Breakfast is traditionally the most eaten meal in a hotel, and hotels invest a lot of time and effort to discover the most popular menu items. But how much leeway and budget does a chef have on creating the breakfast menu? It turns out that big brands do things much differently than independent hotels.
When planning a breakfast menu for hundreds of hotels, it’s more complex than ordering boxes of cereal and fresh fruit. Items must be affordable and available across a variety of geographic locations. Hotels must be equipped to serve dishes to meet brand standards.
Hotels try to build their breakfast offering around a brand’s attributes and targeted customers. Westin, for example, has a SuperfoodsRx menu, in line with the chain’s wellness ethos. Vince Barrett, vice president of food and beverages/rooms at New Castle Hotels & Resorts, which operates the Westin Portland, Maine, and Westin Jekyll Island Resort and Spa, says that Westin properties must offer at least six “super food” items at each meal (things like avocado, wild salmon, walnuts and blueberries). A team of chefs and wellness experts helps to decide what should be included.
Aloft Hotels’ new Re:fuel grab-and-go breakfast pots offer healthier, on-trend alternatives like poached eggs and avocado over quinoa or sweet potato hash with cheddar grits. Most Aloft properties do not have restaurant kitchens, and this is a convenient workaround for providing substantial morning food that can be heated without having a full-service restaurant.
At Holiday Inn Express properties in the U.S., guests are treated to Cinnabon “Sweet Treats,” a recipe created just for the brand’s free morning buffet.
How do hotels choose what to offer?
IHG conducted focus groups when planning breakfast for its new “avid hotels” brand. It performed in-house “take-rate experiences,” where the number of items guests take during a complimentary breakfast is tallied to get a clear picture of what items are popular.
Research by Courtyard by Marriott shows guests are increasingly demanding fresh options when it comes to breakfast. Following hotel trials, it is adding ingredients such as avocado, kale, basil and acai to the latest revamp of its Bistro breakfast menu.
Hilton Garden Inn recently overhauled its breakfast menu, adding things like avocado toast at select properties. In coordination with Food Network, it’s putting new menu items to the test, giving foodies the chance to vote on options like Deviled Egg Toast. Some hotels serve local dishes, like the Huevos Rancheros and Smoked Salmon platters at Hilton Garden Inn Los Angeles Marina Del Rey, or fresh Sea Bass Ceviche at Hilton Garden Inn Panama, a favorite of locals.
Hotels have also come out in full force to woo Chinese travelers, especially at breakfast. For example, the Hilton Huanying program, available at 150 properties in 39 countries that Chinese visitors most frequent, serves two types of congee, a dim sum selection, fried rice or noodles, and Chinese tea each morning.
IHG has its Zhou Dao program, which is available at 150 hotels globally (including Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental, Kimpton and Staybridge Suites brands) and dishes up familiar Chinese breakfast foods.
Langham Hotels serves a Chinese breakfast menu at all of its hotels worldwide and even has a Corporate Director of Chinese Cuisine that oversees the brand’s various menus.
More freedom at smaller hotels
Chef David McCann of Dromoland Castle, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts in County Clare, Ireland, explains that as an independent luxury hotel, he has greater freedom to buy key ingredients for his menu.
McCann says the kitchen specially stocks Marmite in case any of the castle’s British guests request it. He can bake the castle’s famous Irish Soda brown bread daily while providing a range of gluten-free and vegetarian dishes without having to remain within brand parameters set by corporate food and beverage departments. His quinoa cassoulet, served with poached egg and locally sourced St. Tola cheese, is a seasonal product that he can serve when the cheese is available. Larger brands are more likely to buy ingredients in bulk, limiting the freedom to source local or seasonal items.
Sonesta ES Suites, a smaller hotel company with breakfast buffets at its extended stay hotels, gives general managers autonomy to customize what they offer. At the Sonesta ES Suites in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the manager added items like kim nori seaweed, steamed rice and traditional tea to cater to a consulting team from Korea staying for three months. The general manager of the Sonesta ES Suites South Brunswick in Princeton, New Jersey, often brings in bagels from a popular local bakery to give guests a taste of the area’s food scene.
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