Marriott Hotels Just Ignore Elite Breakfast Benefits With Impunity

The Sheraton Charlotte airport has a club lounge normally, and that’s where Marriott Platinum members (and higher) would receive breakfast. The lounge is closed. But a reader reports that the hotel explains they aren’t obligated to provide a breakfast choice benefit because they have a club lounge.

The J.W. Marriott in Grand Rapids also has a club lounge that’s closed. They’ve been offering eligible elites a credit that doesn’t cover the least expensive breakfast on the menu.

At the W in Los Angeles they aren’t offering complimentary restaurant breakfast as a choice of benefit. However they will sell this breakfast to Platinums, Titaniums and Ambassador members for $11 plus tax and service charge.

Here’s a couple of interesting data points about Marriott hotel elite breakfast recently posted online,

  • Ambassador member at the Royal Hawaiian reports that breakfast is currently limited for elites… but not for people booking a rate that includes breakfast.

    Elites have access to a separate continental breakfast line that is clearly for elites only, where you can get coffee, assorted fruit, yoplait yogurt, and some pastries. No proteins other than a mini premade egg thing.

    Luckily I was worried about the breakfast situation and booked a virtuoso rate that includes 4th night free and full breakfast. We received coupons that were good for any entree on the menu (with the top price being a ~38 short rib benedict. Note that this is limit 1 entree per person and does not include any side orders.

  • Titanium member at the Laylow, Autograph Collection Waikiki sells breakfast but won’t offer a breakfast benefit, and the value of the points is only around $5 per night. (Compare that to breakfast for two people.)

    While they are serving breakfast and coffee in the coffeeshop (nothing extravagant, but things like egg sandwiches), they will not give Plat / Titanium / AMB any credit towards breakfast. Instead of the previous $15 pp credit, you now just get 1,000 points plus 750 points per night.

    I asked why, if they can *serve breakfast*, they can’t give the credit and the answer was that “It’s a management decision.”

According to a Marriott spokesperson,

Over the past year, hotel occupancy dropped to historic lows and properties had to adapt their operations accordingly such as closing restaurants or concierge lounges, as well as manage local guidance. In these situations, hotels were given the flexibility to offer food and beverage alternatives to members with elite status including a complimentary grab-and-go breakfast, F&B credit, or something comparable based on the brand. We will continue to monitor systemwide performance as occupancy improves in many markets but still remains low in others in determining how long to grant flexibility.

Supposedly “There is a policy in place for now regarding the breakfast benefit based on hotel occupancy” but hotels don’t seem to follow it, and Marriott doesn’t seem to enforce it.

Hotels have struggled in many cases (though are struggling a lot less in domestic leisure markets). The worst way to address those struggles is stick it to a chain’s best customers who are the way out of this mess.

Where local regulations prohibited indoor dining (or outdoor!) hotels have to comply of course. If restaurants are occupancy-restricted a replacement breakfast is reasonable – provide vouchers, but those should cover the cost of paying for breakfast, set up an alternative breakfast pickup at least. 1000 Marriott points are worth less than $7.

If you care about your elite benefits part of selecting a hotel now must include finding out what benefits are actually being honored at a property. And if you have to work so hard to get your benefits, the benefits probably aren’t worth it to begin with, and you shouldn’t be choosing a hotel based on loyalty to a chain.

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. Don’t understand how people are not ripping these hotels on TA. The more that rip on TA for these properties, the more the properties will catch on.

  2. I just complained to Marriott Corporate about a Courtyard by Marriott that simply left their bistro shuttered.

    It was in a state that has limited indoor dinning, allows outdoor dinning and the parking lot seemed full every night.

    Hyatt’s been doing it better from my perspective. Marriott is letting their hotel owners be cheap and it blows.

    That being said, the Wailea Beach Resort in Maui did well, offering any (literally any customized Starbucks drink, whatever flavors or shots you want, just had to be in a tall cup) a pastry (with a small uncharge for a breakfast sandwich) and fresh fruit back in December. This is superior to many shitty breakfasts I’ve had, though a far cry from a nice Hawaiian Buffett spread.

  3. It’s funny how two of the reports are from Hawaii- from what I’ve been reading, occupancy has been pretty good in Hawaii and is expected to remain that way through the summer as many usual overseas tourist destinations remain closed to Americans. I’d imagine that room rates are also not rock bottom in Hawaii the way they are in places like NYC. So there’s basically no economic justification for local management at these properties to disregard the program’s benefits.

  4. Marriott definitely doesn’t seem to care about its program top tier elite customers being shorted on the breakfast benefit. Marriott allowed hotels to go cheap on the breakfast benefit from the beginning of Bonvoy and the pandemic just furthered that trend to a worse extreme.

