Hilton Adds New Elite Benefit For Second Half Of 2021: Food & Beverage Credit On Every Stay

Hilton is the most consistent in offering breakfast across all of its brands for Gold and Diamond elites. It also has the most accessible elite level that comes with breakfast – Gold is basically a giveaway level, it comes with the chain’s main co-brand credit card and with Amex Platinum cards when you opt into the benefit, and it’s long been available easily via status challenge.

Six or seven years ago I suggested to Mark Weinstein, Hilton’s Senior Vice President & Global Head of Marketing and Loyalty, that they might consider an on-property food and beverage credit for elites in lieu of breakfast. That way members could take breakfast however they preferred, whether from a hotel’s ‘grab and go’ or even room service if they didn’t have time to visit the restaurant or preferred to eat and work in their rooms.

At the time Weinstein remarked that he didn’t actually care how members spent the investment they made in benefits. If the cost to the program was the same, he’d be indifferent to members using an F&B credit for room service. I noted that this sort of credit might lead to greater use of the benefit, less breakage, and so higher cost even if the amounts were the same.

Hilton actually is actually introducing an on property food and beverage credit for elites, to replace their breakfast benefit, for early July, 2021 through the end of the year.

This applies at full-service, lifestyle, and Hilton Garden Inn properties in the U.S. only: Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, LXR Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Signia by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Curio Collection by Hilton, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton and Motto by Hilton.

  • The benefit can be used any time of day, not just at breakfast
  • And can be used for whatever dining options are provided by the hotel, chargeable to the room

We do not yet know how much the credit will be – Hilton hasn’t announced that yet – and just says the daily credit “will range in value, depending on the brand and location.”

That’s the rub of course, it needs to be enough to at least cover breakfast and then it really does mean greater flexibility. It would be interesting to see this test expand, both into the future and beyond U.S. hotels.

At the very least with so many club lounges closed, and even restaurant breakfast options limited, anything that lets members buy out of the Covid Excuse Brown Paper Bag breakfasts stemming from relaxed brand standards and permanent hotel cost-cutting.

The credit is per person up to two guests registered to the room, it’s likely that members traveling as a couple with eligible family members come out way behind – the current breakfast benefit is supposed to be limited to two guests but in practice hotels often extend it to kids as well. Furthermore those staying in expensive locales may not have the amount fully make up for the cost of hotel food and beverage in their location.

So this is definitely one we’ll need to keep an eye on – great concept in theory, but the execution will largely depend on the specific generosity and there I start off skeptical. Hopefully I will be proven wrong.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. This could be the beginning of a very bad devaluation. Look at all the Marriott properties providing vouchers that don’t cover the cost of a real breakfast. Even the $10 F&B credit you can get at certain Marriott brands as a welcome elite status benefit is pretty worthless thanks to inflation. Putting a dollar value on breakfast or F&B doesn’t make much sense for an international hotel company since costs and value vary so much. $25 for breakfast goes a long way in Singapore or Indonesia, not so much in London or New York City.

  2. So ie, breakfast is no longer going to be a perk for Diamonds… Instead of breakfast for 2 which might be $35 each, I’m going to get a $25 food/bev voucher, great…

    One thing if it was one or the other, but a full replacement is a joke.

  3. Me as well: “I start off skeptical.” My first reaction is that this will work out badly for customers in the US, while internationally, some countries the properties will generally continue to be generous, and other countries will stiff customers with bad conversion rates to a published USD amount and have even more upcharges than we’ll see in the US. The current breakfast benefit is often the decider in the cases that I select a Hilton brand over competitors.

  4. It’s going to have to be a significant daily credit to cover the costs for breakfast, and happy hour food and drinks from the club lounge for 2 guests per room. If not, then this is a significant devaluation.

  5. If this is a F&B credit to be used elsewhere in lieu of the on-site complementary breakfast for room service, lunch/dinner/drinks, then that is fine. But are they saying that this would be used towards the complementary breakfast that elites and their guest/spouse would otherwise be getting? If that’s the case, then the value must equal whatever the cost of the breakfast buffet they are offering, be it the continental or full (if that was their regular SOP). Anything below that is a devaluation. Can you clarify what their intent is as it relates to providing elites with the ‘normal’ breakfast benefit? Thanks

  6. I had this experience recently at an airport Hilton…the on-site restaurant (and EL lounge) was still closed to indoor dining so the credit applied to the reduced menu for take away was fine given the circumstances. But when/if things open back up to normal pre-covid operations, I would expect the benefit to be back to what it was before at the very least.

