What Hotels Offer A Free Breakfast?

If you’re not on an expense account, eating breakfast at a nice hotel can cost you a bundle. I had a voucher for a free breakfast at a hotel in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, but when I saw the bill totaling $94 for my family of four – two adults and two toddlers – I almost had to adjust my glasses.

This summer I wrote a column about how disappointing the breakfast experience can be at most American hotels these days – mediocre or outright bad food and don’t even get me started on how some people turn up in the breakfast room in bare feet and pajamas. My point was that free breakfast offerings are often of low quality and aren’t really free, because the cost is factored into your room rate. Pay breakfast options are usually overpriced, and I’d very much like to see hotels offer discounted room rates for guests that don’t want the “free” breakfast.

The piece generated 160 comments and most of you disagreed with me, some vehemently. I got the point, many of you like to get a free breakfast at your hotel and what’s on offer doesn’t matter to much so long as there’s something you like. So with that in mind, I contacted all of the largest American hotel chains to ascertain which brands are offering free breakfast these days. I also studied your comments about the breakfasts you like and checked out other sites like Hotel Chatter for other opinions on free hotel breakfast options.Gadling readers seem to think that Embassy Suites has the best free breakfast, but there were also kudos for Drury Hotels, Hampton Inn and Residence Inn. I’ve also heard good things from people I trust about Hyatt Place’s complimentary breakfast Skillet™ breakfast that includes hot breakfast sandwiches including low-carb options. Hotel Chatter gives props to Hilton Garden Inn and Courtyard but both of those brands charge for breakfast. Below you’ll find a list of hotels that offer free breakfast. In addition to these hotels, almost any independent bed & breakfast will provide you with a free breakfast, and many of these are of very high quality. Please let us know about other hotels that offer free breakfast in the comments section and be sure to tell us what you think about their breakfast offerings.

Baymont Inn
Best Western (most locations)
Clarion Inn
Comfort Inn
Comfort Suites
Days Inn
Drury Hotels
Econo Lodge
Embassy Suites
Fairfield Inn & Suites
Hampton Inn & Suites
Holiday Inn & Holiday Inn Resort – free for kids – see Kids Stay and Eat Free Program.
Holiday Inn Express
Home2 Suites by Hilton
Homewood Suites by Hilton
Howard Johnson
Hyatt House
Hyatt Place
Knights Inn
MainStay Suites
Quality Inn
Ramada (expect locations with an on-site restaurant)
Residence Inn
Sleep Inn
SpringHill Suites
Staybridge Suites
Super 8
TownePlace Suites
Wingate by Wyndham

[Photo credit: See Ming Lee on Flickr]

More US Hotels Are Now Charging For Internet: The Good News? Breakfast Is Often Free

Free breakfast? Fairly likely. Free Internet? Less so, states a new survey from the American Hotel & Lodging Association and STR.

The biennial survey shows that 23% of U.S. properties among a sample group of more than 12,000 charge for in-room Internet, up 8 percentage points from 2008. Luxury properties are most likely to charge for the service (84%), while no “midscale” properties charged for Internet. It’s a fairly steep decline as one moves down the price scale, with 76% of upper upscale properties charging, compared to 26% of upper midscale and 18% of upscale hotels charging.

Along with this rise shows a jump in charges for fitness facilities – one in four hotels charge for these facilities, up from just over one in five in 2010.

Hotels are, however, more likely to offer free breakfast (79%), although an article from Business Travel News suggests that this shift is likely due to the re-organization of hotel type participating in the survey, writing that “[n]early all mid-tier hotels – 95% of upper midscale and 97% of midscale – offer free breakfast, as do about half of U.S. upscale hotels.”

The survey also shows that despite the increased push for hotels to become more tech-savvy, many developments, such as mobile check-in and use of mobile devices for room keys have had little adoption, at 3% and 1% respectively.

Lobby check-in kiosks are also becoming a thing of the past. Now only 7% of hotels use them, compared with 28% in 2008.