    Of the major hotel programs, the only one that does a good job of delivering at-hotel breakfast benefits to my expectations is the Hyatt program.

  5. I don’t bother with loyalty anymore. Hilton/Marriott/IHG—they’re all looking for the lowest common denominator. What’s the point? Have paid for Four Seasons for >20 nights so far this year—full service, excellent amenities, and a first class experience even during the Rona. Too many chains are taking the cheapest way out and losing formerly loyal people along the way.

  6. This stuff always happens. What I don’t understand is why Marriott doesn’t ensure consistency across the portfolio by not giving at least a breakfast credit at RCs and Editions. I’m talking only $10/person/night, max $20. Breakfast at those places is always going to be much higher than $10/person and its a win/win for both sides.

  7. I recently stayed @ Renaissance Flatiron in Broomfield, CO. Their restaurant is closed but they offered a $15 voucher per day for breakfast. I was able to get a hot burrito, yogurt, and bottled water for that. It’s better than most that I’ve had in the past year.

  8. I’d say it’s actually worse for them to be doing this when dining is restricted during COVID, because not only have they failed to honor their elite promise, but I know hotels have stranded some elites with no reasonable way to get anything to eat because places outside the hotel are closed too. Honestly, the bagel and banana would be fine, at least it’s something. I can’t eat 1,000 Bonvoy points before a meeting.

  9. When you have to fight for elite benefits, the program is longer worth it.
    Properties should be pro-active in insuring elites are taken care of.
    There are many programs out there and if Marriott wants to differentiate themselves in a bad way, then it’s time for elites to move on…

  10. Stayed at two different properties – Marriott Hilton Head and Aloft Greenville, SC – this year (I’m platinum elite). Both had restaurants on property that were open. Neither would allow me to choose breakfast as my welcome gift – only points. Called corporate. Got a note in Greenville apologizing and letting me know my points were credited. Terrible.

  11. Let’s stop pretending that Marriott cares in the least about the customer. Arne viewed the customer as an adversary and that legacy lives on, as illustrated by the fact that Marriott allows properties to do as they please. After all, when was the last time that Marriott did something that benefited the customer at the expense of the location and the shareholders?

  12. Been at two Sheratons recently (Pittsburgh & Westbury, MN) and neither offered squat to elites.

    Zero reasons to remain loyal

  13. Why do people get so hung up on breakfast? Is it just something they should get “free” and don’t get it or do they actually eat 3 full meals a day? Many nutritionists state that 2 meals (with maybe some type of light snack mid-morning such as a piece of fruit) are much healthier. You do realize the saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is all marketing and has zero scientific basis.

    Americans are so fat mainly because we continue to over eat. Just try pushing back a few times and maybe get a cup of coffee (preferably black without any calories) then wait until lunch.

    BTW – lifetime Titanium here and am really sick with all the Marriott bashing Gary. You seem to obsess over something as minor as breakfast when the world is continuing to deal with COVID (fully vaccinated myself). How about being GRATEFUL for what you have instead of continuing to pick things apart.

  14. It does not do much good complaining to Host ( Marriott) because they are so afraid of making their franchisee’s mad and this has been going on for a long time, only now reaching a breaking point I hope. Face Book is a much better platform to complain on. But if you think the executive suite at Host is going to change this one forget it Equity Capital has one thing only “bottom line” The Marriott family had the obsolete Service first last and always that people is how they got so rich.

  15. Well, as the quoted poster in the Laylow post on FT, I’ll add this:

    – The Laylow clearly knew that they could get away with it. They didn’t even hide it and I made the same comment right to the employee – that they were giving $5 worth of points in lieu of a ~$30 breakfast benefit and that wasn’t right.

    Comparatively, we stayed at the Grand Wailea in Maui and the Grand Hyatt in Kaua’i.

    At the WA Grand Wailea, they did offer $20 per person credit. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to cover any items with that and the two places one could use it were awful, but it was better than nothing for sure.

    At the Grand Hyatt in Kaua’i, they went above in beyond. Breakfast would be served in the lounge, but that is closed – so instead Globalists get a full hot breakfast in their restaurant overlooking a waterfall and pond. Choice of buffet or anything off the menu. No charge for anything; not even a bill to sign. Just full comp.

    Once again, when it comes to elite treatment, Hyatt rules and the others drool….

  16. During my working years (as a dentist), I was able to generate a load of points which led to many incredible travel experiences. Thanks to Gary and his colleagues, I learned to game the system and ended up Platinum for Life with Starwood and then, sadly, Marriott. I spend some time as a Diamond with Hyatt – the best ever.

