Stop Complaining About Marriott Elite Breakfasts and Just Stay at Hyatt

Richard Kerr writes about hotels getting cheap with elite breakfast benefits. He cites,

  • Upcharges for access to full breakfast
  • Poorly provisioned club lounges
  • The odd hotel that doesn’t honor the benefit, or is allowed not to

Marriott Boca Raton

However none of these things is really new except that it’s become much more prevalent with Marriott especially since Marriott resorts now have to provide breakfast.

Up until 2013 Marriott’s breakfast benefit didn’t apply on the weekends. And even with last year’s new program launch,

  • Resorts (outside of Westin, Sheraton and Le Meridien) don’t have to provide club lounge access
  • Courtyard, AC Hotels by Marriott, and Moxy hotels can just provide vouchers
  • Ritz-Carltons, Editions, Design Hotels, Gaylord Hotels, Marriott Vacation Club, and Marriott Executive Apartments don’t have to feed you at all. (Neither does Bulgari, they don’t participate in Marriott Rewards.)

Breakfast at the Scrub Island Resort, Autograph Collection

If it seems like chintzy breakfast is more common than it used to be, it’s a function of elites used to breakfast at other brands – or Starwood elites – staying at Marriott properties that didn’t always provide breakfast, or that are figuring out how to limit their cost in the new program (even though Bonvoy is less expensive to hotels than Marriott Rewards was).

A decade ago I was upcharged $10 for the full buffet at the Barbados HIlton. Nothing wrong with that, they were complying with the terms of the program.

Seven years ago I was given the ‘Honors Breakfast’ at the Conrad New York. The terms of the program require continental breakfast and that’s what they provided – I would have preferred a credit I could have used towards something else, but I didn’t really have basis for complaint.

If you want a full breakfast – and not merely a continental offering – stay at full service properties in the only chain that actually defines what breakfast is in their program terms and that’s Hyatt. Though Hyatt isn’t as generous as they used to be here, they are quite clear:

When staying at a participating hotel or resort that does not have a Club lounge (or if Club lounge is closed), Globalists will receive daily complimentary full breakfast (which includes one entrée or standard breakfast buffet, juice, and coffee, as well as tax, gratuity and service charges) for each registered guest in the room, up to a maximum of two (2) adults and two (2) children.

We can highlight hotels that push the envelope of chintziness, but then we should:

  • Recognize why some programs are tight-fisted
  • Honor those that are generous

The Andaz 5th Avenue used to offer unlimited complimentary room service and there wasn’t even a check to sign. Some Diamond members took to ordering everything on the menu, and that’s why we can’t have nice things. Meanwhile costs to provide breakfast at big city union hotels is quite high. Room service is an option because that hotel’s restaurant is small and top tier elites would overwhelm them.

Meanwhile breakfast was cut back markedly over the years at the Andaz Wall Street. What was once a celebratory affair became worth a miss.

I’ve had some amazing complimentary breakfasts. At the St. Regis in Bali I had lobster, sushi, and foie gras. At the Park Hyatt Vendome over a 100 euro credit for room service each morning. At the Park Hyatt Maldives there’s a buffet and order off the menu.

If you care about a robust breakfast benefit, club lounges at Westins, Sheratons, Marriott and Hyatt Regencys more often than not may disappoint. Higher-end club lounges will be more to your liking.

I’ll skip breakfast when I’m traveling for work. I prefer a club lounge, and especially something I can bring back to my room or just a space where I can eat and work. I also don’t much value restaurant breakfast unless it’s actually good.

On a weekend or vacation trip with my wife, taking time for a long leisurely breakfast can actually be a special experience. Breakfast matters in different degrees, and at different times, depending on the type of hotel and the type of stay.

However if breakfast matters to you remember that IHG doesn’t promise it; Hilton offers just a continental breakfast but doesn’t exclude brands; Marriott’s breakfast benefit is improved but understanding it is like something out of a Fellini film; while Hyatt’s offerings are both more robust and more clear.

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. Gary…a lot of people travel to more varied destinations than you do, where Hilton and Marriott are your choices.

  2. @James K.- I make the point all the time about footprint, I’m saying that if you make your stay decisions *based on breakfast* . . .

  3. While I generally agree with the conclusions, I also think that Hilton’s breakfast benefit in nicer European and Asian hotels is fairly generous, considering how easy it is to attain Gold/Diamond status. I have always been offered the full breakfast in European Hiltons, and it’s never restricted to the club lounge, which isn’t always the case with Hyatt. I haven’t traveled extensively in Asia, but have had the same experience. While I agree that Hyatt has the best and most consistent benefit, the gap between Hyatt and Hilton hotels is far less pronounced in European/Asian hotels than it is in US hotels, where Hilton’s breakfast benefit is underwhelming. No idea about Marriott, as I agree with the Fellini reference.

    because it’s not restricted to a continental breakfast and you can typically choose between the restaurant or club lounge (which sometimes isn’t the case with Hyatt). Overall, i th

  4. Hyatt is definitely the industry leader in this area and I wish that they had a bigger footprint and more midrange properties.
    I stay at hotels a LOT for both work and play travel, and in a large number of different places (although mostly in the US and Europe). Hyatt is not an option in many of them, usually small cities, and often it is between a Hilton, Marriott or IHG property.

  5. @playalaguna +1

    @Gary – Anything you can share about Richard Kerr going back to TPG? I greatly respected when he left TPG after his superb, if critical, post ruffled some feathers. His returning just seemed strange, considering his integrity and TPG’s lack there of.

  6. I’ve considered this but find the limited number of full service Hyatt properties to be a deal breaker. For example, I frequently travel to Charlotte, NC where my options with Marriott include a Ritz-Carlton, a Luxury Collection property (which I highly recommend), a Westin, a Renaissance, a Le Meridian and two fairly nice Marriotts but no Grand Hyatt, Park Hyatt or Hyatt Regency.

