Morning Glory

By Don Douloff

Breakfast is usually referred to as “the most important meal of the day,” and for hotel guests, this holds especially true, since the morning repast perennially rates near the top of their must-haves.

Hoteliers are answering the call by offering a wider range of breakfast options than ever before, catering to guests seeking healthier options while not ignoring the eggs-with-bacon contingent.

For his part, restaurant consultant Ned Barker, CEO of Atlanta-Ga.-based Grill Ventures International, said “breakfast is the meal guests are most likely to enjoy at the hotel’s restaurant.” Mexican items remain popular. “Breakfast burritos make for a great ‘full breakfast’ that you can hold in your hand.”

Furthermore, the desire for quality and freshness is increasing. Examples include eggs that are organic or produced in a cage-free environment; fruit that is fresh; and jams that are “lovingly house-made, maybe with a unique flavour,” said Barker.

Healthy eating is on the menu at the Marriott Courtyard’s quickservice breakfast. On offer are yogurt parfaits and egg-white omelets, along with traditional eggs, bacon and toast, and breakfast sandwiches, said Rob Hood, corporate food and beverage manager at Atlific Hotels.

Properties have added gluten-free pastries, and healthy options such as oatmeal haven’t lost their popularity, added Hood.

A LA CARTE FAVOURED

Over at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, guests have been increasingly favouring a la carte breakfasts over the buffet option, said the hotel’s f&b director Travis Christ. Whereas guests, in the past, “used to look for value” and would, more often than not, choose the buffet, nowadays, “people like to be more in control of their meal and what they order,” even though a la carte breakfasts typically cost more than buffets.

Served in the hotel restaurant, Notch8, the buffet offers healthier items such as chicken/apple sausage and an oatmeal station with garnishes such as nuts and dried fruits, but still targets indulgent eaters with pancakes, waffles, homemade cinnamon toast and French toast. By March, the restaurant expects to add weekend brunch.

In 2016, Choice Hotels Canada’s Comfort brand will roll out a new breakfast program, expected to launch in March Canada-wide. “When we embarked on the new Comfort brand improvement strategy, the breakfast program was one of the first things we wanted to enhance, because breakfast is a key driver for guest satisfaction,” said Brendan Gibney, director of franchise operations.  

“Research tells us guests are looking for more healthy options at breakfast,” said Gibney. “We are now implementing additions including Greek yogurt, some healthier cereal, and healthy and hearty toppings like nuts, dried berries and granola to complement current offerings such as yogurt and oatmeal.”

Gibney added that “a free, hot, hearty and healthy breakfast really helps influence (guests’) decision to stay with us.”

GUEST SATISFACTION DRIVER

Similarly, a complimentary hot breakfast included in the room rate “is one of the top guest satisfaction drivers and value propositions expected by consumers in the upper midscale hotel segment,” said Jim Grimshaw, senior director, brand services and product development, Country Inns & Suites By Carlson.

Resonating with Country Inn guests are such breakfast items as eggs and breakfast meats, yogurt, waffles and baked goods. But guests’ breakfast expectations are changing, with Grimshaw noting that “there is a trend that more guests seem willing to trade out some variety for higher-quality food items available in convenient ways.”

Trends that could shape Country Inns’ breakfast menus in the future include “the convenience of having items that are more portable for guests on the go; offering alternative proteins such as turkey, chorizo and shredded pork; infusing bolder flavour profiles; and reimagining new options alongside traditional breakfast beverages,” said Grimshaw.

Days Inns – Canada franchisees offer an enhanced Daybreak Café breakfast program — brand-name coffee, yogurt and an egg-based protein — providing a standardized, buffet-style morning meal.

Every Days Inn without an on-site restaurant (such as a Denny’s or mom-and-pop eatery, typically managed independently) offering breakfast must provide a Daybreak Café. As of December 2015, 78 Days Inn locations across the country offer a Daybreak Café breakfast.

All hotels with a Daybreak Café breakfast must offer at least one egg type (hard-boiled, fried, scrambled, patty, omelet, etc.). Also required are Danone yogurt, a minimum of two Kellogg’s cereals, Quaker Instant Oatmeal along with a minimum of two handheld fruit selections, two non-sweet baked good varieties and one sweet baked good such as a muffin, Danish or croissant.

HEALTHY JUICES

At the higher end of the scale, “healthy is the way to go,” said Guy Rigby, vice-president of f&b, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. “Right now, people are into healthy juices. Some of our hotels are offering specific menus that focus on a la carte, made-to-order juices, along with protein supplements, nutritional add-ons like flax seeds, and so on. We’re also offering creative coffee drinks — people are looking to go beyond a basic brewed coffee these days, and want specialty coffee drinks. Still, the basics are very popular and sell like crazy — most people order a juice, and then feel that they can splurge on a more traditional breakfast choice as well.”