    I’m now 73 and retired. At this point I would rather pay for hotel experiences I want guaranteed while saving my points for Business and First Class travel. The hotels have consistently shot themselves in the foot by so often promising more than they can deliver. I’ll still take advantage of PFL with Marriot when it serves me but it certainly is not loyalty. I’m clear they could care less about me.

  17. As a diabetic and a Titanium elite I have relied on Marriot’s elite breakfast/lounge benefit for years. It is important for me to eat regularly and I frequently select properties with the breakfast benefit in mind. Reading Gary’s column and the respective comments, I am very disturbed, but will indeed check more carefully. Thanks for the heads up.

  18. I don’t bother to complain even as a Lifetime Tit.The lights are on but there is no one home
    All my revenue primarily goes to Hyatt and some select luxury Hilton’s Waldorf Conrad,others etc
    If Marriott wants to feed their top customers jelly beans for breakfast let them.If they are willing to lose all my business then so be it. I hope the hotels will one day understand loyalty before its to late and many eventually become Crowne Plazas
    The penny pinching went on long before COVID now its been taken to a new extreme .
    Always excuses for the dreaded resort fee revenue or rewards,the energy surcharge, credit card usage fees, breakfast fees for your complimentary breakfast etc Bonvoyed should be called “Stinginess Rewards”
    Marriott redemption amounts/values are now that the most expensive of all programs typically and the benefits about the weakest for their best customers .When I look even the suite upgrades are laughable.No suites to wait list for just other guest rooms.SAD
    RIP SPG Marriott has ruined them and their own brands from an expected good experience for benefits their members earned in good faith.Shameful!

  19. Never had these issues with Hilton but consistently with Marriott pre-pandemic. The funniest was in Miami where the St Regis told me there was simply no availability for a late check out as they were full. I was prepared to accept this until they then offered me the late check out (5pm) for $500.

  20. @AC, the point here when critiquing Marriott is to compare the consistency of a stated benefit with the consistency of the same benefit at competitors. Whether or not you think breakfast is healthy, or whether you think we should just be thankful for what we get are both totally irrelevant.

    Personally, I used to hold status with Marriott but let it lapse. I had some great experiences with them in the past, many of which were international; I’ve nothing but nice things to say about the J.W. Marriott Shanghai. Now, for several years, I’ve been reading nothing but horror stories about the devaluation of their rewards program, and brand for that matter. Such reports are hardly unique to this blog.

    I’m currently Diamond with Hilton, and honestly I’ve gotten an incredible amount of value out of that program for the last few years. They’re very consistent about their free breakfast benefit – among other perks – and have always treated me well, whether I’m staying at a Waldorf on leisure or at an Embassy Suites on business. They may not be quite as high-end on the whole as Hyatt, but they make up for it in my mind with their ubiquity.

  21. Great reply to AC Luke. I only stay at low end Marriotts at this point because I get the late checkout and sometimes functional internet TV and WiFi. ‘High end’ domestic properties like JWM or W are a joke.

  22. @ Gary — I ignore Marriott with impunity. Literally, I will not even consider booking with them. The way they act, you would think they are some sort of monopoly; however, I’ve yet to visit a place where there are not other hotels to choose.

  23. Back in mid-seventies, I worked for Marriott for four years. They were overpriced and uppity then and even worse now. The more they acquire, the worse they get. All in all, it is sad to see everything become one big gobbledy gook of amalgamated crap offering nothing but legalized theft.

  24. Marriott are an absolute disgrace in enforcing these benefits. I honestly don’t know why they bothered to reinstate the elite benefits guarantee if they’d no intention of making properties stick to it.

  25. I recently stayed at a Best Western that did better than the grab and go ….they let you grab what you wanted, and really had a decent selection of breakfast sandwiches, fruit, bakery, juices , coffee…. it was the closest thing to what they used to offer as a breakfast buffet, and it was much better than the Hilton Garden inns pathetic paper bag with practically nothing in it.

  26. I am a Diamond member at Hilton and was just thinking to switch to Bonvoy. After reading all the comments here, I think I will go back to Hyatt, which I was a gold member for a few years.
    At least Marriott was honest enough to admit that they were eliminating/minimizing breakfast because of low occupancy. I was told point blank by two Hilton receptionists that they don’t offer breakfast, or daily housekeeping “for [my] safety.”
    Hilton is touting their so-called Cleanstay program as a way to hide their pathetic lack of service. What a joke.
    I guess Marriott is no better.

