The Most Important Meal of the Day: the Hotel Chains and Properties that Do Breakfast Best

Among hotel chains, Hyatt Gold Passport has the best elite breakfast benefit and Hilton has the easiest breakfast benefit to get.

Perhaps the most generous elite offering was the Park Hyatt Aviara which wound up comping their Mother’s Day $95 per person buffet.

Here are the very best breakfasts I’ve been provided for free as a result of elite status — the hotels that are the most generous, how they do it, and the lessons we can draw.

The Importance of Breakfast

I think the first hotel breakfast I really fell in love with was at the Le Meridien Chiang Rai.

Then-General Manager Anne Scott told me that the first thing she did in pre-opening, on taking the position at the hotel, was to sit down with the chef and plot out breakfast. Her guests didn’t take the time for a leisurely breakfast at home and making theirs special would make the hotel memorable.

Here’s honey from a honeycomb at their buffet:

I loved sitting out on the restaurant’s porch, drinking my coffee, while tasters not on the buffet were regularly brought around to tables. It was peaceful, although it didn’t hurt that there were about a dozen guests on property while I was there.

The Most Blow-You-Away Breakfast Offering

The most over-the-top hotel breakfast must belong to the St. Regis Bali, where it’s included for all guests.

There’s a caviar service that you can order, and of course you can order it as many times as you wish.

You can have seared foie gras with your eggs.

And they offer lobster two ways:

Not to mention sashimi:

.. as well as oysters and wagyu beef tenderloin.

How a Good Hotel is Ruined By a Bad Breakfast

A hotel that really blew it at breakfast was the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman — their staff was turning my table while I was up at the buffet, and seating other guests as I returned.

Room Service is the Ultimate Indulgence

No discussion of hotel breakfast is possible without mentioning the Andaz 5th Avenue, which offers room service breakfast to Diamonds (if they didn’t they couldn’t serve everyone, let alone New Yorkers making a destination of the restaurant — too small) and offers high quality options. And the best pancakes in the world. Lemon poppyseed.

The Park Hyatt Chennai’s room service breakfast option was impressive — awesome Indian and Western options.

But it’s hard to beat breakfast — purely for food, and for Western tastes — at the Park Hyatt Vendone in Paris. Diamonds get the full breakfast buffet or a 49 euro per guest room service credit.

Other hotels that offered room service include the Andaz San Diego and the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables.

The Andaz Wall Street used to. They eliminated the benefit. And then they downgraded breakfast in the restaurant, too.

A Good Restaurant Breakfast Trumps a Club Lounge Any Day

While perhaps room service as a breakfast benefit is the most indulgent, I definitely prefer hotels which offer restaurant breakfast rather than club lounge breakfast — at least where the hotel’s restaurant is a destination unto itself (rather than a functional place to feed guests only).

A great example of this is Seattle’s Hyatt Olive 8 which boasts both a pleasing space and good food.

If there was one single restaurant dish for breakfast? The Saigon baguette at the Park Hyatt Saigon.

Maybe the most extensive buffet I’ve been offered complimentary was at the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur where Diamonds can take breakfast in the lounge (quite well done, an improvement from when the hotel first opened) or in the restaurant. Malaysian buffets are impressive, and at an upscale hotel doubly so.

The Park Hyatt Dubai is impressive, too.

There’s no better ‘breakfast with a view’ than at the Park Hyatt Maldives where breakfast is offered complimentary on all paid rates (and not on award stays, except for Diamonds).

But There’s a Right Way to Do a Club Lounge, Too!
Not all club lounge spreads are mediocre, of course! I’d take the spread at the Conrad Hong Kong over most restaurants!

I think my favorite club lounge overall, once you add in service and views, belongs to the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.

Sadly most club lounges remind me of the spartan offerings and overcrowding of which the Hyatt Regency Maui is just an extreme example. Dodging and weaving people all ready to feed at the trough of free food, no matter the quality.

The Ultimate Luxury is Choice

When I stayed at the Andaz Maui recently I was told at check-in that my Diamond breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant — a $44++ per person buffet — was customizable. Just ask for anything you want and they will make it for you.

