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To do or not to do – that is the hotel breakfast question

Donnchadh Tiernan

6 Oct, 2022

When you take away all the trimmings – put showers where the two person jacuzzis are and regular beds where there would have been four-posters – the breakfast – and particularly the breakfast buffet – might be the only thing that makes a hotel-stay truly exclusive to a regular day in the life.

Think about it – bathroom, bed, restaurant, bar – each of these things may exist separately on their own terms, whether they’re in your home or out in the world – but there’s nowhere save hotels where you can realistically expect to have exactly what you want for breakfast and then a plate of something else for sampling.

Hotel breakfasts can function as the cornerstone of a productive day on the move or the lofty first steps into a day of leisure all at the same time. And they don’t even need to cost that much money on your part – they just need to be done right.

Here are five things I think you should do followed by another five I know you shouldn’t. You can pick and choose but if I were you I wouldn’t treat this as a buffet – every hospitality food group is represented here to make this a tasty, nutritious meal for anyone with an appetite for satisfied customers.

The 5 do’s

1. DO Keep it Pretty

Breakfast buffets don’t exactly exist on a spectrum. People tend to remember them as magnificent or disgusting with very little wiggle room in between. There is a certain amount of reaction you can put down to personal tastes – good or bad, there’s no accounting for them – but there is one area in particular where you can make gains and that’s good old fashioned pomp and presentation.


Invest in a nice set of bowls and dishes – a different set per section – and arrange them in patterns pleasing to the eye. Get in flowers as fresh as your fruit, bread and pastries every day. Even if something in your assembly isn’t up to scratch you can make it look good and remember – looks can be deceiving which means you can also deceive with looks…

2. DO cater for a variety of diets

You may have been reared on a diet of meat and potatoes like me or you may have gotten this far subsisting completely on berries and leaves – in either case the point remains: not everyone eats the same. I’ll go one further – these days more than ever before people are dogmatic about their diets – from dedicated carnivores to pescatarians to celiacs to tree-fall fruitarians – and the ball is your court to get with the program or get out of the game. 

Seriously though, a few labels and a bit of location planning is the difference between a series of uncomfortable conversations about gluten traces and a streamlined user-friendly breakfast experience that allows bacon and a spelt-bread to coexist in peace.

3. DO patrol

Nothing says you don’t care about your customers like a spoon in an empty bowl lined with rice crispy dust or a wet, sticky dish where fruit salad once was. Before you double down on luxury with an oatmeal bar or an omelette station make sure you budget to have one member of staff whose singular purpose is to hover around the buffet making sure no section is let to take on a look of neglect. 

Ideally it will be the person who sets the buffet up and sure, on quieter mornings you yourself can bounce between seating guests and making sure everything is topped up but on a full-house morning – don’t kid yourself! 

The more hungry morning mouths you have to feed the more the potential for nasty reviews and with 42.4% of travellers stating breakfast to be what they most look forward to when staying in a hotel it’s not a ball you want to fumble.

4. DO push local produce

You might have a nice jam selection but you only have one organic strawberry preserve made by the farmer up the lane. Your pastries might be delectable and varied but only the cinnamon rolls are fresh from O’Farrell’s Bakery down the road who also happens to have a very high rating on TripAdvisor. 

 These days, everyone loves authenticity. There was a time when the ‘why’ question was ‘why bother making your own anything’ but now it’s ‘why does everything come from a factory two continents away?’ Why not separate and emphasise the local produce you bring to your table with a sign and maybe even a QR code that will take the guest straight to the producer’s social media?

Your embassy of authenticity doesn’t even need to end with the buffet table either – you can dedicate text, photos, videos and links to the businesses you support on your website. If they’re willing to link back to you it means a nice authentic boost in the SEO for you! Yipee! And all for just being a nice guy. If SEO is a four-letter word to you it might be time to get up to speed, which you can do easily enough one of the free courses from The Hotel Club.


5. DO know your guests

Far be it from me to suggest you might know a thing or two about the calibre of person who regularly stays with you, but you know what? You just might. And if you’re currently shaking your head and saying ‘no, haven’t the foggiest’ it might be time to get up to scratch on your revenue management.

Just as you use your market segments and personas to establish pricing strategies, promotions and social media campaigns use them to figure out beforehand what might be popular with your people of a given weekend? Put up a poll saying you’re falling short of inspiration as to what kinds of options to include in such-and-such a section of your buffet. The one thing people love more than giving their opinions about something is giving their suggestions.

The 5 don’ts

1. DON’T make your fruit salad the night before

If I wasn’t living in a world governed by the laws of supply and demand fruit salad would never enter my orbit but the fact is – remember what I mentioned previously about catering for different tastes – there are those among the populace – perhaps you’re one – for whom it’s a breakfast essential and so I have prepared it more times in my life than I’ve called my mother to say hi at this point. 

Hi Mum, if you’re reading this – I’ll call soon! 

The point is it’s got to be done. Does it need to be done the night before? “No, but it’s more convenient and I know a way to keep it fresh”. No you don’t. I’ve heard it all before. Fruits chopped up and kept together overnight lose flavour and texture and despite my own feelings on the matter the fruit salad crowd are after something that feels and tastes fresh and while I might not agree with them dammit I respect them and so should you! Set time aside last thing before first covers to get it done or don’t bother.

