Hotel F&B‘s upcoming July/August issue is breakfast-themed, and that daypart is arguably the most contentious from a culinary standpoint, given the overwhelming guest preference for by-the-numbers breakfasts, where “two eggs, any style”, lead sales on many menus.
But breakfast also has the highest capture rate of any dining period, with 90% or more guests heading downstairs to a hotel’s restaurant for their morning meal. Because this is a business first (no customers = no revenues, regardless of the talent in the kitchen) our July/August story subjects showed us how they use breakfast as a launching pad for creativity within guest comfort zones, and also how a stellar breakfast can positively affect other areas of the hotel.
Here’s what we learned writing our July/August issue, in no particular order:
1) Avocado toast is the same color as money: Avocado toast is ancient history from a fickle foodie standpoint, but most hotels we talked to said avocado toast was at or near the top-selling item at breakfast, and one chef said it outsells everything else on their menu, 4-to-1. A low-cost, high-margin goldmine.
2) Breakfast is the ideal time to engage guests: As technology (like digital check in/check out) slowly eliminates face-to-face contact with guests, breakfast–and its 90% or higher capture rate–is prime time for staff to work the room and query guests about their overall stay, and fix any problems on the spot.
3) Breakfast sends a message to guests about the overall quality of a hotel: One property we talked to (the #1 rated hotel in San Francisco on TripAdvisor) said their meticulously displayed breakfast buffet sets guest expectations that everything else during their stay will be just as detail-oriented.
4) Group breakfasts aren’t throwaway just because they’re volume foodservice: One resort we talked to said group breakfasts need to match or exceed the quality of their restaurant menus, otherwise attendees (who are eating in the hotel’s F&B venues during their stay) will be confused, disappointed, and less likely to recommend rebooking to their meeting planners. One chef said mailed-in morning menus for groups is like telling them, “You just checked into a different hotel.”
5) Grain gains: Grain bowls are still popular (sorry foodies) and some chefs are incorporating unique flavors and seasonal ingredients to make this emerging staple seem fresh. One chef changes his grain bowl weekly based on what’s available at the Santa Monica Farmers Market; another cooks his quinoa in chocolate milk; and another serves a 50/50 bowl of quinoa and oatmeal to lighten the density of dish. “I was tired of seeing half-eaten bowls of oatmeal come back to my kitchen,” they said.
6) Food allergies and dietary preferences… solved: The bane of catering managers and banquet chefs trying to feed several hundred (or thousand) people at a time (I’ll say it since you can’t to your clients), particulars about dietary restrictions (real or imagined) are solved at breakfast by offering a carefully curated buffet that incorporates every aspect of today’s dietary programs. The best part? Guests build their own plates to match their specific needs.
7) Higher-quality staples and sensible portions: While many chefs feel handcuffed by limited demand for adventurous breakfast items, some are aiming their energy at elevating the basics (homemade breads and house-smoked fish and meats, for example) to make an impact on conservative palates. Many guests are also asking for smaller portions (but demanding higher-quality ingredients) and at brunch, a new trend toward lower-alcohol beverages means guests can order a few extra and not fall over by 2 p.m.