Breakfast hotel kitchen cooking meal

By Nicole Di Tomasso

A hotel’s breakfast program, once considered a mere convenience, is now recognized as strategic profit centre that significantly influences guest experience, revenue generation and brand differentiation. 

“Many hotel brands in the midscale and economy segments offer complimentary breakfast as part of their amenities to attract guests,” says Steven Gilbert, director of Procurement, Choice Hotels Canada. “However, upscale and luxury hotels generally charge a premium for breakfast, especially if they offer extensive buffet options or a higher-end experience.”

Service Styles

The Mizzen Restaurant at The Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto runs a breakfast buffet and à-la-carte menu in tandem seven days a week. 

“The breakfast buffet is accompanied by a live-action chef making omelettes,” says Daniel Craig, executive chef, The Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto. “I’d say it’s probably a 75-per-cent split, with the majority of guests opting for the buffet.”

Grab-and-go items, including breakfast sandwiches, hummus and crackers and cold-pressed juices, are available at Harbour Coffee Bar and Marketplace, located in the hotel’s lobby.

“Breakfast has always been and continues to be our biggest capture,” says Craig. “Given the type of property and its location, it’s easy to grab breakfast and kick start your day. A lot of guests will go to the island or explore the downtown core and that’s where they’ll have lunch or dinner. We see most of our guests pop in for breakfast to get their day setup.”

“At Choice Hotels Canada, we provide a complimentary hot buffet breakfast for guests staying at the majority of our mid-scale brands,” says Gilbert. “Buffet offerings provide a wider variety of choices and allow guests to customize their meals according to their preferences of hot items, such as pancakes, waffles, eggs and sausage, or cold items, such as cereal, yogurt and fruit. Buffets offer a more convenient experience, which is often preferred by families, individual travellers and groups, such as sports teams.”

However, Gilbert says some hotels do offer à-la-carte menus. 

In 2020, Jacky Bruchez, national F&B director, Germain Hotels, says the company decided to remove the cost of breakfast included in its room rates due to a drop in attendance. Today, Germain properties offer both à la carte and buffet options as an additional amenity. 

Le Germain Hotel & Spa Charlevoix, Le Germain Hotel Ottawa and Le Germain Hotel Quebec, for example, offer breakfast buffets mainly because of guest volumes, says Bruchez. 

“Previously, 55 to 70 per cent of guests [had breakfast in the hotel],” says Bruchez. “Once we removed the price in 2020, attendance dropped to around 40 per cent. Today, we see attendance in some provinces drop between 20 and 25 per cent for weekdays.”

Innovation & Partnerships

Breakfast programs serve as platforms for culinary innovation and local partnerships. By showcasing regional specialities and collaborating with local producers and vendors, hotels can create unique breakfast experiences that reflect the destination’s culture and gastronomic heritage. This not only adds a distinctive flavour to the guest experience but also strengthens the hotel’s ties to the community. 

“Germain Hotels works with bakeries and other businesses to showcase local product as much as possible,” says Bruchez. “Working with local suppliers has always been a part of our core identity.” 

Several Germain hotel properties have also partnered with cafés to provide easy grab-and-go options for guests. Last year, Germain Hotels re-opened Jackson Café, located within the Ottawa Art Gallery (directly accessible from Le Germain Hotel Ottawa). 

Additionally, hotels must adapt their offerings to align with evolving consumer preferences and dietary restrictions. With an increasing emphasis on health and wellness, guests are seeking nutritious and wholesome breakfast options that go beyond traditional fare. Hotels can capitalize on this trend by incorporating superfoods, organic ingredients and plant-based alternatives into their breakfast menus to cater to health-conscious travellers and differentiate themselves from competitors. 

At The Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto, Craig says avocado toast, classic breakfast (eggs, choice of protein, potatoes) and eggs benedict are the top à-la-carte sellers. The buffet, on the other hand, has a gamut of options. “Guests are choosing to eat healthy, so many of them are choosing eggs, fresh fruit, cold-pressed juices, smoked salmon, et cetera,” says Craig. “The egg station sees the most action. Guests can order any style they’d like — over easy, scrambled or just egg whites.”

Craig continues, “We also run a feature of the day that’s quite popular, which can be anything from samosas to croque monsieur to French toast,” adding that the buffet also offers a range of gluten-free options.

Technology and Equipment

Technological innovation can enhance the efficiency and personalization of breakfast programs. From mobile ordering apps to in-room dining tablets, hotels can leverage digital platforms to streamline the breakfast experience, facilitate customization and gather guest feedback in real time. As a result, hotels can gain insights into guest preferences and behaviours, allowing them to tailor their offerings and marketing strategies accordingly. 

“We’ve recently added induction chafer dishes to our breakfast equipment package,” says Gilbert. “They offer several advantages over traditional chafing dishes for buffets. Not only are they more appealing, but they also provide precise temperature control, ensuring food stays at optimal serving temperatures. Induction technology is also more energy-efficient and safer.”

At The Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto, Craig says a “coffee and espresso machine is currently the only self-service unit in use.” However, the hotel is undergoing extensive renovations which are expected to be completed by 2025. At that time, Craig says the Mizzen Restaurant will debut a new design, interactive stations and new equipment. 

Cost Management

One key consideration is cost management as breakfast programs entail expenses related to food procurement, preparation, staffing and overhead. To optimize profitability, hotels must strike a balance between offering a compelling breakfast experience and controlling operational costs through efficient procurement, portion control and waste-reduction measures. 

Craig says that while supply hasn’t been an issue, the hotel is feeling the effects of rising food costs, adding that the cost increase of eggs and butter in particular “pop off the page.” As a result, the hotel has increased pricing.

With regard to labour, Craig says “it’s generally been the same staff pre-pandemic versus now. We’ve always had an omelette chef and we also have a buffet runner who peels and cuts fruit, builds the charcuterie and stocks the buffet. Wages have gone up, but there hasn’t been a big impact in terms of labour.”

However, Craig says the hotel’s labour model changed slightly. “Generally speaking, we’ve seen a lot more single diners at the hotel who are choosing to sit at the bar instead of sitting at a table. This changed our model a bit since one bartender can take care of four or five guests at a time. There’s less impact on the floor and less space taken in the restaurant.”

Craig continues, “We’ve also seen an increase in business travellers and room-service revenue. Some single diners prefer to have breakfast in their room to eat and work at the same time as opposed to coming down to the restaurant.”

Depending on the area and volume for each Germain-owned hotel, Bruchez says food costs went from approximately 30 to 37 per cent, and labour costs went up nearly 10 per cent. 

Overall, hotel breakfast programs offer a myriad of profitable benefits, ranging from guest satisfaction and loyalty to increased revenue and operational efficiency. By prioritizing the quality and convenience of offerings, hotels can stand out in a competitive market. 


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