Hotel plates increasingly filled with free grub

There’s plenty of seating in the upscale hotel restaurant right now – wherever you are. Guests are tending to choose the free breakfasts and buffets over the pricier (and often far better) paid offerings. Free meals and snacks eaten ticked up 1 percent as of the end of the third quarter, which isn’t much … until you figure in that hotel occupancy is down severely. So, the effective number of freebies chomped is actually much higher than the 1 percent, as fewer people must be eating more. The number of paid meals in restaurants is off 14%.

The rise in free meals consumed may suggest that travelers are skipping the luxury (and even mid-range) hotels and turning to budget-friendly alternatives. Full-service restaurants are giving way to free breakfasts and fast food later in the day.

When the travel biz finally kicks around to a recovery, this sort of tradeoff will become less necessary. But, for now, being able to travel means finding the ways to do it on less.