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]

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)

Gadling’s rankings of hotel breakfast buffet foods

One of the magical things about staying at a hotel is enjoying the breakfast buffet. At home, you might just have a bowl of cereal, a banana or a cup of coffee for breakfast. Heck, many people just skip breakfast. Does it mean nothing to you that it’s the most important meal of the day? At hotels, however, you can indulge in all of your breakfast fantasies. Rather than studying a diner menu while agonizing over whether you’re craving the sweetness of french toast or the savory goodness of eggs, you can have it all at the breakfast buffet. How you attack the buffet is critical to maximizing your enjoyment. That’s why we’re here with our official rankings of all of the hotel breakfast buffet foods.

The Unquestionable Top Five

1. Bacon

Because it’s bacon. When I was a kid, my mother limited how often we could have bacon. It was a treat. At the hotel breakfast buffet, however, you can have an entire plate dedicated to just those salty, succulent strips. And that plate can be refilled.

2. Fruit

Bet you didn’t see that coming! Fruit, when purchased individually from a menu, can be expensive. Restaurants will rip you off if you just want a bowl of fruit and yogurt. At the buffet, however, you can go to town on some fruit like some sort of crazed monkey. Adding fruit to your plate helps you justify the amount of bacon you plan to consume. If you’ve traveled a great distance, fruit is also an excellent way to prevent scurvy.

3. Omelet Station

Omelets are tricky to make at home because we often don’t have all of the ingredients to truly do them justice. How many times have you found yourself with eggs but no cheese? Or eggs and cheese but no vegetables? Or eggs, cheese and vegetables but no frying pan? Plus, flipping omelets is tricky. That’s why it’s best to just let someone else do it for you while you hover over them and realize that watching someone make an omelet is pretty boring. Maybe just use that time to get yourself some juice.

4. Waffles

This refers only to waffles that you can freshly make on a waffle maker. Firstly, you feel satisfied knowing that you prepared part of your own breakfast. You can survive anywhere! Secondly, you’ll be able to top your waffle with syrup, powdered sugar, butter, fresh fruit and nuts. Sure beats those Eggos that you normally toast up!

5. Assorted Breads

At home, you might have some bread that you can toast up. It’s OK but nothing special. At the hotel breakfast buffet, your cup runneth over with bread options (tip: don’t put your toast in a cup). Muffins, sliced breads with multiple grains, croissants (both mini and standard sizes), bagels, rolls and the holy grail of buffet breads, biscuits. Grab as many butter packets as you can fit in your pockets and carbo load like you’re running a marathon. But, remember what your mother used to warn you: Don’t fill up on bread.

The Questionable Remainders

6. Eggs

Here’s where things get tricky. Buffet scrambled eggs suck more often than they don’t. They’re always bland, often overcooked and occasionally just loose disasters. Our advice: skip the scrambled eggs. If you really want scrambled eggs, however, and there’s an omelet station, we recommend that you ask the omelet sommelier to prepare you some freshly scrambled eggs. Plus, you can ask for omelet items in your scramble. Win-win!

Hard boiled eggs are a nice treat because preparing them at home is just not that enjoyable. They make your kitchen smell, you get shells everywhere and there are more exciting things to do with your eggs. But when ready-to-eat hard boiled eggs are just presented to you, you best take advantage. All other eggs dishes such as frittatas and quiches should be judged on a case by case basis.

7. Sausage

Like eggs, sausage at hotel breakfast buffets can be a mixed bag (tip: decline all offers of mixed bags of sausage). Avoid sausage patties. You’re not at the hotel breakfast buffet so that you can replicate the experience of eating at McDonald’s. As for links, always take a close look to see how shriveled they are. If they look dehydrated, walk away. You want the casing to pop in your mouth, but you want that to lead to a juicy explosion. Dry sausage is not your friend. Besides, your bacon serving should eliminate the need for sausage.

8. Cereal

You can eat this at home!

9. Oatmeal

Unless the buffet is free, don’t get oatmeal. If you’re paying for the buffet, you already threw health out the window. Put down the raisins and start enjoying life.

10. Potatoes

Like the scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes at a hotel buffet tend to be underwhelming. Often, they’re just a big batch of mushy, bland starch disappointment. If you’ve handled your bread decision properly, you don’t even need potatoes.

11. Pre-cooked Pancakes

Bland hockey pucks served with packets of “pancake syrup.” I know that you think that you love Aunt Jemima, but she’s a cruel mistress and you deserve better.

The next time you’re staying at a hotel and wake up hungry, we hope that you’ll remember these handy rankings. Whether you’re on vacation, a business trip or anything in between, you need fuel when you’re on the road. Start your day right at the breakfast buffet. The decisions you make in front of those chafing dishes may just save your life.