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Understanding the Meaning & Power of Breakfast.By Dr. John Hogan

publication date: Jul 28, 2014
author/source: Dr. John Hogan CHA CHE CMHS



Hotel Marketing

Understanding the Meaning & Power of Breakfast.

By Dr. John Hogan, CHA CMHS CHE.


Paying appropriate attention to the markets and guests we serve lessens the risk of losing the loyalty of a guest. This article addresses trends and mistakes many properties of all product segments are making in their breakfasts, which increases the danger of it becoming a commodity rather than a unique experience. 


This article offers specific examples of successful properties that choose to focus on their ingenuity with special touches to pleasantly surprise and impress their customers.

The English word derives from the concept that sleep prevents eating, thus an involuntary "fast" occurs during sleep; this fast is broken by the first meal of the day referred to as breakfast . Breakfast -English: 1463, from break (v) + fast (n) Cf French déjeuner "to breakfast," derived from L jejunare "to fast-" The verb dates from 1679.1

Understanding the value of breakfast

This definition is included as a reminder of the importance and value of breakfast for today's traveler.  Paying appropriate attention to the markets and guests we serve lessens the risk of losing the loyalty of a guest.

As the industry continues to both mature in some products and refine itself in others over the last generation, many properties of all product segments have elected to offer breakfast as part of their service.  The common practice of offering breakfast, unfortunately, increases the danger of it becoming a commodity rather than a unique experience.  However, those properties that choose to focus on their ingenuity can still find those special touches to pleasantly surprise and impress their customers.

In early 2008, Intercontinental Hotels conducted a survey on behalf of Holiday Inn Express to examine what business travelers considered important regarding breakfast.  

The survey found 70 % of business travelers would rather conduct business during a sit-down breakfast as opposed to cocktails over dinner.  It also found that while 87 % enjoyed a hot breakfast with their colleagues, 77 % viewed breakfast with the boss as a guiltless opportunity to get to know them better.   Reading the results of this survey prompted me to look at what approaches a number of the major brands were taking and brief overviews of their actions are included at the end of this article.

The following ideas are offered as a reminder for how special the breakfast meal can be and what an opportunity for both delivering exceptional service and building loyalty.


 "A Bakers Dozen" of   Strategies for Successful Hotel Breakfast Service

1. Keep in mind the charm of Bed and Breakfasts. B&Bs offer charm, a personalized touch and something that is not typically found in many branded hotels. This is not a critique of brands, but an observation that the usually owner operated, smaller B&Bs are often more unique.  Marriott hotels have tackled this over the years with their "Stay for Breakfast" promotions and advertising focusing on the enjoyment of breakfast. Take a realistic and fresh look at the space you serve breakfast and decide if it is making guests feel welcome.

2. "Have someone who genuinely welcomes each guest be the host at the door"- Every successful restaurant has a personality and it is often that of the owner or manager.  A sincere and attentive greeting by someone who is pleased to see each guest makes the difference. While many full service hotels have a greeter who seats guests, having the restaurant manager, F&B Director or other manager acting as the "host" in at least certain peak times does make a difference and lets the guest and staff know how important breakfast is.

3. Fresh presentations of the room and the offerings are critical. Boutique hotels are known as generally small properties that are unlike each other physically, but that are uniquely stylish, consistent in personalized service and welcoming. Update the "small touches" regularly.  Use of flowers, interesting table settings and tasteful holiday decorations can all distinguish your hotel restaurant and breakfast, which may be the only meal your guests have at your hotel.

4. Know your customers and serve what they want. We cannot know all of our customers every day, but we should know if they are families, groups on a budget, corporate sales staff with a major project to finish or executives on a strategic planning retreat.  Attentiveness to their likely service and food preferences is all within our reach and budgets - if we take the time to examine who our customers are.   We all use some form of revenue management and forecasting and we have the ability to better analyze who our customers are than we have done in the past.  Breakfast is an optimum time to make the day begin right.

5.  Evaluate your menus - healthy alternatives are in demand. Many people who travel are looking for a heart healthy, lower fat diet  and expect hotel breakfasts to meet those needs. Other guests may look for regional offerings and these special entrees can increase restaurant revenue, attract local residents and differentiate a hotel from its competitors.   

6. Be cost conscious, but not "cheap."  There is no doubt that a youth sports team will have different eating preferences to senior citizens or to other markets.  Stress choice, value and options when addressing those markets.

7. Keep PAR inventory - As in #6 above, maintain backup items as necessary so that all guests can be efficiently and enjoyably served.  A simple PAR system can address both budgetary and quality issues.

