Real Talk: I Like The Hilton Breakfast Change, Free Breakfast Is Highly Overvalued In This Hobby

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Hilton Honors Elite Food Beverage Credit

Hilton Honors Elite Food & Beverage Credit, No More Free Breakfast

Hilton sent out emails to members alerting them to a change in the Hilton Honors program.  No more free breakfast for Gold and Diamond members, they will instead get a Hilton Honors elite food & beverage credit. This is supposed to happen from July till the end of 2021.  Although, I could see this sticking around longer than that but only time will tell.  People of course lost their mind over this, one buddy even swore he was done with Hilton.  Let’s pump the brakes there, I’ll go as far as to say this is an improvement.

I will preface that statement with a lot of this depends on the credit amount, which is unknown as of yet (but there have been leaked amounts – more on that later).  And the amount will be different depending on the hotel brand. Likely, a more expensive brand, like Conrad, would give you a bigger credit etc.

Details of the Change

Here is the statement by Hilton:

Food & Beverage Credit for Gold & Diamond Members. You asked for flexibility, and we’ve got it. Whether you look forward to breakfast or would rather skip it in favor of a refreshing beverage and afternoon snack, the choice is yours. In early July, we’ll begin offering a daily Food & Beverage Credit that will continue through the end of 2021. You can use this credit at the hotel brands where you currently receive a complimentary continental breakfast as your elite benefit of your membership. You’ll now be able to dine when and how you want. We will share more details in the coming weeks.

Leaked Credit Amounts

Per Ben at One Mile at a Time here are some of the believed credit amounts (per person up to 2X):
  • $25 for luxury brands, including Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, and LXR
  • $12 for full service brands ($15 for full service brands in high-cost markets)
  • $12 for lifestyle brands ($15 for lifestyle brands in high-cost markets)
  • $10 for Hilton Garden Inn properties

Hilton Honors Elite Food Beverage Credit

Why I Think This Is An Improvement

People were enraged with this change, which was predictable.  Whenever a “devaluation” happens people lose their mind and swear off a brand, we saw it with Southwest a few weeks back. But if you step back and think about it you realize this isn’t bad, and dare I say it is better.

Free Breakfast Is Highly Overrated

In this hobby there are a few things we overvalue in my opinion.  Free breakfast and airline lounge access are the two main ones.  I’ll do another post about airline lounge access on another day but let’s focus on free breakfast.

The saying has long gone that breakfast is the most important meal.  While that has been disproven over the years one thing hasn’t, breakfast is the cheapest meal.  We value free breakfast at the sticker price but that isn’t exactly accurate.  You can get a really good breakfast off site for $10 or less most of the time. Especially when you compare it to the breakfast you actually get at Hilton.

We aren’t talking about amazing Hyatt breakfasts here that are pretty much unlimited.  Many of the Hilton properties I have been to gave me the continental breakfast free and charged more to add hot breakfast.  You know how much a bagel and cereal costs? Here let me check my pocket for some change, that is how much.  What are we really missing out on a big chunk of the time?

Now of course there are outliers here, when you are stuck at a resort property with no dining options near by etc.  But how many of those are in the US?  And the whole I can’t feed my family of 4 free anymore since this is limited to two people thing, that has always been the rule.  While it was YMMV I have been denied more than two people breakfast more often then I was given it.  You could have two people bring back extra bagels to the room I guess…wow, amazing!

So really think about how much that free breakfast actually saved you.  Could you have gotten a better breakfast nearby for a reasonable price?

You Might Get A Bonus Day Out Of This (Really Useful For One Night Stays)

Another thing I like about this change is you could end up getting an extra day out of it.  Normally you miss out on the breakfast on the day of check in because it has already ended.  Maybe this credit will be offered on the first day since it is a credit.  That means you could come out AHEAD with this change.  Or if you have an early check out and didn’t have time for breakfast anyway, happens to me often, you can grab something for dinner or drinks etc. Which leads to my next point.

Hilton Honors Elite Food Beverage Credit
I would have preferred $50 at the bar here versus the cheap grab and go breakfast we got the next morning. (Waldorf Astoria Casa Marina)

Options Are Good

Having flexibility is considered a good thing everywhere else, so why not here.  Some people hate breakfast or sleep in late.  Others don’t have time in the morning to sit down to their free two day old bagels. This gives you the option to use it for room service, a drink in the lounge or an appetizer before hitting the town etc. I like flexibility and prefer $50 off dinner or the bar at high end properties versus a breakfast, but that is me.

