How Is The New IHG Diamond Breakfast Benefit Working In Practice?

The new IHG One Rewards elite program offers a huge improvement in elite benefits.

There’s confirmed suites (starting 14 days prior to arrival, out of revenue inventory, but not valid on award stays or prepaid rates), club lounge access, and breakfast. And benefits even apply at brands like Intercontinental and Kimpton that historically exclusively had their own recognition programs.

Rolling out benefits across over 5000 hotels and ensuring compliance is tricky, and delivering consistently is hard (Cf. Marriott Bonvoy). So I’ve been interested to see how big new promises would cash out in practice on property.

The breakfast benefit doesn’t officially start until ‘early June’ so there aren’t a lot of reports yet. Hotels aren’t required to give Diamond members breakfast this month. However some are beginning to do so, which gives us a window into what to expect.

Here’s the first Diamond breakfast coupon I’ve seen reported, and it comes from the Holiday Inn & Suites Denver Tech Center-Centennial.

Valid for ONE selection from Specialties or Hotel Favorites on Burger Theory’s breakfast menu up to $10.50. Coffee or soft drink included. Juice NOT included. Gratuity NOT included. No cash value. Not transferable. Chef may substitute hot buffet on high occupancy days. Not valid with room service or takeout. Other restrictions may apply.

This Holiday Inn is offering breakfast. That’s more than IHG elites used to receive. I’m not sure that excluding juice from the breakfast really follows program terms, though.

The program terms say Diamond breakfast “includes one main menu item with unlimited non-alcoholic beverages or full buffet with unlimited non-alcoholic beverages per person.”

It’s interesting that the hotel is capping the breakfast choice value. The program terms say you can choose a main menu item – they don’t say any main menu item, so perhaps a cap is allowed? As long as the cap was high enough to cover a breakfast item, perhaps they could even limit guests to a single option.

The benefit’s terms are silent on tip (Hyatt’s breakfast explicitly includes tip). This property realizes that, and says tip is not included.

Benefit delivery is always tough, and some hotels are going to be more generous adhering to the spirit of the program than others. We haven’t seen the hotel benefit guide leaked yet, so don’t know what rules are actually being imposed on properties that may differ somewhat from the way the benefit is described in the program terms. But some hotels are always going to squeeze, as this one does here with juice.

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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Comments

  1. I knew IHG’s breakfast benefit would be too good to be true. I’m not even going to waste time trying to keep Diamond status.

  2. One should always tip for breakfast, 20% on its retail value, no matter what the voucher or loyalty program says. The “included” tip (if any) is a pittance and not close to the value of a proper tip.

  3. Sounds like a complete waste of time
    For all their bragging about this new improved program sounds like false advertising.
    I’m sure by this summer we will know if the program is nothing more than a giant Ponzi Scheme

  4. The coupon above states “up to $10.50” for a main item. I wonder if some items cost more than that?
    And what’s up with exclude juice?
    Too expensive?

  5. Excluding juice seems particularly cheap. It’s not like they are going to be serving fresh squeezed juice at a Holiday Inn, so the cost to the hotel has got to be minimal.

    I’m also wondering how much $10.50 is going to go toward a breakfast entree in Denver.

  6. This is the exact same wording on the breakfast coupon I got at this hotel for a corporate-rate stay in April. Breakfast mains were generally $10.50 and under except: Steak and Eggs ($17), Eggs Benedict ($11.5), Florentine Benedict ($12), Slider Trio ($11), and 3 egg Omelet ($11).

  7. Thanks for this post Gary. I’m currently traveling in Australia from the US, and thus far both IHG hotels I’ve stayed at (Kimpton and voco brands) have initially refused to comp breakfast to me as a Diamond elite, saying it won’t kick in until June. In both cases I have pushed back with management, and I was able to get free breakfast honored when I threatened to cancel. So thus far it’s a lot of work to get free breakfast in advance of the the June changeover. That date can’t come soon enough!

  8. KH, thanks for those prices. Sounds like this hotel is doing Diamond guests a favor by limiting saturated fat and cholesterol intake.

    On the topic of juice, what matters is what price the hotel can charge for it, not what price the hotel pays to buy it. American consumers at breakfast have traditionally been willing to pay a premium for juice. Thus, it is reasonably excluded from the Diamond perk.

  9. I just spent over three months at a Staybridge property and they had free breakfast every day so I don’t see how this would be a benefit there.

  10. Huge improvement means in a scale of 10, IHG improved from 2 to 6. That example of Diamond breakfast is example, a US thing like HHonors f&b credit amount.