8. Speed is often critical. Taking inspiration from the boutique hotel trends, many hotels address the breakfast are with bold designs and flexible open space.  Many hotels and brands are using freshly prepared breakfast buffets as a means to offering variety and speed of delivery.

9. Everybody sells.  Breakfast staff often have the opportunity to interact one on one with many guests at breakfast and find out about the future needs of those guests for hotel and related services as appropriate in everyday conversation.  Effective managers have incentives for serving staff and others that reward attentive individuals who help support the hotel and the guests needs as well.  In these days of uncertain economic times, the expression of "all in this together" rings even more true.

10. Offer something unique and personalized Breakfast is typically the most commonly eaten meal at hotels. Unfortunately, the offerings are too often described as just that ... common. Chefs can be more creative and use more local or seasonal foods. Guests also benefit because they have more choices and, maybe, a more memorable hotel stay.    If you are a smaller rooms only hotel with no formal culinary staff, there are still many options available from your suppliers, but you need to ask and then listen to their ideas.

11. Listen to guest concerns, compliments and/or complaints - and DO SOMETHING!  This sounds so basic, yet too many hotel staff are still waiting to be empowered by their managers to properly respond to guest comments.  Ritz Carlton sets the tone for empowering their staff, as evidenced by their Baldridge Awards and their global reputation in almost every community they serve.  Look at the referenced article below  or online anywhere for additional examples.

12. Forget that "breakfast is a cost center or not profitable" stigma.

  • In full service hotels, breakfast represents a comparatively low food cost activity and a chance to start every guest's day well. 

  • In rooms only hotels, breakfast is a legitimate cost of service with a high perceived value to guests.  It offers the opportunity to showcase a special flair at your hotel IF the effort is made.

  • In luxury hotels, breakfast is a clear opportunity to outshine the competition by the positioning of your hotel as a center of excellence with attention to detail in all areas.

  • It also means effective hotel restaurant managers embrace the "pride of ownership attitude" and take corrective action as needed.

13. Thank you - come again.  Check delivery is such a small thing, yet it can be critical as it is likely the last impression.  While we are blessed to have multiple generations in our work force and clientele, the phrase "thank you" is so much more powerful than "no problem." Look back at #1 and remember the lessons of your favorite successful hometown independent restaurant.  The owner or manager is often at the door - welcoming each guest individually and saying please come again soon.


 How do you say "thank you?" 

(Share your best ideas and I will feature them in an upcoming column)

Understanding the power of breakfast

Many of the major brands have worked with their licensees and hotels to create a sense of consistency and value - the following are summaries found online or from some of the major web sites as observations for ideas to help maximize a positive guest experience.

  • Carlson's Park Plaza in Bloomington, MN web site highlights that  " breakfast is the most important meal of the day" and their   "Bed & Breakfast package"   describes what is included and shows an inviting photo of a lovely dining room.

  • Many Country Inn & Suites  feature a complimentary breakfast buffet daily, with offerings that include Belgian waffles, Bagels, muffins, pastries , Egg patties , Flavored yogurts, Fresh fruits , Granola bars , Hot and cold cereals , assorted meats, Juices, coffee, cappuccino, tea, milk and hot cocoa.

  • "Re-eggniting what it does best" , was the headline for Embassy Suites Hotels investment in 2006 and 2007, with new state-of-the-art equipment and signage for its complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast. Targeting both leisure and business travel guests, Embassy Suites expanded its signature breakfast offering more ingredients for their cooked-to-order omelets.  They also enhanced their breakfast program with a comprehensive training effort for all staff and helping guests with the extensive breakfast layout that is promoted as one of the core pillars of the Embassy Suites experience.    

  • A recognized leader in this focus of specialized attention to detail is California based Kimpton Hotels.  A  quick look at their web site   will immediately demonstrate the impact and value of "fresh: and creative.  Here is the beginning of one of their meeting offerings as it discusses breakfast.

  • "Kimpton's healthy attitude can make a world of difference in your next meeting.

*Enjoy a room filled with aromatherapy scents and the introspective sounds of mood music.

*Table settings may include natural wood massagers and squeezable stress balls.

*Breakfast can feature fruit smoothies, organic coffee and tea and whole-grain cereals.

*Morning Yoga, meditation or desk aerobics will stretch your mind and body."