Lounge Access Is More Important

They haven’t said anything about lounge access yet.  They could always remain closed for the rest of the year, that wouldn’t surprise me either.  But I value lounges over free breakfast.  Usually that is where you can grab some food in the morning anyway but you could also grab drinks and snacks during the rest of the day too.  So it gave you more value in my opinion than just a continental breakfast.  If lounges stay around than this is a less worrisome change in my opinion.

Hilton Honors Elite Food & Beverage Credit – Final Thoughts

Going against group think is something I always try to do because we tend to get caught up in the mob mentality in this hobby.  It is why things like Maldives hype train happens.  But if we break this down logically I don’t think the change is that bad, and I personally actually prefer it.  I will take that $10-$25 credit and use it on a drink or snack or something and will go ahead and use that money saved at a better off site breakfast.

I have long said the only free breakfast that matters is Hyatt Globalist breakfast. Will I miss the powdered eggs and day old bagels at the next DoubleTree I stay at?  Probably not.  Give me a beer or two instead!

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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40 COMMENTS

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40 COMMENTS

  1. I am more on the Nick side on this one. I love the convenience of going to breakfast at the hotel and getting a decent cup of coffee. No matter when you start your day, I like relaxing and returning to my room and get ready to start the day. In fact I have maintained my Diamond status because I despise passionately Marriott’s full service hotels closed lounges on the weekend and none in resorts. I literally try not to stay at a Marriott property on the weekend unless they have clubs open. So this is a blow for domestic travel. When things get back to whatever they are going to be in the future, maybe it will be a big thing and decisions will have to be made. These days, staying close to home, primarily because I really hate to wear a mask and can’t fathom more than a couple of hours with them. Thanks for the update.

  2. Mark – The main issue with your logic is not whether you can find breakfast for that price elsewhere, the F&B credit they give you is not cash that you can use to buy breakfast elsewhere. The credit gets you very little at the hotel and most often you will land up spending more than the credit resulting in additional revenue or else breakage. They don’t even let you rollover the benefit to the second day so you can’t combine 2 days to get a more meaningful redemption.
    Using Covid as an excuse seems very suspicious because most hotels will be operating at full capacity by middle of 3rd quarter. If they had implemented it last year or even Early this year it would have been more believable. On my last 3 stays hotels were buzzing with activity like normal times.

  3. Totally disagree. Of course everyone can has their own views based on situation. For us, the Hilton free breakfast was the single gold or diamond benefit we cared about. Period, no doubt, nothing else comes close. Thinking back on 40 years of travel, every Hilton breakfast has always been a high quality buffet, or an off-the-menu quality cooked to order. Unmentioned is the flexibility when with a family – we’re a family of 4, and with every stay our breakfasts were always fully covered without hesitation, and when my children joined us when we were staying as a couple, the Hiltons have never hesitated to let us have them join the breakfast, also fully comped. This is a HUGE devaluation. No longer is this a simple, clear and valuable benefit, now at best we have to game the system to come out at best close to covering the cost of an in-hotel breakfast. And, more hassle at check-out to make sure the credits were correctly applied. Sad, and surprising that anyone sees it any other way. What benefit – when on the property – is left that matters?

    • I agree that it totally depends on your travel patterns and can see why many people don’t like the change and a lot of people do. I am surprised you got 4 breakfasts every time. I ran into problems the last 3 Hilton hotels I stayed at and found it was very YMMV to get more than 2. That is why I have always preferred Hyatt’s rules / setup.

  4. I’ve stayed at countless Hiltons, Doubletrees and Garden Inns primarily in Denver and Houston for work. In general, the free breakfasts at those properties were solid (off the menu, buffet, or made to order omelets). In fact, they typically look similar to the photo included in this post, which is contrary to the gripe about stale bagels and powdered eggs; neither of which I’ve encountered at the properties I’ve stayed at.

    To spend the gas (or Uber), time, and hassle to leave the hotel in the morning for breakfast, and then come back to the hotel in the evening to get gouged on overpriced beverages at the bar in the evening is senseless.

    • There have been plenty of times I have had to skip breakfast or decided to go elsewhere for a better meal, to try something different etc. and missed out on the benefit. This gives me options. Can still use my credit towards breakfast if you want or elsewhere. That is what I like about it but that won’t be best for everyone for sure.

      In Denver there is plenty of stuff within walking distance, as there are in most major cities, if you are in the city center. So I guess I don’t get the Uber thing but if you are in the burbs etc. then that could make sense.

  5. I just can’t see this as anything but another major devaluation. If it was anything else, Hilton would allow the customer to choose between breakfast and a credit. Hilton was my fallback chain even with the gigantic devaluations they’ve enacted over the past several years, mostly because even as they made their points consistently more worthless the elite benefits were still decent and consistent. Now with the changes Hilton is rapidly closing in on being IHG. I won’t absolutely stop staying with them but I’ll certainly stay less considering how they’ve acted.

