“Good hotel, bad breakfast.”

You’ll find reviews of hotels from all over the globe, including boutiques in Ireland and big chains in Australia. These reviews all have one thing in common: the free breakfast at a hotel was not worth it. It was either not worth it or the hassle.

After the 2008 economic crisis, the number of hotels that offer a complimentary breakfast for guests increased significantly. Many people, especially business travelers with tight budgets, were delighted to get breakfast for free. Even if you don’t like the food or drink, it is nice to know that one of your three meals for the day will be covered.

Three main reasons are behind the change in 2017. The economic situation has stabilized, albeit not in an ideal state. In the past decade, people have become more health-conscious, and items such as nut milk or cage-free eggs are now mainstream. The share economy revolution has led to a diversification of the hospitality industry. It is, therefore, more important that hotels differentiate themselves.

In response, many mid-range hotels are reinventing the complimentary breakfast they offer. According to a New York Times article published recently, many hotels within the AUD 150-200 range have revamped their breakfast spreads in order to address complaints and gain more loyalty.

What’s the best way to create a better breakfast amenity for your customers? A better way forward is revealed by examining the common pitfalls.

Complaint 1: Lack of variety & poor quality

It’s obvious why an extensive breakfast is not a standard practice. To put on an extravagant breakfast show each morning takes a lot of money. You can easily lose track of your cost-benefit ratios.

Let’s be honest: Most free breakfasts at hotels look like an attempt to protect against loss. There’s a lot of lost in translation: the processed cereals and pastries, the burned coffee, and the fake fruit drinks. As review sites often show, guests will take advantage of this, but they may not be pleased.

Lesson: Offering quality fuel to guests is an excellent way to build your hotel’s reputation. How can you fill stomachs at the lowest possible price? It’s not so bad. Many properties that are focused on value now offer natural yogurt and oatmeal bars, omelets with cage-free eggs, local coffee or popular roasters, and fruit juice. We care about your health and diet.

Complaint 2: Overcharges

A hotel in Poland charged extra for guests to add milk to their coffee. The charge could not be added to the bill and was paid on-site in cash. Instead, the guests chose to drink tea and left a harsh review. Many other hotels have had complaints from guests who were charged more for items that they believed should be part of the complimentary breakfast, such as espresso coffees and specialty teas.

Simple: nickel-and-diming customers are bad. If breakfast is already included, there shouldn’t be any additional charges.

Complaint 3: The Breakfast Police are watching

You trust your guests to use the buffet fairly. The worst interaction is reprimanding guests for taking some items home or clearing the table before they are finished. It is absurd to think that staff at a hotel would treat guests as if they were unworthy of taking advantage of a free breakfast, an amenity that is promoted openly by the hotel. Some guests may abuse their breakfast privileges. But how many?

Lesson: Be tolerant of your guests. Be generous with your breakfast if you are going to provide it. If you find that the cost of the amenity exceeds your budget, evaluate the situation. Find solutions that are not only nuanced but also do not compromise on quality. If breakfast is a cause of conflict between staff and guests, it may be better not to offer it.

Complaint #4: The breakfast ship is on the move

Breakfast has to come to an end. Breakfast ends at 10:00, so guests often complain about not having enough food and that staff are busy removing things.

Lesson: Even if there are only a few guests in the room at the end of the breakfast, their experience is as important as everyone else’s. The guests shouldn’t feel rushed or like they missed out. Staff should either be trained to make guests feel welcome towards the end of breakfast or to offer a ‘top up’ à la minute.

Is this the new age of free breakfast?

In an environment of intense competition, a complimentary breakfast can be a great way to gain the trust and approval of your guests, increase review scores, or cultivate loyalty. The complimentary breakfast can be a liability if it is not well-planned and the service is lacking.

With a few smart changes, mid-range properties around the world are able to provide a healthier breakfast that is more hearty and generous. Guests appreciate this experience and remember it positively.

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