2. DON’T over-charge

Ok guys – it’s time for some real talk. Unless you’ve got Iberian ham being sliced live in the restaurant to adorn an eggs Benedict topped with caviar and served with champagne, it’s likely your breakfast stuff is bought in bulk and ordered according to demand projections. Breakfast charges are, more often than not, seen only as the guest is checking out. 

It’s either a box they ticked at check-in or a spur-of-the-moment decision made when they saw it was raining outside, the point is the option and the temptation is there to charge something excessive and unfair because by the time they see the price they’ll have already consumed the product. Do not give in to this temptation.


There is no review more vehemently written than one by a guest whose otherwise pleasant stay has been ruined by a sneak attack – a price they may well have paid if someone had been up front about it but it doesn’t change the fact they feel they’ve been taken advantage of. 

It happened to me on my honeymoon guys and to be honest I now look negatively upon the city of Narbonne as a whole just for that one incident, and I got as much across in my TripAdvisor review. 

Just as buying in bulk saves you money a little bit at a time so let a good e-reputation build up your profit margins on breakfast one satisfied guest at a time. Get yourself set up on an integrated pay system like Amenitiz Pay to make extra charges easier and more automated than ever before!


3. DON’T use single-Use

Single-use is a dirty word these days. Luckily, there are plenty of cool alternatives available to you. What do I mean by single-use, you ask? Every pat of butter served in a plastic shell – unless you’re into tiny rectangular ice-cubes – is never used again. Neither are those for the jam or the olive oil or the eggs, but in the case of eggshells they don’t have a half-life of several thousand years so we’ll let them off the hook. 

Whatever your own thoughts on the matter, environmental sustainability is very much in vogue at the moment. By putting your olive oil in a glass bottle and your butter in a ramekin, not only do you give your guests the impression that you care about the environment but some will think you make your own butter and olive oil and whatever else you serve up in something you’ll wash and use again. In the business we call that a win-win! 

4. DON’T be cheap

I did not come here to insult anyone, folks. Any behaviours of yours I’m about to call out and criticise you should know first that I’ve engaged in them and subsequently learned from them myself many times over. 

OK – If yesterday’s pastries feel like yesterday’s either think of a novel use for them – I hear that ground up they’re a great way to bind a cheese omelette – or get rid of them. I’ve seen them effectively used to make ham and cheese toasties to order but much more than that I’ve seen them doused in so much powdered sugar you get dusty looking at them. 

Why? So I might not notice with my eyes just how much the air has gotten to them. 

Don’t underestimate your public. What might fool the eyes will trip up the taste buds and that’s surefire fuel for the kind of ire that usually means negative reviews are more widely read than good ones. The only thing worse than a negative review is an entertaining negative review.

What you save in dressing mutton as lamb – be it pastries or cold cuts or fruit or cheese – you’ll pay for in your E-Reputation and that’s the charge that keeps on coming back for more.


5. DON’T Forget the basics 

My heart does not want to write this one but my gut knows it to be necessary. 

A sizeable fraction of the negative reviews you’ll read online will be complaints levelled at the kinds of things that if you get wrong – on paper at least – you’ve no business being next to nor near anywhere that serves breakfast. 

Coffee needs to be hot and the machine ought to be cleaned properly and often if you don’t want to taste yesterday’s with todays. It’s not a bad way to spend money either, but first and foremost spend the time to get it right. The fact that it’s one of the most popular beverages on planet earth should tell you it needs to be done correctly, not neglected as is so often the case. 

Eggs are served hot or they are disgusting. There’s no wiggle room with this. If you’re serving your eggs in a bain-marie then set the flames to high and make it a priority for whoever is on buffet patrol to replace the lid whenever a guest leaves them uncovered, as 110% of guests will 200% of the time. 

Your orange juice should be fresh. Invest in a juicer before you set up a pancake station or an omelette bar. 

Make sure the wash-up isolates a lifetime’s supply of teaspoons every evening before they finish up. If this is sounding patronising to you – good! That means you do all of these things regularly and are insulted by my impudence, but you should know if this is the case I’m not talking to you. 

I’m talking to the other guys looking away from their screen’s in embarrassment right now. You guys – if you want to stay alive in the modern online world the least you could do is get the basics right!

Once you’ve that done…

Once your dining room in the morning begins to resemble the mirage of a starving man lost in the desert it might be time to talk about it a little. Take to the streets if you want – perhaps a magic marker and a tour of all the public toilets in your general orbit might do the trick. If each of these high tech means of communication fail you it might be time to get yourself a tip-top website. Head over to Amenitiz and book yourself a free demo of our all-in-one platform. There are PMS’s and channel managers galore but perhaps most crucially – if you’re in the breakfast bragging business – there’s a user-friendly website-builder that puts all the tools you’ll need at your disposal so you can boast about your pastry selection to absolutely everyone who wants to know.


Donnchadh Tiernan

6 Oct, 2022