    • It will be interesting to see what happens at the end of the year. It would be cool if they offered either or starting in 2022.

  6. I see this happening for a reason not mentioned. The price of food and cost of employees (if you can find them) is spiraling out of control. I think this might have something to do with controlling costs rather than “enhancing” the program.
    My travels are mostly leisure and I really do value a good breakfast (which my HGI really does serve) when I travel on weekends so I’m not too excited about the change. I agree with some of Nick’s comments, especially about the convenience. I am looking at this as a program devaluation but will take a see what happens attitude before making a final determination.

    • I agree – I think buffet style breakfasts have a ton of food cost / waste and this is a way to curb that. Especially when there are big swings in occupation rates week to week. It is hard to judge what is needed etc.

  7. I think free breakfast benefits should be indexed to the cost of a reasonable breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant. For example, I think it’s reasonable for someone to order a drink (so that could be coffee or orange juice or something like that) and a hot entrée. So if coffee costs $5 and juice costs $7 then maybe you average the two to arrive at $6. And then if entrées range from $12-$30 then maybe they have to take something like the 75th percentile so you get a roughly $24 credit for food. All in all you would end up with a $30 credit which would allow you to have a beverage and a real meal.

  8. Thanks for posting this counterpoint, Mark. I completely agree. Based on my experience, aside from Curio, where you could order an entree of the breakfast menu in the restaurant, the breakfast benefit at most Hiltons, HGI and Doubletree properties in the US have never excited me. The food is mediocre at best and I would rather have a credit and pay the difference for what I want to eat or drink. With that said, the full breakfast is dramatically better in Europe and Asia, so it would be a bigger hit to me if Hilton implements this credit internationally. My spouse and I mainly travel for leisure, and I often find myself rushing him to head down sit down for breakfast before it ends because there was no flexibility on when you could use the benefit. We appreciate the credits at resort properties, Conrads and Waldorf Astoria to use them on items we actually want to eat. Granted, I wish the amount they offered was more generous at all brands, such as $20-$25/pp. Nonetheless, people who get Diamond status through the Aspire card still come out way ahead, so I doubt many of them will jump ship over this change. As a “geriatric millennial” (learned of this term this week!) we completely prefer the Canopy, Curio, Conrad type brands and much prefer not having to eat breakfast every morning, especially when using the 5th night free benefit. With that said, I can see how for families with small kids who loved the convenience and quantity of the buffet options, this could be a big hit for them.

    • Ah being able to sleep in after a late night will be so sweet haha. I hated rushing downstairs to find most of the trays empty at the buffet. So I understand completely where you are coming from. I also agree that internationally would be a much larger issue. They offer much better spreads and lounges for that matter.

  9. So does this mean always book the reservation for 2 people to take advantage of the double credit? I assume that the credit will just come off the final bill at the front desk if they see a food or beverage charge or no ? Or are they planning on taking that credit off on the bill presented at the bar or restaurant and then they know there was only 1 person eating ?

  10. Such a bummer the “per room” thing is what kills me the most. I was being somewhat optimistic initially thinking we’d get credits per guest but no. Im always with someone else on my travels. That breakfast was huge.

    This kills the Surpass for me. Something tells me the devaluations are not done for the wonderful Aspire.

  11. I know you’re trying to be contrarian here, but I think you’re wrong about free breakfast being overvalued. It’s not the cost savings of getting free breakfast that makes it a luxury for people in the hobby, it’s the convenience of being able to walk downstairs without grabbing everything you need for the day and being able to go back to your room and use the bathroom or freshen up before you run out the door for a day of sightseeing, work, or whatever. Of course I can get a McGriddle for a buck or two or a higher quality restaurant off-site. If that’s what I was looking for, I’d stay at IHG properties or boutique brands. Hilton’s advantage is that for those of us who value the time savings and convenience of free breakfast in-hotel, this is a devaluation. I can get a cheap drink and snack while I’m out of the hotel all day after I’ve eased my way into the morning with free breakfast. If I didn’t care about breakfast, a $15 or $25 F&B credit isn’t going to make me choose Hilton over other options any more than Kimpton’s raid the bar credit made me interested in Kimpton (which is to say that it didn’t). I understand that some people don’t value free hotel breakfast, but I doubt this credit will make them choose Hilton over a competitor whereas the loss of breakfast is a devaluation for people who wanted Hilton Gold specifically for the breakfast benefit (which I have to imagine is the sole reason many care about Hilton Gold). If I wanted to be liberated to eat breakfast elsewhere, I already had a myriad of hotel choices in any given city that would gladly give me that freedom.