  7. First, they have to actually serve food. When I stayed at the Hilton City Avenue in Philadelphia in early April, there was no food to be had. None. The only good an F&B credit would’ve been good for is if they had reimbursed me for my Starbucks run.

  8. Ive been to a lot of Hilton resorts and their food is junk. Everything tastes like sysco brand of blah. I dont eat at any of them anymore.

  9. I have stayed at a few Hilton hotels in Florida which offered this already in lieu of breakfast. It was 20.00 per person, up to 2 adults. We preferred this because we could use at the pool or for snacks. However, I am guessing the compensation will be less that 40.00 with this system wide approach.

  10. It’s ABOUT TIME!! I’ve been Diamond for years and HH does do the best job on recognition I think, so Hilton’s usually my first choice. If I have an early meeting or event, EL breakfast (or MDR sometimes) is fine. But the other days, working in my room and for leisure trips, unless breakfast is available until 11am, I rarely want any. I love the idea of a F&B credit I can use whenever I wish.

  11. After two recent stays at HGIs, Hilton has lowered my breakfast expectations dramatically. A Pop-Tart and a juice box would be an improvement over the recent Grab-n-Go offerings I’ve seen.

  12. We stayed at the Hilton Faneuil Hall Boston last month. We both are Gold. Their restaurant was closed, so no complimentary breakfast. Instead we got a $10 coupon per person each per day for a breakfast in the coffee shop. Ten dollars got me an egg muffin breakfast sandwich – only. Coffee extra, juice extra. yogurt extra. So breakfast cost us each $30 minus the $10 coupon, or $20 net to each of us. I call this a devaluation. Similarly, I was planning to stay at Hilton Orlando next month, and called to ask how they handle breakfast for Golds. Answer: a $30 food allowance per day (i.e. $15 per person). So this is definitely a downgrade too. HERE’S WHAT HILTON NEEDS TO REALIZE. Very often their rates are cheaper on Expedia or Booking.com When I factor in the “free breakfast” as a Gold, and earning points by booking on Hilton.com, I most of the time use the Hilton website. If Hilton keeps this up, the equation tilts to Expedia or booking.com

  13. Thanks for the information, Gary! As you note, we will have to see.

    On another matter, with IHG extending those certificates expiring as of 8/31/21 to 12/31/21, Hilton is now the ONLY hotel company that has free night certificates expiring on 8/31/21.

    Since it is allegedly reacting to guests requesting “more flexibility” for the breakfast credit during these COVID times, I am at a loss that they have made no comment at all with respect to their hopefully extending their free night awards.

    I am positive that more people are requesting flexibility with respect to these certificates than those who were requesting same with respect to the breakfast benefit, and I am siure I speak for many, that we would welcome you inquiring about this urgent matter, as well.

    With too many miles chasing too few flights, as well as lingering Covid concerns worldwide and the inability to just drop everything to take a vacay, an extension is in order like their bretheren hoteliers have recognized.

    Hilton has gone from being very proactive with respect to the needs of its membership, to being the last to have any official comment on free night extensions.

    Your assistance would be greatly appreciated!

  14. I predict $10 pp for up to 2 people at lower tier properties, $15pp for the next tier and $20pp at the top at Conrad/LXR/WA.

    Basically enough to get a muffin/pastry and a coffee….which meets their continental breakfast promise. Massive devaluation IMO.

  15. Your suggestion backfired and now diamonds are left with little. Thanks for nothing..

  16. Stayed at the Del Coronado in San Diego last week for 2 nights and a credit of $30 per night appeared on the folio. Wife and I are Diamonds.

  17. Expect massive devaluation. Word has it is $10 at HGI, $12-15 (high cost markets) at Hilton/Full Service/‘lifestyle’ brands and $25 at Luxury chains. Pure cost cut. Won’t cover the cost of even a continental breakfast. Let’s hope this doesn’t survive to see 2022. Time to drop that Hilton AMEX Aspire/Surpass?

  18. This is a benefit devaluation, but highlighting that it’s a benefit devaluation doesn’t help with selling credit cards and getting referral bonuses.

  19. Yeah I’m at the Hilton St Charles NOLA location. $10 credit where the cheapest menu item is 13 or 14 dollars. I whined to the front desk how they made it impossible to have a breakfast and she upped the credit to 20. Thing is I don’t want to whine every time I travel to get the APPROPRIATE credit.

  20. I love how you spin it as a benefit. It’s clearly designed to reduce food cost and labor. Food credit will not be enough to reward the most loyal guests and will the first step in eroding thier faith in the brand. Disappointing to say the least.

