Hotels Offer Free Breakfast, Can Anyone Just Show Up And Eat?

Many limited service hotels offer free breakfast, from Hampton Inn to Residence Inn to Best Western and Holiday Inn Express. It’s very rare that I’ve ever seen a hotel actually verify that you’re a guest before giving you access.

When I stayed at the Aloft near Dallas Love Field a little over a month ago, I selected breakfast as my Marriott elite member amenity. Breakfast was served in the Element hotel which was in the same building. I simply went next door, and no one checked that I was a guest, or eligible for breakfast. I could have taken the bonus points and still had breakfast!

In a sense, I’m surprised that so few people show up at these hotels and have breakfast! Then again, maybe people do?

Here’s two people who showed up at a Drury Inn just for breakfast, eating up eggs and sausage, waffles, juice and more that are meant for guests.

@destinyshaude Lol we just wanted free hotel breakfast 😭🤣 #fypシ #foryoupage #fyp #explore #explorepage #grwm #funny #hotelbreakfast #hotelroom ♬ Players – DJ Smallz 732 – Jersey Club Remix – Coi Leray

It’s likely that I could get away with this, as a middle-aged white business traveler who knows his way around hotels. I simply feel comfortable in a hotel lobby, like I belong. These women were just well-dressed. Someone who looked homeless might be more likely to be questioned. So a free breakfast hack only for those who don’t need the free breakfast?

Some hotels – notably Hyatt Places – have tried to verify eligibility for free breakfast. Hyatt keeps changing who is entitled to free breakfast, and to which items at breakfast. Though when they made breakfast only for loyalty program members booking direct properties didn’t actually seem to enforce it much.

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. I know someone who proudly told me they like to stay at a cheap motel and then go over to a free breakfast hotel. They said nobody ever challenged them. Of course, it’s a lousy breakfast, no lemon poppyseed pancakes like we know Gary loves.

  2. Nice recap, thanks Gary ! You’re bang on about hotels not enforcing this, my guess is that its a simple cost/benefit analysis: For the self-serve breakfasts, they may not have the manpower to do it, and adding someone just for this purpose may cost more than it’s worth. As for the legitimate guests taking advantage of it, it’s hard to say (most of us only see a 15 minute time slice). In addition, consider the business person who flies in early morning (but goes straight to the office on Day 1), stays overnight and eats at the hotel on Day 2, and then has an early flight the morning of Day 3 (departs the hotel before breakfast hours). That individual would only be eating 1 day out of 2 hotel nights and 3 calendar days. In any event, most of it don’t give it much thought (excepting trips to Asia, their “breakfasts” are spectacular) !!!

  3. It takes a certain type.of person to want to pilfer a breakfast from a hotel. You’d need to be that type, AND look the part.

    I think hotels where such a situation is a problem would take measures. A few weeks ago I stayed at a Fairfield Inn by Seattle Center because I needed one more night to get to Titanium.

    What was odd about this Fairfield was that the breakfast was in a room accessible only by a swipe of the room keyboard.

    This is the first midrange hotel that I can recall with such a restricted access. I can only conclude that in downtown Seattle this was necessary. It looked like the arrangement was built in from the start (a fairly new hotel), but not sure.

  4. I thought of this when I did a mattress run near my house a couple weeks ago. I did not stay the night, but I was on my way past the hotel for an early morning meeting and thought I would stop in and have breakfast since I paid for the room. My mistake was having a coat on. The manager was cleaning tables and kept giving me the side eye. Had she asked, I would have gladly shown her my room key, but she didn’t, and it amused me to keep her guessing.

  5. I have a Hyatt Place near me that I’ve used for multi-purpose office/pre-school breakfast with my son/Mattress running. They absolutely keep track of who walks through the door and outside of taking extra measures to come in unnoticed (coming in through a side-entrance, etc) I think they would both notice and care if someone tried to come in and mooch their breakfast, particularly with any consistency. I’ve also been surprised by how various hotels seem to have a pretty good grasp of my comings and goings, who’s with me, etc.

    I will say, growing up I had some soccer buddies who would hit various hotel hot tubs after hard practices and none of them ever seemed to care.

  6. I was at Holiday Inn Express in Porto last week and they had free breakfast and one of the employees re-filling the items did ask me for my room number. I thought it was odd since it was a free breakfast but then had same realization that anyone could come and have this breakfast, which actually wasn’t half bad for being free.

  7. To me this is a reflection on what is wrong with the world…no ethics, integrity, character. These bozos are even PROUD of their little antics/scam. I am disgusted by that especially and I hope someone catches them and has them arrested. See how they like their free breakfasts in jail. It could be managed easily by giving guests upon check in a cardstock ticket. ANd for those worried about the hungry, well, the ticket they choose not to use could be posted on a board that someone could pluck it out of or in a cannister of some sort..I’m sure there are often leftovers but announcing that at a certain time those hungry could come by to finish it off, would also make some unhappy with those who might mingle with the paying guests. Maybe offer it to a food pantry/program that could pick it up daily?