    • Honestly not trying to be contrarian I think this fits my travel style (and others) better. Will it be less than the majority of people maybe but I honestly can’t remember a memorable Hilton breakfast in the US. Tons of below average stuff. Would I rather have a credit to use at the pool, on snacks or for drinks/dinner? You bet. I hate getting up earlier to cram in free crap breakfast. Would rather grab something while out and use it on something when I get done at the end of the day or snacks to stock the room – especially for an early flight or to get to a Disney park etc. Would it have been better as an even or? Sure but people are acting like it is all gone. You still have money to use on breakfast. Maybe you have to settle for a bagel sandwich etc. instead if a buffet but you will still have money to grab something and then head out. I wonder if you put it down for two people even on solo trips if you get your cake and eat it too.

      • I can understand Mark’s point of view, it does depend almost completely on your style of Thrace. However, to Nick’s point, in general, I believe we will see this a big devaluation. Take the case of the Hilton Garden Inn Key West. I’ve stayed there many times going back even before the major renovation. The hotel isn’t close to any place to eat, but they have a convenient shuttle service to take you down to Duval St. every thirty minutes. The breakfast has always been quite good there. After eating we could go upstairs, shower, use the toilet, relax, get dressed and be ready for a full day on the island. As a Diamond I resent this abrupt disruption of a promised and expected status benefit. The whole flow of the day changes in cases like this. Frankly, I’m pissed as hell. Same story for the Hilton Garden Inn Kauai, which I often use. I got Hilton status SPECIFICALLY for this benefit, since all the other benefits are pretty hit or miss. So much for the rant, but this ain’t a small deal.

        • I think it will hurt at certain properties for sure but others it may work out in your favor. If you have hotels that you really relied on the breakfast like mentioned above then that is a huge negative for sure. Hopefully it goes back to normal at the end of the year, or better yet they offer either or.

        • Totally agree, Brant. My husband (lifetime Marriott Titanium) tries to achieve Diamond every year because he vastly prefers the free breakfast offering at HGI compared to Marriott’s Courtyard brand which just gives a small credit. Maybe they aren’t “memorable” (why is that the measure of a benefit?! – free parking is a great benefit that’s not “memorable”), but they are convenient and usually pretty tasty.

      • Mark, I often agree with you, but I couldn’t possibly disagree with you more on this one. Nick nailed it. Here are a couple of examples… at Hilton Garden Inn, Gold’s get a free breakfast for 2 in the restaurant, including made to order omelettes. At the Orange Beach DoubleTree, you likewise get a fantastic free breakfast for 2 in the restaurant. Maybe it’s not a big deal to you, but to a lot of us, that’s the whole point of having Hilton Gold status. To each his/her own, I guess, but this is enough to make me question keeping the Surpass card.

        • It will be different depending on the person’s situation for sure. I would still keep the Surpass personally because of the earning structure and the $15K free night but I valued the status a lot less than some so that never factored into my decision making process on the card (or most any card really).

    • I agree with Nick. I want to be able to eat in the hotel. I am not staying at the least expensive properties so the breakfast is quite costly. Eating outside the hotel, is time consuming. For single people, then it forces us to play games with how many people are staying in the room as noted above. I really dislike when hotels ding single people.

  12. Agreed. I’m tired of free breakfast myself. And have very little use for it at Hilton’s. When I do decide and go for the Hot breakfast I always end up spending 10-15$ anyway at Hilton.

  13. Counterpoint: I love free breakfasts, and actively look for them in my hotel stays:
    – I have a family of 6, so free breakfast adds quite a bit of value
    – I love not having to go anywhere to get breakfast. I mean if I was going to like be out the door for another reason than ok, but if it is a relaxing day, I really don’t want to drive down the road just to eat.
    – And even if I am going somewhere (like a drive down the coast) I don’t want to have to stop again.
    – And super duper if there is liked cooked to order food. My wife and I make enough food, this is a vacation, man!
    – Which is why we stay at Embassy Suites A LOT. 6 person occupancy. Hot omelet to start the day. What’s not to love? Embassy Suites >> Ritz Carlton.

    FWIW- I am totally not bugged about the status thing just thought I’d give my $0.02.

    • Makes sense for sure. Were you able to get free breakfast for the entire group often? I ran into them capping me at 2 multiple times but not at Embassy Suites :). I do wonder what happens to the places that include breakfast for all guests normally.

    • Did I miss something- this new policy applies internationally also? Although I think it’s unlikely I’ll travel abroad this year, I have had some really excellent buffets at Hiltons around the world. My concern is more that they make this permanent, and my tendency to favor Hiltons would absolutely diminish unless there was a good lounge. I wish, as some have pointed out, they would make it an either the breakfast or the credit.

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