their breakfast offerings. These properties expanded their offerings from the extremely basic to menus that were offering a variety of nutritious and fun items which in many cases were aimed at families and especially children where nutrition may not be the only theme prevalent in keeping guests of all ages engaged and happy at breakfast time.

Breakfast began to be fun again, pancake machines and sticky iced cinnamon rolls sat side by side with cereals and fruits, allowing all ages to be satisfied, more importantly value for the stay experience was increased and all of a sudden in this sector decisions on where to stay became just as much about where the ‘breakfast was good’ as much as it was about the room or the rate paid, suddenly breakfast became the value add, the fun attraction, and not just an amenity item.

‘All Hail the Buffet’

While specialty a la carte menus developed with depth buffets began to specialise for breakfast in ways never seen before, juice bars, live action stations featuring omelet bars using local organic vegetables, fresh seafood breakfast options, and plant based, gluten free, vegan alternatives, local speciality dishes and while trends began to direct us toward healthier directions, decadent sweet options, pancakes, crepes, and all the sweet treats that you could ever look for including versions of desserts normally found on dinner menus such as bread pudding became a breakfast decadent experience. Buffets for some properties became art forms again instead of functional feeding systems, they provided popular favourites and specialities from that region or country, moving the standards ever forward, where juices moved from the traditional to exotic fruits, cucumber and infused waters tempting guests in new food directions that they may not have tried before.

Entire sections of the buffet given over to the healthier side of breakfast also now included plant based, vegan and gluten free options so that a table of diverse culinary appetites within a family group or between business associates could all find something they enjoyed, we have come along way from egg white omelets and peanut butter with toast to being the non-traditional choices for guests. With this new presentation and depth in the culinary adventure for the first-time hotels were able to move pricing forward, and not resort to being so price sensitive. Guests see the value in the selection, choice, and convenience of knowing that whatever your breakfast pleasure there would be something for everyone.

Source: Silver Hotel GroupSource: Silver Hotel Group
Source: Silver Hotel Group

Decedent Brunch

One of the other reinventions to become a hotel weekly mainstay once more instead of just a holiday special occasion was the weekly Sunday brunch. A brunch or late breakfast offering turned a normal end of the week breakfast into a special event for in-house guests while as the same time a local weekly celebration for local residents who saw the experience and value of the weekly hotel brunch as an event to be shared with friends and family.

What became a dying and old situation suddenly became relevant once again, an occasion, indulgence, and a genuine excuse to eat great food as part of a social weekly event. Properties that did not produce the full buffet offered special a la carte menus with house featured local specialities. Brunch and food were fun again, guests were ready, and this business was re-born.

Beyond Eggs, Bacon & Toast

All of changes imparted into breakfast have removed it from the normal function to incorporate many tastes, palates, and beyond cultural boundaries to being as much as a culinary experience as lunch or dinner. Regional choices allow guests to understand the changes in the locality specific to that region, before this with the standardization of hotel brands they would have to look out of the window just to see which city they were in, now through food and with breakfast being the most important meal of the day, guests have the chance to be culturally be educated through food and the environment which they are visiting and calling home temporarily.

Defining the Stay Experience

So, the evolution of breakfast so far is continually changing and defining the hotel stay experience for many guests who view the food and beverage product and service they have enjoyed during their stay to provide a large part of the general value proposition that they receive. Breakfast stops being a function of why guests may be staying at a property and becomes part of the immersive experience to be enjoyed and remembered. Within the hotel experience we need to remember and respect that we are not in a transactional environment, we are here to provide emotionally enriching experiences for all of our guests, this factor in an age of systems, procedures and sop’s is often overlooked until such time as our guests tell us and then it is just too late.

Breakfast should not be used as service recovery item, but as an extension of the how we sell guest satisfaction with the product and service being part of that experience through tasty food and creating positive emotional experiences and memories.

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from http://www.hotelexecutive.com/.

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