I wondered, how does that really work? The restaurant does get busy at times. The servers really varied in quality. The food there was outstanding, very high quality.

I decided to test ‘customization.’ I mentioned that since I was on Maui I would love some fresh fish. Did I have any particular fish in mind? No, whatever the chef thought was the best that he had that morning would work for me, however he wanted to prepare it. She left to discuss, came back and reassured that this would be taken care of.

And so it was:

Is This Real, or Just Marketing Hype?

Here’s one story of how advertising got Americans to eat more for breakfast (HT: BlogCoven)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Have to agree our fav breakfast is GH HK because of the outstanding views, food and service.

  2. The Shangri-La luxury hotel chain gives complimentary breakfast to Jade members (mid-level, 20 nights or 10 stays). Although most of their properties are in Asia or the Middle East, they are starting to open some locations in the West. They have some of the most impressive breakfast buffets of all the chains IMHO with a extensive variety of food from many different cultures, typically with a few “made-to-order” stations making eggs, pancakes/crepes, noodles, etc. The buffet also seems to be a destination for locals, particularly on the weekends when they kick things up a notch.

  3. Just had Sunday breakfast, and read this. Great…now I’m hungry again. Nice review!

  4. While not as impressive as some of your selections, I enjoyed the Conrad Tokyo buffet. Good selection without being overwhelming and amazing service. When I went back six months later, the manager recognized me, inquired after my spouse, and had a server bring the jam I prefer. Contrast that to Conrad NYC (or what I’ve referred to as Conrad Embassy Suites), the selection is poor, the service painfully slow, and as a result, we decided to decline the benefit and go elsewhere for breakfast — it wasn’t worth the aggravation.

  5. One amusing breakfast benefit was the Intercontinental Hong Kong. My friend, drunk after a night out in Wan Chai, came back and ordered room service at 3am. It was then comped through as breakfast that he had on his room rate!

  6. Gary, I appreciate a good breakfast when on vacation but you seem to forget that majority of elites are not bloggers who critique whether the hotel has a fresh hiney comb display and don’t have an hour or more to dedicate to an indulgent 1200 calorie multi course breakfast.

    While you may hate a club lounge with simple offerings, it can be a lifesaver for many of us who need to get in and out of breakfast in time for the 8am meeting. A banana, cup of yogurt and a cup of coffee in a paper cup that can be taken walking is great. You seem overly critical of businesses that cater to their core clientele.

  7. Then there are those of us who like to sleep late, who wish the breakfast benefits were usable all day. I always feel that I am missing out on a great deal of value on my hotel stays, but yet I am just not a breakfast person. Nice to see these benefits extended, just wish it would allow for a meal OTHER than breakfast.

  8. @Nolatravelgirl – Most of my travel is business travel. I value speed and ease for sure, and note some outstanding club lounge offerings, most clubs in the US though are quite pathetic and don’t do the job.

  9. Gary I think you should do a post on breakfast brand standards contrasting Hyatt and Hilton. I am both a Hyatt Diamond and Hilton Gold and I find that pound for pound the Hilton breakfasts are usually better and more ample. Do you agree?

    I’ve stayed at the HR shinjuku tokyo and the Hilton across the street. Hilton has better lounge offerings by far.

    You can make this comparison across many major Asian and European cities and Hilton wins out.

    I’m not talking about Conrads and GH and PH and all kinds of places out of my league.

    Generally I’m happier with the Hilton benefit than the Hyatt benefit.

  10. Love this story – but where’s the Andaz Maui trip report?

    I’d add a favorite Hyatt breakfast: the Andaz Liverpool Street (strangely, I’m at the Park Hyatt Sydney where the breakfast is just okay but the views while enjoying the surprisingly average-sourced cuisine are spectacular).

  11. I guess I’m in a minority – in general breakfast isn’t too important to me. If I’m on business, I want something very quick, usually fruit and plain (not vanilla) not fat yougurt.

    If I’m not on business and am at a resort, I do enjoy breakfast. But if in a place like Rome or Paris, a big breakfast takes away room for even more fun food – like tasting from stores or a sit down lunch.