  7. Have made the switch and looking forward to an amazing run of Hyatt stays coming up as a Globalist.

    Quality – you get what you pay for.

  8. @UA-NYC +100
    (Abandoning my Amb Elite w/LT Tit to WOH; starting with Explorist…)

    Bonvoy- you get what you settle for.

  9. And don’t forget, with Hyatt, if you are starting elite status from scratch, you can get breakfast included at full service hotels just by booking through Hyatt Prive.

  10. Hyatt is DEFINITELY the way to go if you have to be Elite. I agree their footprint is limited but I LOVE being a Globalist with Hyatt. Really great breakfasts at most of their nicer hotels.

  11. The issue about Hyatt is clear as day, if you want luxury hotels that give full elite benefits outside of the US and EU, you are out of luck. I am not looking to stay at another Hyatt Regency.

  12. So the advice is: pay an extra $50 or $100 to stay in a Hyatt ( in the very limited areas in which they are located) of comparable quality to a Marriott , so that you’re able to ( potentially) save $20-30 on breakfast.
    To be sure, I like Hyatt breakfasts, eg Berlin, Vienna, London…but I know I’m paying a premium for them, regardless of status.

  13. Having played the points game for a few years, and had some great (and really terrible) experience. I now just go for small boutique hotels. The experience is often far superior than chains and the cost better. If staying somewhere for a week or two then I will Airbnb. Why hope for a suite when you can have an entire house / apartment?

  14. You’re going to debate free hotel breakfasts with Richard Kerr? I gave up on reading Richard several months ago when he booked a regular room at the Hyatt Gainey Ranch, then showed up with his extended family and demanded an upgrade to a cabana (which they gave him). I actually stay 100 nights/year in Hyatts, so I am well aware that these benefits are not free.

    Every benefit comes at a price. There is only so much cost the chains can offload onto the franchisees, and Marriott has pushed it to the limit. To get the better breakfast Richard is grousing for, something else would get cut, and I for one would rather have breakfast be cheaper than have, for example, the welcome amenity cut out, which Hyatt did.

    I agree with you on the main points: With 30 brands Marriott’s rules are now ridiculous; If I’m alone I’d rather just eat in my room; when you can find a full service Hyatt, the breakfasts are fantastic. E.g.- last year I stayed at the rather mediocre Hyatt Orange County Airport. What made the stay well worth it was the spectacular breakfast.

  15. Spot on Gary…those arguing are just picking nits.
    It’s really a very simple equation.

  16. @Gary–as a loyal reader who very much respects your insights, all of these “ra ra” Hyatt postings are getting a bit much and I feel like you have an agenda and are being unfair about WOH. So can you please describe to me my Hyatt free breakfast at full service Hyatts before I have stayed at Hyatts for 60 nights per year? You are right that Hyatt’s offering is more clear–I don’t get breakfast. They are closing lounges in full-service hotels (and many full-service hotels never had lounges in the first place), so club lounge upgrades are useless in those locations. Unless you travel heavily to major cities, it can be very difficult to find not only a full-service Hyatt, but any Hyatt. I think you brushed off @JamesK a bit too quickly because it is all the same issue–if you can’t find a Hyatt to stay in, it makes it even harder to get to 60. And please don’t put the Hyatt credit card on such a high pedestal, since you have yet to compare points earning potential of the Hyatt credit card to Freedom Unlimited/Sapphire Reserve since it hurts your argument. I spent two years as a Globalist/Diamond and found myself deciding where to travel by looking where there was a Hyatt instead of really where I really wanted to go, which is insane. As far as breakfasts overseas, I have had some amazing free breakfasts at Hiltons (Fiji, Tokyo, Phuket, Maldives, Bora Bora, Colombo, etc.) that have been just as good if not better than anything that Hyatt has offered (Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Aruba, Guam, Saipan, etc.).

  17. Folks complain all the time about free breakfast & resort charges, but my top peeve is charges added after check-out with no explanation given. It just shows up on my cc one day. Especially if it’s an intl hotel, communicating with the hotel about the nature of the charge can be difficult. It usually leads towards a dispute with the cc company which then must pry the info from the hotel, if legitimate even to begin with. Almost every 3 stays results in one of these “after-charges.” And though they are generally small, I think that’s the reason hotels think you won’t follow-up on them. Especially if they wait to post them more than a week after check-out.

    The Hilton Barbados buffet is now $15/US pp by the way, so yes, a good free breakfast is otherwise very much appreciated as an elite member & makes a significant difference in a travel budget over the course of a year when traveling with others esp. As for Hyatt, their lounges tend to not be there when I need them.

  18. The same people complaining about the Starwood footprint over the last decade are likely the same people complaining about the Hyatt footprint now.

    Again, it’s not for everyone…if you want big & mediocre and coverage in small town USA, go for Marriott or (a step down) Hilton.

  19. @Pam: If you weren’t stealing items from the hotels in the first place, they wouldn’t have to charge you for them after your stay. It’s that simple.

  20. @UA-NYC – the issue between SPG & Hyatt isn’t just in quantity of props but quality. It is difficult to find interesting Hyatt domestic locations, though they are making inroads into the problem for sure.

  21. Personally, I prefer staying at Hilton Hotels. I like their breakfasts and the hotels are fine. However, still like Marriotts, Westins and that lot; seem to pick a lot of Residence Inns when I’m doing Marriott. Depends on where I’m going. My husband won’t leave the hotel for breakfast unless it’s across the street…

  22. Please quit telling people to switch to Hyatt; I’m enjoying being treated like an elite unlike Marriott/SPG where the entire hotel has status

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