  11. RF, and will you give IHG higher returns (net revenue) to justify the increased expenditure? IHG is a corporation for profit. It is not handing out breakfasts for charity.

  12. So if they substitute a buffet and they have fruit, I can just bring my own juicer with me. Or am I dreaming that fresh fruit would be available on a buffet (aside from banana maybe?)

  13. This is awful in return for loyalty. I have already switched brand due to the removal of credit card points in earning status….

  14. Someone needs to file a fraud complaint ASAP. IHG and its properties need to be stopped because all control over the breakfast benefit is lost. The wording of the IHG benefit (“one main menu item with unlimited non-alcoholic beverages”) is pretty clear. Any item on the primary restaurant menu with as much non-alcoholic drinks you want for free. Period.

  15. This is just one data point. I stayed at an Even brand hotel in Chicago last night and it included breakfast with no real limits. They had various items from $11 to $16. This is going to be different for many properties as there are so many brands, so many countries, so many franchise owners, etc. I don’t see how this is worse than Hilton or Marriott frankly.

  16. Contrast all this breakfast furor with the extensive included free breakfasts at hotels outside the USA. We have enjoyed this amenity in essentially every hotel, from small private hotels to big chain hotels all over the world. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it ?

  17. Perhaps the $10.50 limit is a peak into what the hotel is reimbursed for the cost of breakfast ? No way to know for sure but I thinkI recall some Marriott owner(s) complaining that they only get around $7 reimbursement for breakfast.

    I don’t understand why hotels overthink free breakfast . Just set up a basic buffet with eggs , bacon , potatoes, and waffles or pancakes . Have fresh fruit and cereal. Some breads and yogurt . Set up coffee and juice . You don’t need omelettes made to order or nova lox . Keep it simple .

  18. Just checked out from a Holiday Inn in Jakarta where the hotel proactively upgraded me to a Junior Suite as a lowly Gold member. Used to be Platinum (pre-Spire) and NEVER received a suite upgrade. A nice start for the new IHG One Rewards program for sure!

  19. Interesting tidbit from the hotel website:
    “Hotel Dining
    The hotel’s onsite Burger Theory Restaurant is currently closed. Sandwiches, breakfast items and other light items are served out of the hotel gift shop”

    $10.50 worth of gift shop breakfast – now we’re talkin’!

  20. @Andyandy:

    Hotel restaurant and bar fully open. $10.50 gets you about 50% of the items on the menu.

  21. @UHNWI Have American consumers been willing to pay for juice? It’s generally taken as a given at breakfast, but I would imagine more people would pay an upcharge for coffee, and probably even soda, than juice. Many people may just not read the fine print and the hotel intends to smoke them that way, but I don’t think anybody thinks concentrate juice is a deal breaker.

  22. 1) Benefits aren’t officially supposed to start until June, so properties aren’t obligated to provide anything to Spire/Diamond until then. Acting otherwise would be pretty entitled.

    2) Program terms specifically state that hotels are able to exclude certain items – the examples provided are alcoholic beverages and specialty coffee, but there are no stated limits on what’s able to be excluded. Thinking that it’s anything other than ludicrous to threaten legal action over something as trivial as this is absolute madness. Get a grip.

    DanInMCI has the right take here – every other chain besides maybe Hyatt sets limits on the breakfast benefit; not sure what gave folks the impression that you’d be able to order whatever you want for free…

  23. @Raylan:

    The wording of the IHG benefit pretty clearly says you are entitled to at least one main course item from the restaurant’s menu with unlimited non-alcoholic drinks.

  24. The most surprising thing is that they don’t give lounge access (for IHG properties that have one) to Diamond members in lieu of a free breakfast. It’s much more efficient and cost effective for the property to offer lounge access with standard buffet items than give a credit to eat in the restaurant. It has a higher perceived value to the members and a lower cost to the property.

  25. I booked 2 rooms at a Holiday Inn for 4 nights in San Antonio near SeaWorld for mid-April, days after IHG new rewards program started rolling out. I asked about the new breakfast benefit and was comped 8 breakfast buffet. They also let me trade free snack or cocktail vouchers for 8 more breakfast allowing 2 days of 8 of us for breakfast buffet, including juice. Great stay. I will return.

  26. Currently staying at IC Athens (6/1-4). No luck with breakfast. They are refusing to comp it and instead offering 1/2 off (still 15 Euro). Strictly sticking to 6/6 roll-out date.

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