    There are a couple of breakfasts that I love:

    Best ever – Gritti Palace, on the Grand Canal
    Best room – Garden Court, Palace Hotel, San Francisco
    Best relaxing view – St. Regis Princeville

    These are so much more than the food.

  12. I’d also like to see more discussion of fresh hiney comb displays as in Nolatravelgirls post.

  13. The common thread among all of these favorites is that with a few exceptions they are at American chains in foreign countries. In many countries you don’t have to spend a lot for a room that includes a very nice breakfast buffet in the room rate or as an elite benefit. I wish we had more of that in the US.

  14. Did a Hyatt Diamond trial recently and to be honest I preferred a lounge to a restaurant breakfast. I normally just eat something small anyway, and I would prefer to use the time sightseeing.

  15. The easiest breakfast to get is the free breakfast at many lower chains like HIX, Fairfield, Hyatt Place, etc. While not serving lobster and champagne they do a good job for normal folks. One of my favorites is Drury Inn who almost started the trend in hot breakfast at “motels”.

    Nice post by the way 🙂

  16. At many nicer hotels in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the breakfast buffet and cocktail hour that come as elite benefits will be my only meals of the day. If you haven’t already done so, it would be interesting to read your views of the evening club lounge benefits at some of these hotels. Thanks.

  17. We will never forget the breakfast and staff at the Westin, Capetown. Years later we still brag on that experience

  18. I would include the park Hyatt Tokyo diamond room service breakfast as one of the top, particularly if you like Japanese food. Very high quality and very impressive service. Now that I’m not diamond I order it at least once per stay when I stay there and feel it is worth the cost. My wife who is Japanese thinks the food is excellent.

  19. Beachfan got this right.
    Not a lot a value in breakfast to begin with. There’s always better food to eat at your destination city, and obeseing on waffles just because they’re stuck in front of you is sick. Having said that, I really would like to to say I tried cavier or lobster on way to starbucks!

  20. @Ace, touchee’ (LOL)
    My favorite hotel breakfast ever — Ca’ Sagredo in Venice
    2nd favorite — Hotel Mandala in Berlin (was just there)
    3rd favorite — Hotel Royal Barriere in Deauville France
    Of course, the first was with my grandchildren on their first trip to Venice, and the third was with my mom on her 82nd birthday, so the memory only grows warmer in the context and with time.

  21. Great post!

    What about best breakfasts at non-aspirational US properties? Or surprisingly good breakfasts at more modest properties?

  22. @Ace — he did give up his SPG Plat status about the time the Westin Workout rooms started appearing! 🙂

  23. I have to agree with some other commenters, the breakfast benefit is most valuable when on business and doesn’t need to be very extensive to be effective. I love breakfast foods, so when my rate includes a big spread, I never can help myself at least one morning, and I always regret it. Fruit, cereal, yogurt, and coffee get the job done and don’t make me feel like a slob for the rest of the day. Of course, I think this is separate from what you wanted to highlight in this post, which are the rare cases when the breakfast itself is truly an extravagant sort of an event. Very fun and exciting, but not necessarily something that will help you be productive in your daily work.

  24. @beachfan, I was typing too fast, I wat trying to say honeycomb, but my Ipad decided to change it for me.

    I know it is fun to read about all this aspirational travel, but this isn’t always superhelpful when trying to figure out where to stay when slogging it out on the road with domestic US business travel which equates to most of my travel.

  25. Conrad Bangkok puts on a similar spread as Conrad HK.

    Vendome is nice, but nothing to rave about. For the price, not remotely worth it. Only as a Diamond perk would anyone actually eat breakfast there – can walk half a block (on the way to the Louve/Notre Dame/Tulieries etc) and find a nice patisserie around the corner.

  26. You didn’t mention Israeli hotels, almost all of which include a sumptuous breakfast buffet with the room. The variety of breakfast offerings is stupendous, with many hotels providing a custom coffee bar and made to order omelettes. Caveat: no meat is ever served and Saturday breakfast is less extensive, both due to dietary laws.

  27. The Conrad Hong Kong breakfast is not quite as enjoyable since they remodeled the lounge. The tables are now much smaller and squeezed together, and the food is on shelves along walls rather than out in the center as in the photos. Also, no more loose-leaf tea.

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