Ask any nutritionist about breakfast, and you’ll likely hear something along the lines of it being the most important meal of the day. Ask any hotelier about breakfast, and there’s a good chance you’ll get a similar reply. While nutrition is an essential aspect of any good hotel breakfast, there are other reasons why it’s paramount to get the first meal of the day right. “Breakfast sets the tone for the overall food-and-beverage experience,” says Mark Southern, director of Product Innovation, Food and Beverage for Virginia-based Hilton Garden Inn (HGI). “For us, breakfast is the meal with the highest percentage of guest participation. If you get it right — atmosphere, food quality and speed of service — it drives participation for evening meals, snacks and bar covers.”
Last year, HGI rolled out its Ultimate Breakfast Service program across 569 international locations. It promotes brekkie as the best opportunity to connect with guests as well as a way to differentiate the brand from competitors with a focus on a convenient 25-minute service. The Ultimate experience includes greeting guests within 30 seconds of arrival and serving cooked-to-order meals in eight minutes. “The program is guest-driven,” Southern says. “Our customers told us time after time that they have about 30 minutes for breakfast. We serve a lot of business travellers who are setting out on busy days, and we’re set up to meet their needs.” The HGI breakfast offering includes a cold buffet stocked with items such as fresh fruit, yogurt and pastries, plus a selection of hot meals such as French toast and eggs Benedict.
Breakfast prices, which are set by franchisees, range from $8 to $15, though the meal is often included in the room rate, especially for loyalty program members. “Launching a program like this comes with challenges. There’s always a human element, and it takes time to get consistent delivery, but we’re being as agile as we can,” Southern says. Training manuals were dispatched to locations to prepare staff for the successful new program. “Our loyalists are the biggest driver of our business, and they want freshly prepared, high-quality food and service,” he says.
At Ritz-Carlton Montréal, Andrew Torriani, CEO and GM, has a slightly different take on why impressing guests at breakfast is paramount. “Generally, it’s the last meal that customers have at your property, and you want to leave them with a great experience,” he says, adding that breakfast is also a key meal because of the high percentage of clients who partake in the service. The breakfast menu at the hotel’s Maison Boulud restaurant has three prix-fixe options, including Le Déjeuner Gourmand ($37 per person), a selection of individual dishes such as scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and asparagus or a Belgian waffle with chocolate sauce, maple syrup and Chantilly, plus a sharing plate of local charcuterie and cheese for the table. A la carte items include L’oeuf Escoffier ($23), a weekly egg-inspired chef’s special, and Pain Perdu ($14), French toast served with vanilla cream and daily market fruit compote.
The newly redesigned hotel, which reopened in May of last year, also offers a rejigged room-service menu. “We’ve created a more sophisticated menu,” Torriani says. “The room-service menu has to be more complete than the restaurant’s. People will ask for almost anything in-room, and you want to accommodate their requests without over-taxing the kitchen.” So, Torriani’s guests can enjoy everything from foie gras ($31) and filet mignon ($51) to omelettes ($18 to $24) and fresh fruit ($13), without leaving the comforts of their suites. The Ritz’s in-room offering also includes a children’s menu, a list of gluten-free choices and a Sport Night Special of beer, chicken wings and popcorn ($32). “Room service is just one aspect of our excellent food-and-beverage offering,” Torriani says.
Maison Boulud, opened in partnership with Michelin-starred French chef and international restaurateur, Daniel Boulud, has quickly become one of Montreal’s top fine-dining destinations. “Maison Boulud is not just about having a celebrity chef,” says Torriani. “This city has an incredible food offering, and the average hotel restaurant isn’t appealing anymore. We knew [Daniel] could develop a menu that would keep us competitive in the marketplace and create liveliness in the city. If you can excite the city, you will excite your guests.” Chef Boulud’s culinary delights are exciting folks at the new Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, too, where Café Boulud features a menu inspired by the chef’s four culinary muses — la tradition, classic French cuisine; la saison, seasonal foods; le potager, the vegetable garden; and le voyage, the flavours of exotic cuisine. “Working with Daniel has been an amazing journey,” says Marc Dorfman, the hotel’s director of Food, Beverage and Catering. “Café Boulud has made its mark on Toronto’s international restaurant scene. It has been well-received within the city and certainly with international guests. It puts us on the culinary map.”
While chef Boulud and Canadian chef de cuisine, Tyler Shedden, impress Café Boulud customers, the hotel’s executive chef, Thomas Bellec, focuses on special events and in-room dining. The Four Seasons Toronto room service menu includes comfort foods inspired by the city’s many international communities, such as Little India Butter Chicken ($22) and Greek Town Chicken Souvlaki ($22) as well as a 15-minute menu that offers items such as smoothies, coffee, fruit and sandwiches. “Our room-service requests tend to be more comfort-food driven, but we still do very sophisticated restaurant-style cuisine in-room, such as steak, lamb and fish entrées,” Dorfman says.
Exceptional in-room dining is a key part of the culinary experience at Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto, where guests enjoy an extensive room-service menu that includes Canadian Sturgeon Black Caviar ($90), a Kobe beef dog ($24) and Chocolate Lab Specialties ($20), a mix of house-made bonbons, confections and macarons. “We can custom prepare any meal for in-room dining,” says Inna Levitan, Trump Toronto’s CEO and managing partner, who notes that the hotel’s Stock Restaurant Bar and Lounge menu is also available as room service, including its mammoth 50-oz. Tomahawk steak ($145). “We see a huge trend toward nutritionally sound meals across our entire food-and-beverage offering. Many of our guests are looking for organic and gluten-free options,” she says.
Creating a five-star destination restaurant within Trump Toronto was a top priority for Levitan. “The culinary experience has taken over the world,” she says. “There are so many cooking shows on television and thousands of cooking books. People are looking for beautiful food experiences.” Levitan is happy to have Stock’s executive chef, Todd Clarmo, involved in the hotel’s day-to-day operations, unlike some celebrity chefs who are based out of foreign locales. (To be fair, Clarmo, an acclaimed chef who has held prestigious posts such as corporate executive chef of Toronto’s Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, is hardly unknown.) “I’m here for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Clarmo says. “I check almost every single plate that leaves the kitchen.”
Located in Toronto’s financial district, Stock attracts members of the local business community, who convene at Stock for breakfast power meetings. “Dinner is more about wine and schmoozing, but breakfast is when the big deals happen,” Clarmo says. “Our restaurant is beautifully conducive to that.” Stock sells a lot of its traditional Two Eggs Any Style ($19) as well as its lighter House-Roasted Granola ($12), served with Greek yogurt. “We have many high-profile business clients, and we’re very focused on offering attentive, but not intrusive, service, so that our guests can enjoy a great meal and still be engaged in their own conversations,” Levitan says. At Trump, it’s clear that breakfast is the power-meeting meal-of-choice. It’s also a mighty important part of any hotel’s culinary offering.