  8. Most hotel buffet breakfasts simply aren’t worth the trouble.
    Never has anyone eaten a HIX breakfast and uttered “Damn that’s good!”

  9. About a year ago I was at breakfast and watched as a clearly troubled woman (homeless and/or mentally ill) slowly limped her way through the breakfast offerings of the hotel I was staying at. It being a smaller town, I believe hotel staff simply looked the other way as an act of charity.

  10. Anyone with decency would not stoop low enough to do this and than brag about it on social media.

  11. There used to be a Hilton lounge breakfast in Manhattan that just about anyone who knew about it could easily access even when not staying there. But I didn’t notice more than one person who may have been doing that.

  12. Raj,

    Do you get perceived as being “brown” and/or of non-European ethnic background? Given most Raj persons whom I know are of South Asian heritage, can’t say I’m surprised if you felt singled out. Racist profiling lives large in Europe, and sometimes it takes some time being at a hotel before realizing that it is going on to the extent it is with regard to breakfast even at hotels where breakfast is included for all guests. At other times, it’s just that the person working the breakfast area is unaware if they’ve already logged every guest in for breakfast and the person(s) who look “different” than the majority of patrons get “remembered” more easily.

  13. Always wondered if these were policed. Had a few free breakfast at some Hyatt’s and there was always someone there most likely scanning guests to be sure whether they were a guest or not…I guess if you wear pj pants you definitely get a pass.

  14. The reason more people don’t show up to take advantage is that homeless shelters provide better food than most of the limited service brands.

  15. One could do the same at their local fast food joint or coffee place. walk in, grab a bag of food or drink sitting in the online order section, and walk out. no one checking. just have to act like you belong

  16. Why not just put a room key lock on the banquet door or wherever they serve the breakfast? Then only guests with active keys can enjoy the free breakfast.

    It’s kind of genius to go for a free breakfast, especially with the prices of everything.

  17. @sara I’ve seen some hotels that due that. People behind them who don’t have access just tailgate in.

  18. I rather go to McD than bumming a breakfast at a Hampton Inn or similar. I eat there out of convenience to save time only. The ones I never skip are at Embassy Suites and some Garden Inn locations (I’m a Hilton guy). So if you told me: there is a “Hampton Inn, let’s bum the breakfast”, I’d say, “I’ll pick you up in 30, I’m going to McD”.

  19. Some guests will load up an extra plate of food to help feed homeless people loitering outside the hotel front entrance.

  20. My experience is that in rural and suburban neighborhood locations it is almost always just an open area. Downtown locations tend to be more locked down in some way. This is at least for the Hilton brands, including the famed Embassy suites breakfast. Note also that Homewood suites can have a fairly decent dinner buffet, M to Thurs, when it wasn’t salad night. used to save a ton of money by staying with them when traveling alone on business.

  21. I’ve been homeless for seven years, I’ve been in many of the hotels for free breakfasts and free coffees, it’s always a good meal, even when they serve the cheap potatoes. They normally don’t ask if you are a guest as long as you are clean and in decent appearance.

  22. Won’t say where but stayed in a High-Mid, Global chain I’m Dusseldorf first week of December. Non breakfast rate and a group I held no status with. Asked at check-in and staff said was X if pre booked ( ie with them at desk then and/or pre 19:00 each night for next day) but XY if just turned up. XY being, top of my head about 25-30% more.

    We billed the next morning but knowing we’d likely be out way later/ earlier than people our age really should we said we’d just let them know going forward. 6 day trip. Hanging but hangry & with a 12:30 cut off for Sat & Sun we just went down Saturday morning ( just) happy to just bill to the room & take the hit price wise.

    That morning, as with every other, staff saw us. Served fresh to order coffee and chatted away without ever asking for a room number.

    Last day I went alone and was asked so provided the room number happily. Had arranged a late check out so 6 hours later when we settled up & they simply presented the mini bar spend we paid & gave the front desk a €25 for all the help she’d personally provided during our stay.

    We didn’t try to dodge anything and went so far as to engage with staff each morning. A 6 hour gap left, imo, more than enough time for them to add the last mornings charge.

    Had it been an independent or small group property I’d have gone out my way especially accounting for recent times.

    I feel no obligation or guilt for a global brand not carrying out it’s own checks-and-balances ( FYI we even went so far to check ourselves it wasn’t a franchisee/ managed property).

    I’d never go outy way to ‘sneak/steal/swindle’ a breakfast but if you can ‘pay at meal’, you engage with staff & nothing is do ne then imho it’s noty place to chase you down to take money.

  23. There was an entire episode of Family Guy dedicated to the topic of walking into hotels and eating free food.

  24. My embassy suites in Las Vegas checks each guest for breakfast as well as cocktail hour.

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