“Today’s guests are generally looking for a unique experience in a hotel restaurant, but for the breakfast period, timeliness is an important factor,” said Nicholas Gandossi, general manager at OPUS Vancouver hotel. “Our focus was to create a deluxe continental buffet that offered more than just your traditional continental breakfast, while at the same time giving the guest the flexibility of eating on their own time schedule. Having the deluxe continental breakfast added on to our room packages at a reduced price was the next step, which has helped increase our room reservations overall.”

OPUS Vancouver’s onsite restaurant, La Pentola, also offers an a la carte breakfast menu. Weekend brunch features exotic dishes like kaiserschmarrn (Northern Italian pancake with raisins, pine nuts, cream and house-made jam) and a breakfast risotto with smoked bacon and poached egg. La Pentola’s general manager, Daniel Burke, pointed out that “people want to be able to eat out even though they are making an effort to eat healthy,” and are looking for gluten-free or vegan or vegetarian breakfast options. 

Stages restaurant, in DoubleTree by Hilton West Edmonton, offers a la carte and buffet breakfast options. Fully 90 per cent of guests choose the buffet, because of its wide variety of hot and cold healthy items, said executive chef Willie White. Choices include fruit smoothies, gluten-free sausages and house-made granola.

SMALLER PORTIONS

Breakfast trends White has witnessed include gluten-free (pastries, and chicken and pork sausages); smaller tasting portions; and customized fruit smoothies.

For this year’s summer season, the hotel’s restaurant team is looking at adding sous-vide seasonal fruits as a healthy buffet option, said White. Also in the works is a feature breakfast non-alcoholic cocktail breakfast-style drink (as a healthy breakfast drink upsell) and, possibly for spring, a tea-infused juice.

With the increasing number of funky freestanding breakfast restaurants, “hotels have to up their game at breakfast and really be creative and make breakfast interesting, to retain our in-house guests,” said White.

Over at Travelodge and Thrift Lodge, “our popular items are waffles/pancakes, cold cereal, whole fruit and muffins,” said vice-president of operations Trevor Hagel. The brands’ clientele (leisure/families) prefers child-friendly items, and fruit and muffins are popular with the core clientele “as these items are good to take along for a snack. We are not experiencing any shifts due to guests preferring healthier options. We have always had a protein option, but our guests seem to gravitate to the more traditional items they would eat on a daily basis at home.”

HIGH DOLLAR EARNER

Although breakfast menus may be changing, the morning meal, with its low food costs, remains a high dollar earner for hotels. “Breakfast is the highest profit centre of the day,” said Rob Hood, corporate food and beverage manager at Atlific Hotels. Properties try to maximize profitability by, for example, promoting sales of waffles, which are inexpensive to produce, he added.

Indeed, hotels can “create upsell opportunities that build on existing breakfast consumption habits but enable the guest to enhance their experience,” said Barker. “For example, perhaps juice is included in a breakfast buffet price; (hotels could) offer a small selection of cold-pressed juices for an upcharge. You lift the image of your food quality at the same time.”

As Barker noted, “more and more, breakfast is included in the rate guests pay for the guestroom, and this generally does not boost the food bottom line. The foodservice may receive credit for some or all of their costs, but usually there is no ‘credit’ for sales or revenue.”

“Breakfast is the largest-growing daypart in Canadian foodservice. As many lodging chains are ‘breakfast inclusive,’ it is a major focus for operators to control cost while offering the quality consumers expect,” said Iain Grant, director of sales, Tyson Food Service. Hotel and lodging guests want variety in breakfast offerings. “The days of the huge, half-eaten muffin are gone and are replaced by multi-flavours of mini-sweet treats,” said Grant.

Since many limited-service hotels offer an inclusive breakfast with the room rate, housekeeping or other non-culinary staff often assist with breakfast preparations. Catering to that need are Tyson Food Service products that enable consistent, safe production of breakfast items.

In Canada, Tyson’s best-selling breakfast line falls within the Jimmy Dean brand, primarily Jimmy Dean Fully Cooked Breakfast Sausage links and patties and Jimmy Dean Butcher Wrapped Breakfast Sandwiches. Running a close second are Chef Pierre breakfast pastries and Sara Lee cinnamon rolls, with a full line of cooked, thaw and serve, two-bite sweet pastries and muffins, according to Grant.