  27. this just happened to me twice last week one at the Tampa Marriott water street and again at the Disney Dolphin.

    At both locations we were given a 20 dollar certificate for the room, not per person. Disney I kind of understand since there is no lounge abd we got a continental breakfast which was fine but in tampa, the lounge was closed but the buffet was fully open and all we got was 20 bucks total, the buffet was 27 per person. I complained and was given a 30 dollar credit on my bill but I should not have to go and beg

  28. The least they could do is prepare a go breakfast bag. The Hilton Canopy in Jersey City for example would ask that you precook your breakfast to go bag the night before. It included a yogurt, a fruit, a granola bar and a juice bottle. Nothing great, but at least something.

  29. @christian: “Let’s stop pretending that Marriott cares in the least about the customer. ”

    More accurately, should be “Let’s stop pretending that Marriott cares in the least about the guest. ”

    Marriott does care about their customer – but their customers are the franchisees, not us guests.

  30. I recently stayed at 2 Marriott properties that refused to honor elite benefits. I called Marriott about both of them, and they didn’t care. I finally talked to a supervisor who also didn’t care. If you show them that their reason is wrong, ie. the restaurant was closed, but it wasn’t, they just move on to the next excuse. The only real benefit to being an elite comes from a possible upgrade and breakfast. Maybe late checkout but that’s very hit or miss too. Hyatt is getting most of my nights now, and it looks like Hilton, who has a terrible rewards program, but does enforce their benefits, will get the number 2 spot. The JW Marriott Cabo, and the Marriott Dallas, Las Colinas only want elites to shut up and pay.

  31. I understand that this is a U.S. blog, but just my two cents, as a non-American:
    1) All that is being mentioned here only applies to North America. Marriott hotels elsewhere have been complying with elite breakfast benefits just fine.
    2) Marriott has an elite guarantee. Breakfast is included in the guarantee for many brands, as well as lounge access and/or F&B credit. For those that do not comply, it’s 50/100 USD in cash. End of story.
    🙂

  32. @cariverga

    “2) Marriott has an elite guarantee. Breakfast is included in the guarantee for many brands, as well as lounge access and/or F&B credit. For those that do not comply, it’s 50/100 USD in cash. End of story”

    Marriott are refusing to enforce this guarantee in open and shut cases.

  33. Nothing a class action lawsuit wouldn’t take care of. Tricky part is finding a firm that would take the case since the limited pool of elites keeps the size of the class down.

  34. Yet another reason why Marriott, as a brand and a loyalty program, is straight trash. If it weren’t the free nights Id never consider a Marriott

  35. @MarriNott

    What means refusing? Don’t leave the hotel until you get the cash. Get in touch with Marriott support in Twitter or by phone.

  36. @cariverga – your heart is in the right place but you dont seem to understand that Marriott’s isnt. There is no “cash to be gotten” by standing at the reception desk. There is no “well, its guaranteed so give me breakfast” conversation as the response is “we are giving you 1000 points instead, take it or leave it”. You’re only option is a lawsuit because even Bonvoy central command doesn’t give two poops.

  37. Silly bastards @Marriott, what are they thinking….. they probably throw half the food away anyway….. glad I am with @hiltonhonors …. no penny pinching over there

  38. Just checked in for a stay at Hotel Adagio Autograph in SF. Got a message from Marriott stating the hotel is offering grab and go continental breakfast. Hotel didn’t agree and said 1000 points is standard but would offer a $10 food an beverage credit.

  39. Review the Bonvoy Elite T&C document. With the document in hand, you may experience success in contacting the hotel and asking to speak with the GM. Pay particular attention to the sections describing room upgrades, welcome and, lounge access (very important). These sections describe in detail what the hotel, as a participant in the Bonvoy program, what the hotel is required to offer elites.

    I think there is a consensus that the hotel’s release from compliance is designed for those situation in which the restaurants are shut down entirely. If the hotel is serving breakfast but refuses to provide it to an Elite, there is cause for dissatisfaction.

    GM’s have wide latitude in providing guest support.

    Be nice when you call.

  40. Guild Hotel in San Diego… no breakfast because restaurant is closed, but you can purchase pastries from the bar.

    Marriott Gaslamp website says to-go breakfast is available from the restaurant but restaurant is closed.

  41. Am at the Casa Marna now n Key West. Suppsed to be a top of the line Hlton, but you would not beleve the crners they are cutting.

    Breakfast is inedble, we opted out after our first morning w Diamond privleges. Housekeepng forget it & a big haggle for an upgrade Not just Marriott so what do we do & where do we go? $1,000/nt for our suite w/o points? No way

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