  • Comfort Suites Savory StartsTM Breakfast features a wide assortment with eggs, waffles, fruit and more. Morning Medley Breakfast  from Sleep Inn® introduces what the brand calls "the tastiest wakeup call of all."  Their new Morning Medley breakfast includes pastries, hot and cold cereals, eggs or yogurt, fresh fruit and freshly brewed Maxwell House Café Collections coffee.
  • Marriott's Fairfield Inns offer Early EatsTM  complimentary hot breakfast, featuring a delicious Jimmy Dean® breakfast sandwich.Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts introduced two years ago new health conscious offerings, called Low-Carb Inspirations(TM) , to its award-winning "Best-4-Breakfast" menu.
  • Hilton Garden Inns teamed up with Celebrity Chef Chris Jacobson  ("CJ") To Develop Signature "BIG DAY Breakfast" TM Menu, which is billed as going " Beyond the Proverbial Egg-white Omelet" with CJ's Signature Waffle , The Hearty Hash -Brisket Hash with Fresh Kale, Grilled Whole Grain Bread and Poached Egg  and Great Granola & Flax.

The Chicago Tribune in November of 2007 highlighted upscale hotel examples of Hotel Bed Wars Giving Way to the Breakfast War; Doughnuts, Coffee a Thing of the Past  . Examples from Hyatt Regency, Omni and Hilton all demonstrate how the trends are changing and crossing all markets and price points.

  • Omni Hotels' new morning focus, "The Art of Breakfast, " was created aims to redefine the sometimes lackluster reputation of many standard hotel breakfasts. Starting with a fresh palette and the intent to elevate the most basic ingredients, their goal is to join them with signature elements to create what they expect will be a new best-in-class collection to elevate the morning meal.


The first part of this topic generated discussion and feedback among readers.  I was delighted to hear this global perspective on breakfast as a business tool from Jim Khoo, General Manager of the Holiday Inn Xi'an Greenland Century City in the West High-tech Development Zone, Xian,  PR China.   Their hotel will be opening soon and he shared the following:

Hi John,

Thank you for the great information. My contribution is that it depends on which country we are doing business with. In China, the most important business meal is dinner, as this is the time business partners show their sincerity and way of negotiating.

I tried to arrange breakfast meetings with clients when I first arrived in China 13 years ago, however the culture still remains. Normally, they will mention they will have important meetings in the morning, which in actual fact may not be true, as they spent last evening conducting business at dinner.

Hope this information is useful, especially as China's hospitality industry is booming.

With this and other responses, I intend to include one additional section on the topic - it will be called AROUND THE BREAKFAST TABLE and will include a range of international favorites and potential items to include in breakfast service to offer something unique for your global visitors.

Reader input has been very gratifying on my request for your input on  DEFINING HOSPITALITY and I will be sharing those already received and any that come to me by 10.15 in a column later this month.


1. Breakfast - definition of breakfast by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia 

2 http://businesstravel.suite101.com/article.cfm/hotellowfatdiets  

3. www.delish.com/food/news/hotel-gourmet-breakfasts  

4. www.usatoday.com/money/industries/travel/2008-09-22-hotels-gourmet-breakfasts_N.htm  

5. http://jacksonville.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/stories/2008/04/21/focus24.html?jst=pn_pn_lk  

6. www.parkplaza.com/offers/2138006   

7. www.hotelnewsresource.com/article23685.html  

8. www.travelindustrywire.com/article24320.html   

9. www.kimptonhotels.com/search.aspx?=breakfast&search.x=9&search.y=8&search=Search&output=xml_no_dtd&oe=UTF-8&ie=UTF-8&client=nonIFrame_frontend&site=default_collection&proxystylesheet=nonIFrame_frontend&filter=0  

10. www.comfortsuites.com/?promo=gcs024b  

11. http://www.sleepinn.com/?promo=gsi002  

12. www.marriott.com/fairfield-inn/travel.mi  

13. www.hotel-online.com/News/PR2004_1st/Jan04_HIBreakfast.html  

14. www.hotel-online.com/News/PR2008_3rd/Jul08_HGIBreakfast.html  

15. www.hotel-online.com/News/PR2007_4th/Nov07_HotelBreakfasts.html  

16. www.omnihotels.com/RatesAndReservations/ArtofBreakfast.aspx  

Feel free to share your thoughts at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops or speaking engagements.  Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD - a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE  www.roomschronicle.com and other industry sources.

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication

JOHN J. HOGAN , Educator, Hotelier, Entrepreneur      
John Hogan is  frequently invited to speak at Franchise Meetings, Management Company and hospitality association industry events.   He writes for a number of global online services and is actively involved in sharing industry 'best practices' .  He conducts mystery shopping reviews of quality in operations and marketing, including repositioning of hotels.

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