[Flickr via mrkathika]

Hotels That Serve Glorified Prison Food For Breakfast

I’ve never been to prison, but I can’t help but wonder if convicts get a nicer breakfast than what you find on the breakfast buffets at most American chain hotels these days.

This year, I’ve had the displeasure of sampling the breakfast buffets at almost every major hotel chain, including Hampton Inn, Residence Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hilton Garden Inn, Hyatt House, Westin and others. I’m no Gordon Ramsay, but I’m not impressed with any of them, even when the breakfast is free.

In fact, I view the free hotel breakfast as a decidedly mixed blessing. I love going out for a nice breakfast when I’m traveling but I’m also budget conscious and I have a hard time treating my family of four to breakfast when there’s a free breakfast at the hotel, no matter how dreadful it may be. But on many occasions, going down to eat the free breakfast feels more like an obligation than a pleasure.Last week, I stayed at an otherwise excellent Hyatt House location in Illinois and encountered one of the more pathetic breakfast buffets I’ve seen in some time. On one morning, I put three silver dollar pancakes on my plate only to discover that they were as hard as hockey pucks. It was 8.30 a.m. and they clearly had been sitting around since the buffet opened at 6. I approached the front desk with them in hand and handed them to the sweet young woman on duty, more or less for fun, but also to make a point.

“Would you eat these?” I asked.

“Oh, my God, no, I would not,” she admitted, upon noticing that the pancakes were hard enough to crack someone’s skull with.

She apologized and I asked to have the pancakes back as a sort of bizarre souvenir but she wanted to keep them to show to her manager. Sadly, bad food is par for the course at many breakfast buffets not only in the U.S. but also around the world. Here are a few ways hotels tend to ruin their breakfast buffets.

Not everyone wakes up at the crack of dawn

I’m usually traveling with two little boys who like to sleep in, so I almost never get down to breakfast at 6 or 7 when they first open. In places that are very busy, they might replenish the food and beverages frequently, but at places that aren’t very busy, they might just set a large quantity of food and drink out at opening time and just leave it there for the next two to four hours.

Beverages are warm, Food is cold!

Some places set the milk and juices out without any way to keep them cold, and have inadequate heating to keep the food warm.

Nothing but sugary, dessert-like breakfast items

OK, I admit it: those Otis Spunkmeyer muffins taste pretty damn good, but putting a bowl of those suckers out is more appropriate for Halloween than breakfast. Men’s Health did a piece on the worst foods you can eat for breakfast at hotels, and the least healthy things to eat are items you see everywhere: sausages, waffles, cranberry muffins and fruit flavored yogurts to name a few.

Stale Cereal

I wish hotels bought their cereal from Trader Joe’s but that’s probably a pipe dream. The reality is usually a choice between Cheerios, Wheaties, Raisin Bran, Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops, often stale, and sometimes with lukewarm milk to boot.

Wonder Bread (or worse)

I don’t actually require a ton of food for breakfast. In fact, I’d be satisfied with a piece of toast, if it were from good bread, but hotels tend to buy the cheapest, blandest bread, English muffins and bagels imaginable. I’d be satisfied with a hotel that had nothing more than some good quality bread products: croissants, bagels, toast, etc.

No Variety

This problem is particularly pronounced when you stay in a hotel for several days or weeks. How many days in a row can you eat runny eggs, shriveled up, fatty sausages or very lame, yet highly fattening waffles?

Do you want some coffee with that warm, murky liquid you’re drinking?

Finding a good cup of coffee at a hotel breakfast buffet is difficult indeed. I tend to bring my own cup in places that have high quality coffee in the room but not down at the breakfast buffet.

Quantity, Not Quality

Most hotels feel like they need to provide options, but I’d rather see a hotel provide a few high quality items than a dozen poor or mediocre ones.

Bottom line

You get what you pay for, right? But is the “free” breakfast really free? Not really, because hotels build the cost of it into your room rate. Of the hotels I’ve stayed at that have a free breakfast buffet, I think the Residence Inn is the best, but that’s not saying much. Small bed and breakfast places tend to have the best breakfasts, but many of them don’t welcome families with very small children. Personally, I’d rather have lower room rates and go out for breakfast. What about you?

