One Mile at a Time writes that the new St. Regis Chicago thought it had found an ‘elite breakfast loophole’ allowing them to avoid providing breakfast to Marriott Bonvoy Platinum members and above. But they didn’t.
The Bulkhead Seat reported that elite breakfast was not being honored there because “they do not own the restaurant (it’s operated by Lettuce Entertain You).” But this is wrong.
The Marriott Bonvoy breakfast benefit at St. Regis hotels is an elite member’s choice of benefits as follows:
1,000 Points per Stay or amenity per Stay or breakfast in restaurant per night of Stay for Member +1 (including Resorts)
The terms and conditions contain no exception for situations where “the restaurant at the hotel is operated by a third party.”
One unique element of the Marriott program that’s positive for consumers, a throwback to an earlier era (I claimed this benefit over a decade ago), is that denial of elite benefits entitles the member to cash compensation – the terms of conditions say failure to deliver the elite welcome benefit choice at a St. Regis hotel, that includes a breakfast option, is worth $100. However to claim the $100 guest has to invoke the benefits guarantee while still on property, or else they forfeit it. Not knowing they’re getting hosed until later means the hotel doesn’t have to pay.
Now, the terms and conditions of the program do still contain a Covid exception for providing breakfast, allowing the hotel to offer an “alternative for the benefit” (not no benefit). This was meant for hotels under local rules that limited the ability to provide food service, or limited indoor gathering sizes, and for hotels that had not yet fully restored operations (as opposed to brand new luxury hotels!).
As One Mile at a Time points out, hotel owners want loyal customers from a hotel chain (what they sometimes call ‘leads’) but don’t want to deliver on the expectations the chain has created to build that loyalty. Marriott has been allowing hotels to get away with this, focused more on owner costs than protecting their brand. They’ll often enforce brand standards when called out, though.
That’s a short-term mindset, because in the asset light model where hotel chains tend not to own their properties, all they have is their brand. They’re afraid of antagonizing owners in a way that costs them revenue in the short term, but that risks sacrificing even more revenue in the long term.
Fortunately the attention this policy garnered generated a change and the St. Regis will honor Platinum (and above) elite breakfast. They will not, apparently, provide compensation to those guests that have already been shortchanged.
Normally I’d have suggested anyone with Marriott Bonvoy elite status should avoid the St. Regis Chicago – since elites were being made to feel unwelcome. However the right approach in this situation, I think, would have been to invoke the $100 guarantee.