Why Hotel Complimentary Breakfast Isn’t Overrated, Plus My Take on Hilton’s Change

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Hotel Complimentary Breakfast

Why I Love Hotel Complimentary Breakfast & My Take On Hilton’s Change

Spurred on by Hilton’s recent hotel complimentary breakfast (temporary) changes for elite members, Mark recently shared why he thinks free breakfast is highly overrated.  Similar to his Hilton FNC stance, Mark triggered me a bit with his breakfast take, as well.  No doubt, how one values complimentary breakfast is very situation-dependent.  Today, though, I’ll describe why hotel complimentary breakfast, whether due to elite status or a hotel standard, is one of my favorite features of any stay.  I’ll also share my initial take on Hilton’s change.

Convenience

First off, the convenience of a hotel complimentary breakfast cannot be replicated by an off-property option.  Breakfast at the hotel is a huge time saver and encourages a great start to the day.  At times, I’m surprised that some complimentary breakfasts end on the earlier side – 9 am in some cases.  This is a turn-off to some, but I try to use it as motivation to not unnecessarily lurk around the hotel.  I love sleeping in, but not all the time.

Knowing that I don’t have to jump into a rental car, hop on public transit, or even walk down the block for breakfast is a huge win.  If anything, I would say hotel complimentary breakfast is too convenient.  How so?  Check out how many people are eating breakfast in their pajamas on your next hotel stay.

Hotel Complimentary Breakfast
Free breakfast isn’t always pretty, but it’s done the job for us most of the time.

One Meal Solved

With two little ones, a large focus of our trips involves figuring out meals.  The logistics of feeding our family of four three times daily takes time away from other preferred activities.  In some ways, meals are more work during trips than at home.  Hotel complimentary breakfast solves one of those three daily challenges.

Taking it a step further, we aim for a late breakfast or brunch on certain trips.  For those larger breakfasts, they resolve two meal needs in a day.  In those cases, just a late breakfast and early dinner meet our daily goals.  We’ve done this at resorts, of course, but also more in more seemingly pedestrian properties, such as Hilton Garden Inns.

Exploring Variety at a Hotel Complimentary Breakfast

When I’m paying for my breakfast, I’m not particularly adventurous with my selections.  I want to go with the sure thing which I know I’ll enjoy.  When breakfast is complimentary, I’m more apt to try new foods, such as local favorites or more exotic fare.  We’re also more open to our kids trying different stuff here, too.  Of course, exploring variety at a complimentary breakfast isn’t always possible.  TownePlace Suites’ breakfast is the opposite of variety.  Nonetheless, I enjoy taking advantage of the variety at any hotel breakfast when it’s available.

Excellent Service

This definitely doesn’t apply all the time, but we’ve received stellar service from hotel employees working breakfast in on-site restaurants.  We’ve taken advantage of their local knowledge, and they’ve shared hotel aspects that we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.  Along with housekeeping, I’ve found these employees to be some of the most underrated hotel staffers out there.

Hotel Complimentary Breakfast
We’ll continue to stay at Hilton Garden Inns, enjoy breakfast, and pay a bit more. No big deal. Source: Hilton.

My Initial Take on Hilton’s Change

You can obtain a full refresher on Hilton’s temporary changes here.  Long story short, certain elite members were previously eligible for at least complimentary continental breakfast at the majority of Hilton hotel brands.  Through the end of the year, that benefit is being replaced with a property credit (amount varies by hotel brand).

My first thought of the change is that this is a shrewd move by Hilton.  Compared to other major properties, Hilton has one of the more generous elite breakfast benefits in terms of applicability across the chain.  Undoubtedly, they are devaluing the benefit with the credits.  But is it a substantial enough devaluation for me and my family to focus our loyalty elsewhere?  No, and I bet we’re not alone here.  While they are announcing this as a temporary change through the end of the year, I’m considering it more of a pilot period.  If Hilton determines the change is working out successfully, I figure they’ll implement it permanently.  I’d be happy to be proven wrong and have them revert back to the old version.

Moving Forward

Regardless, we’ll still be fans of Hilton Garden Inn, my favorite hotel brand, and their breakfast offering.  I’m okay paying a few extra bucks, as we enjoy the consistency, quality, and absence of stuffiness there.  While the old benefit covered breakfast for two (and all four of us most of the time), I was accustomed to shelling out via gratuity.  With the new policy, I’ll just pay a bit more; I’ll simply dip deeper into my cash back rewards to cover it.  No big deal.