  21. Definitely not an “added elite benefit”, as you’ve chosen to spin this. This is a devaluation, purely enacted as yet another cost-cutting measure. I love that I now have to make my own bed each day, go to the lobby and get my own fresh towels, and eat a terrible “breakfast” from a paper bag, while paying rates the same or in some cases MORE than they used to be. Diamond member now (based purely on actually amount of nights stayed, too…..not via a credit card), but currently exploring other hotels loyalty options to see what else might be better.

  22. @GUWonder – I think it’s a devaluation for many, and improvement for others. But come on you are being really unfair here, you KNOW I call out devaluations and have for 20 years.

  23. Gary,

    Surely you agree that highlighting that this is mainly a benefit devaluation doesn’t help with selling credit cards and getting referral bonuses from credit card promotions. I definitely do not believe that is your motivation in assessing this as a devaluation for many but not some others — even as it is an intended devaluation in the aggregate.

    For whom is this benefit adjustment mainly an improvement? The hotel owners/operators and for the still depressed segment of business travelers whose alcoholic beverage purchases aren’t reimbursable by employer and seek out a drinking subsidy since their meals are covered by the employer/client; but this is bad for those employers/clients ultimately footing the hotel bill when its cost is reimbursed to the business traveler.

  24. @GUWonder – I don’t think we knew the extent to which it was a devaluation until the AMOUNTS of the credit were released, we could only guess it could be a devaluation. This is not a devaluation for those who aren’t big on breakfast, or who expense breakfast, or who prefer to order room service (when such a thing returns!) rather than going down to breakfast. I am disappointed by the amounts we’ve learned subsequent to this post, however.

  25. “This is not a devaluation for those who aren’t big on breakfast, or who expense breakfast, or who prefer to order room service (when such a thing returns!) rather than going down to breakfast.”

    In other words this is a devaluation that doesn’t hit those who wouldn’t care all that much about using the breakfast benefit for those US stays even before this Hilton change; for most all others staying at Hilton properties in the US, the change is a devaluation and just a question about when and how much the devaluation costs them on Hilton stays.

  26. The OPM business travelers who may not have been partaking in the included hotel breakfast may cost their employers/clients money in other ways for their total daily calorie intake as indicated on expense reports filed for reimbursement. For those on fixed per-diem allowances, this change is also mostly a disadvantage.

  27. I am in between on this. Pre covid we would have breakfast at hotel after all it saved a lot of money. That being said many times would have gone somewhere else especially after day two or three but again why leave that free benefit. Now you have a choice of how you want to use it. My question is alcohol considered beverage. In my world it is.

  28. Another kick in the butt to diamond members. The credit will be so small it’s another benefit cut

  29. It’s terrible news and a crap idea.
    Whoever thinks the credit in a couple of years will cover a breakfast is out of its mind.
    It’s disappointing that Hilton wants to milk their diamond members USD 40/50 per person per day for breakfast in exchange for USD 15 f&b credit.
    Hopefully, Hilton will reverse their decoy fast.

  30. I am a diamond member and I have spent a year getting nothing so anything is better than nothing.

  31. Optimist: If they have a $15/person breakfast buffet, the credit to elite members is pegged at $15/person (maybe Diamond gets more for a fancy drink or >2 occupants to differentiate from Gold). If the cost rises to $20/person, the credit should as well.
    Pessimist: It’s going to be a $10 credit and the cheapest plate will be $20.
    Side note, and I see the article is US only, but I have to compliment Hilton Antwerp, who’ve responded by giving elites (catered) room service breakfast rather than brown bag, for all room occupants. Turns a pretty good rate into a fantastic value.

  32. Are you wishing yet that you had not given such an unpopular idea to him, and worse still publically claimed credit for it to us?

    I always thought you were on our side

  33. This is not a good thing. I was just at The Waikoloa Hilton. They have instituted this and right now have removed the continental breakfast Diamond benefit. So what do you get?? The continental breakfast previously no charge is $28 per person. So 2 guests previously free now get to pay $56 minus $20 for a fantastic benefit of giving $36 for a previously free benefit. And don’t even think about upgrading to full breakfast it’s even more!!!
    So thanks but no thanks Hilton!!

  34. Stayed at the Grand Wailea 2 years ago and they offered us credit at their coffee shop/grab and go place. I don’t remember the dollar amount, but it was enough to cover us both for breakfast and the credit could be used for anything in the place including souvenirs. I liked the flexibility that we could use it anytime and it seemed a reasonable amount.

  35. Conrad at NYC/DC (same management) do NOT have buffet or lounge so it doesn’t matter.
    ONE omelet and ONE coffee probably cost you more than $25. Oh , not mention taxes and tips.
    Good luck folks!!!

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