(Photos by Dave Seminara and Tim Pearce, Los Gatos on Flickr)

Holiday Inn Express revamp includes pancake machines

Move over, Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity. There’s a new hotcake in town. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), parent company of the Holiday Inn family of brands, have unveiled pancakes as the secret weapon for the newly revamped Holiday Inn Express hotels.

All of the business traveler-oriented Express properties will introduce a 24-hour market center with grab-and-go options, and an industry-first: a pancake machine, by March 31, 2011. Thirty test hotels already offer the machine, which uses commercial bags of pre-made mix (just add water!). Dollops of batter drop onto a Teflon-coated cooking belt, yielding a perfectly cooked, great-tasting product, every time. The machines produce one pancake every 18 seconds, ensuring even the hungriest executives will get their fill.

IHG is nearing completion on its three-year Holiday Inn brand relaunch campaign. One of the biggest changes has been the implementation of the “social hub” concept, which, according to HotelNewsNow.com, takes “what has traditionally been separate parts of the lobby–the bar, the food and beverage area, [and] the lounge area–and bring[s] them together in one space.” The thinking is that such enforced coziness will provide an “environment to relax, eat, have fun, work, spend time with family, friends or colleagues,” says Verchele Wiggins, VP of global brand management for Holiday Inn.

[Photo credit: Flickr user d.loop]

Hotel breakfasts: Extra value or just extra?

When I’m on vacation, I like to sleep in. So I usually prefer getting late checkout more than an included breakfast. But on the few occasions when I’ve had to wake up early to catch a flight, the hotel breakfast has proven to be a time-saver.

Here are a few instances when a hotel breakfast actually delivered extra value, if only for the convenience factor.

A few years ago, I went to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, which required waking up at the ungodly hour of 5am in order to beat the traffic to the launch site. Nothing was open, of course, so I was grateful to at least be able to grab some coffee from where we were staying (the Doubletree).

At the Element Hotel near the Houston airport, the breakfast burrito was a nice way to start the morning before catching the flight back to New York. And the Harney & Sons tea felt like a nicer touch than most basic Lipton varieties.

At the Homewood Suites in Seattle, my friends and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before peeling off to catch flights at different times. One of them, a pastry school graduate, ended up whipping up a rather decadent creation with the waffle maker. Guess it’s all in the presentation.

More often than not, however, I end up sleeping past the time the hotel stops serving breakfast, which always feels like a bit of a waste.

Hotel breakfasts: 10 questions to ask

1. What time does the hotel breakfast end? Will you actually wake up in time to enjoy the meal?

2. Does the hotel serve a continental breakfast, a buffet, homemade goods, or made-to-order requests?

3. If you don’t anticipate waking up in time to enjoy the free food, is there a cheaper hotel package that doesn’t include breakfast? Or are you paying for something that you won’t actually get to taste?4. How close (or far) is the nearest breakfast joint? What time does it open? Will it save you time to eat at the hotel before sightseeing?

5. Are you visiting a destination with a breakfast food that you absolutely must try at least once? (A bagel in New York, a beignet in New Orleans, a croissant in Paris, etc…?)

6. Are you more of a brunch person? If so, consider seeking out a neighborhood brunch spot instead.

7. Is the quality of your morning coffee more important than the food?

8. Can you get the food to go? I once stayed at a B&B outside of Santa Barbara, Calif., that offered to pack up some muffins and fruit in a to-go box after I explained that I needed to get back on the road as soon as possible.

9. Does your hotel room come with a kitchenette or a mini fridge? If so, it may be more convenient to skip the hotel breakfast and load up on some basics like milk, cereal, and yogurt that you can tuck into at your leisure.

10. Do kids eat free? Families stand to save the most if the hotel offers breakfast for everyone staying in the room.

[Photos by Amy Chen]