Hotel Complimentary Breakfast

If the new policy is permanently adopted, I’ll inevitably try different hotel brands within the Hilton portfolio that still provide free breakfast.  Check out Mark’s helpful article for more info, but these Hilton brands are:

  • Canopy
  • Embassy Suites
  • Hampton Inn
  • Homewood Suites
  • Home2 Suites
  • Tru

We’ve stayed plenty in Hampton, Homewood, and Embassy Suites properties.  This devaluation may be the kick in the rear I need to try those other brands.  As I mentioned, I probably won’t take my hotel loyalty to another chain.  Instead, perhaps I’ll just shift my brand tendencies within the Hilton chain.

PSA

While I’ve enjoyed Embassy Suites in the past, I don’t think it’s wise to consider their breakfast (or happy hour) truly complimentary.  From my perspective, travelers pay for those Embassy Suites benefits via higher rates (cash or points) as compared to other alternatives (Hilton properties or otherwise).  I’ve found that Embassy Suites properties are at least 10k points more per night (and frequently, much higher) than other Hilton brands.  In this, and all other cases, decide if the extra points or higher cash rate is worth the “free” breakfast.

Hotel Complimentary Breakfast – Conclusion

I truly value hotel complimentary breakfast across all hotel chains, but Hilton is my favorite chain.  With this temporary change, Hilton has put more responsibility on loyalists to determine their best values for breakfast.  It will involve a bit more legwork, but nothing near the mess that Marriott has created with their painful breakfast policy.  Hilton’s change could’ve been much worse!  At best, it’s just a temporary thing – at worst, it’s a minor devaluation.  Based on how you value hotel complimentary breakfast, what do you think of Hilton’s change?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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23 COMMENTS

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Benjy – You stated that Embassy Suites are usually roughly 10K higher then equivalent properties so that covers the breakfast and evening happy hour. What about the fact that in most cases it’s a 1br. suite so a much larger room vs. a regular hotel room.

    So to me I might be paying a higher rate but I prefer the extra space and separation. That way I can get up early and get on my computer and work without disturbing my wife who likes to sleep in.

    • Michael,

      Great point, although I would say 10k higher is the minimum. I’ve seen 20k-30k points higher very routinely. It really comes down to what works best for one’s situation. If that’s Embassy Suites for you, great! For me, it’ll be Embassy Suites about 1% of the time.

  2. Hilton has put more responsibility on loyalists to determine their best values for breakfast

    Agreed. Hilton has been my second choice after Hyatt but although they’ve had some pretty breathtaking devaluations of late the one thing you could depend on as a gold member was free breakfast for two. Now that that’s “temporarily” gone, the value proposition is gone too along with my business. It’ll be interesting to see how many people feel similarly.

    • Christian,

      Indeed! Hopefully, tons jump off the Hilton ship in the next few months, and they don’t make the change permanent. 🙂

  3. Benjy I see point and I also see Mark’s point as well. I could see why a family of four would focus on free breakfast as it saves some time and a little cash as well.

    Shy of the hotel actually having a restaurant style breakfast, I just don’t care about a free version of everything the hotel could find at the Sam’s Club bakery section. Even the ones that try to go a step further usually aren’t much better in my experience.

    Limped bacon, watery (dry) eggs, sausage that’s true and looks to be a few hours past it’s prime. Nah, I’ll pass.

    If I can order breakfast from a menu then I’d be willing to say that hotel breakfast may be worth it…but the dry Frosted Flakes and room temperature milk, I can certainly do without.

    • you nailed it about the sausage! There have been times when I thought…oops…the high cost of free might be offset by the expense of some Pepto! 🙂

      • Exactly. Married with no kids so I may never understand the idea of traveling on a budget. In my situation, my wife and I are going to travel and enjoy ourselves or just stay home.

        IHOP isn’t that expensive and I don’t mind getting up a few minutes early to enjoy a decent breakfast versus trying to figure out why those scrambled eggs have a slight hint of green to them.

        Besides, I haven’t eaten with a spork since elementary school.

    • 2808 Heavy,

      I hear you regarding the low-end stuff. That’s another reason why I love Hilton Garden Inn’s breakfast being a step above without going high-end.

  4. I’m one of those who book exclusively with hotels that offer free breakfast. In a normal year, I have anywhere from 60-100 nights a year, most of my stays(say 75%) are with family of 4(2 kids) and sometime extended families multiple rooms. At least 1/2 of those stays are in international properties and I enjoy the breakfast be it in Asia or Europe or South and Central America. America is the only place where having Omelette seems to be the biggest hit but there are hotels where I have enjoyed nice fresh smoothies along with free breakfast. I may switch to AirBnB on longer than 5 night stays if no breakfast

  5. I’m one of the people that views breakfast benefit as double edged sword at best. If traveling for business free vs comped vs paid really doesn’t matter. It just goes on a card and is paid in 7-10 days. actually capture value on float so incentive is to spend more. When staying in a city hotel, for either work or leisure, I would much rather an experience at a local coffee shop or even food cart. If food is free, I will tend to eat it so free breakfast does undercut motivation to look for something more interesting even if nobody is forcing me to eat the free stuff. There really is no free lunch. One way or another, we are paying for elite comped breakfast in the form of room rate. Think the bigger issue is believe, reflected in many of comments, that US-base hotels are providing a lower quality service and are in a race to the bottom. Very sad.

  6. I know this is just a north America policy(for now) but if it spreads then I’ll be disappointed. Breakfast at Hiltons(and any nice hotel) in Asia are predictably outstanding. I will graze for hours, sipping coffee, trying different stuff, and browsing online. Its a key reason I choose Hiltons. Nickel and dime me on that and I’ll choose elsewhere out of spite. I also wonder if this could be an illegal change. Sure they can do what they want with their elite program, but you can’t advertise benefits like free breakfast on a cobranded credit card sign up and then take it away without notice.

    Having said that, this policy would be a win at any property with an executive club, since you should be able to double dip with the breakfast at the club and then use the cert later.

    • WR2,

      Interesting comment! I like the club/cert double dip – I just wish there were more properties with clubs. Fingers crossed on properties beyond North America – I agree breakfast benefit is even better at such locations.

      I suspect Hilton is announcing this “temporary” change for the exact reason you mentioned regarding people going elsewhere. What is the breaking point where “spite” customers avoiding Hiltons outweighs the savings from the new policy? The temporary window allows Hilton to gauge this.

  7. I love the free breakfast for the convenience, extreme time saving, and cost savings. I would really regret it becoming permanent.

    Ken

  8. You definitely nailed all the key points as to why the complimentary breakfast is a great loyalty perk. Before people say, well, screw it, I have status with X brand so I will go there, remember, X brand is watching the pushback on this change and will probably do something very similar in the near future. Just look at what happened when a small, regional carrier introduced a check bag fee and then within about 12 months, everyone else did the same. The hotels took huge hits last year and they will be looking hard everywhere to increase revenue and reduce the value of loyalty. Look for more erosions to come, points devaluations and earnings/ bonuses opportunities to be reduced. I bet they will increase the number of branded credit card bonus offers and points buying opportunities, knowing full well they can sell off the former and devalue the later.. As they say in all those Mob movies…”It’s just business.”

  9. I think you and Hilton have missed the point of this greatly. As a business traveller I am up early, eat a good breakfast and hit the road. I will be in a different hotel the next day. What good is a voucher for me to be used later? None. Fortunately my company allows me to stay in nicer Hilton, Marriotts, and Hyatts. If no breakfast, I have other choice of hotels. I am Diamond, Liftetime Titanium, and Globalist. An on those occasions when my wife is with me. She enjoys a long breakfast. We have agreed, we will cancel the Aspire card and just quit staying at Hiltons once the points are gone.

    It seems to me that the CEO at Hilton thinks he is the smartest guy in the room. I am afraid he is racing his company to the bottom. He has massively undervalued loyalty.

    • Ronnie,

      What point is being missed greatly? If anything, I may be missing what else specifically is concerning you about Hilton other than this breakfast change.

      Based on your comment, you can still use your voucher for breakfast – maybe you are out a few bucks more now if you decide for a bigger breakfast. I agree you can take your breakfast priorities to another program with the status you seem to value. I get Hyatt; have fun with Marriott.

  10. The blanket breakfast benefit is great, however the pandemic cuts make it not worth it in many properties that have cut back to the brown bag breakfast. I know the properties that care about guests will make guests whole under the credit scheme, while guests can actually get some value from the cheapskate properties.

    • Mowogo,

      I definitely agree regarding the brown bag options. We’ve avoided or postponed staying at hotels with only that option.

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