“You Mean We Have to Feed Them, Too?” The Hotel Programs That Offer the Most Generous Breakfast Benefits

One hotel loyalty program executive relayed the common refrain she got from hotels in the chain when they first began rolling out a breakfast benefit for their top tier elites — “you mean we have to feed them, too?”

And yes – they do — because breakfast is a common benefit of hotel elite programs, at least at the time tier, and it’s something that the better programs need to offer in order to remain competitive.

The most coveted hotel elite perk is upgrades, especially to suites. I’ve written in the past that I find Hyatt Gold Passport the most generous with elite upgrades, followed by Starwood Preferred Guest. And I’ve had some of my very best upgrades through the intercontinental Royal Ambassador program (many hotels will provide upgrades to specialty suites) but I knock them down not just for having few hotels but also because they specifically exclude any upgrade of any kind on award stays under the terms of the program. (Starwood is better for upgrades on awards.)

But perhaps the second most coveted hotel elite status perk is breakfast.

And, like upgrades, not every program is the same. So in this post I’ll outline the differences between the major hotel programs in the breakfast benefits they provide.

Most hotel programs offer club lounge access to their top tier elites, and lounges will generally provide a continental breakfast (although some will have hot options as well). At hotels where there is no lounge available, the median benefit is to provide a continental breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant.

But some programs offer breakfast below the top tier, some don’t offer it at all, and one even guarantees a full breakfast — for your friends, family, extended family, and people you’ve met on the street (well, not really, but for four people if they’re registered to the room rather than the standard two).

For this exercise I’m interested in the published benefits of the hotel’s elite program – not what some hotels may do as exceptions that go above and beyond. Many hotels will offer full breakfast and not just continental, even though they aren’t required to do so. But you can’t expect it or count on it and certainly can’t at all hotels. In any case, that speaks well of an individual hotel property when they choose to do it — but not of the hotel elite program itself.

And here I deal only with full service hotel properties — not a chain’s limited service brands like Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn, or Hyatt Place which may offer breakfast to all guests or none at all as a brand standard because of lack of facilities.

Hilton HHonors: the Most Generous Program for mid-Tier Elites

Hilton HHonors provides breakfast to Diamond members at Conrad, Hilton, and DoubleTree properties. Breakfast is continental and for up to one additional guest besides the Diamond member.

The breakfast benefit is exactly the same for Golds — when there’s no executive lounge access available to a Gold member, the hotel must provide restaurant continental breakfast. (Diamonds are guaranteed lounge access, so if there is a lounge that’s where a Diamond gets their breakfast benefit — in a weird way, those who value breakfast but not evening cocktails may value the Gold benefit more.)

Breakfast is not a published benefit at Waldorf=Astoria properties.

While Hilton’s breakfast offering is in some ways fairly standard, what’s unique is that it’s the easiest to obtain since it’s offered at the Gold level — and Gold is earned after 20 stays or 40 nights (compare to 25 stays or 50 nights at least for others) or >just simply for having the right credit card.

    The Conrad New York has a special breakfast menu for HHonors elites – select off it, you can’t have a credit towards other menu items unfortunately. Pastries, coffee and juice there are otherwise $26++.

Priority Club: No Breakfast Benefits, But Then There Aren’t Many Other Program Benefits Either

The Priority Club Platinum benefits do not include any sort of breakfast. I’ve been to Holiday Inn properties that’ll provide a single breakfast voucher for use once during a stay, but they aren’t required to do so. Many Crowne Plaza properties outside the United States have been known to upgrade Platinums to club level rooms with lounge access (and thus breakfast), but this is above and beyond the requirementsas well.

Interestingly, while Priority Club is the points program for the Intercontinental chain that is part of Intercontinental Hotels Group (the parent of Priority Club), it is not the elite program for that chain. That’s the Ambassador program. And top tier elites — Royal Ambassadors — do wind up with some pretty nice upgrades on paid stays. However club lounge is not a formal benefit of that program (except when upgraded to a room that includes the benefit) and breakfast isn’t either.

Still, many Intercontinental hotels with lounges will upgrade Royal Ambassadors to such rooms. And many of them are further generous in allowing those with club access to take their breakfasts in the hotel restaurant. That’s especially common in Asia.

    Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur club lounge breakfast

But as a formal matter, neither Priority Club nor Intercontinental Royal Ambassador offer any explicit breakfast benefit of any kind.

Starwood Preferred Guest: Platinums Have to Buy their Continental Breakfast With Points

Starwood has long offered club lounge access at Westins and Sheratons — and Le Meridien properties once they acquired that chain — to their Platinum members. But when no club lounge was available, and at their other chains, the program didn’t offer a formal breakfast benefit until a year ago.

What they rolled out though was a choice to take continental breakfast — Platinum members staying at a property without a club lounge give up their 500 point check-in amenity if they wish to avail themselves of a morning meal.

Your choice of a welcome gift with each stay. Choose from bonus Starpoints, continental breakfast (New Option!) and local amenities.

It’s certainly true that someone staying for business might want to expense breakfast, take a reimbursement from their employer and earn the points. I feel bad for their employer, but it’s the employer’s fault for hiring that person.

And it fits the Starwood narrative of wanting to offer choices to members to customize their experiences.

It also saves the program money. They don’t provide the points (a cost) and use the savings towards funding the breakfast benefit.

Some hotels of course to provide a full breakfast even though they aren’t required to. And those that don’t are encouraged to offer members the opportunity to buy up to a full breakfast, though they aren’t required to do that either.

Marriott Rewards: Golds and Platinums Go Hungry on the Weekend and When They’re on Vacation

Marriott Rewards offers breakfast to both their Gold and Platinum members, but since Gold requires 50 nights to achieve it’s worth noting that’s as many room nights as Hyatt and Starwood provide top tier status at. So that providing breakfast at mid-tier isn’t nearly as generous as Hilton doing the same. The Platinum and Gold breakfast benefits are identical.

    This club lounge was at the Renaiisance Newark — but could have been almost any Marriott during the week

    Marriott Boca Raton goes above and beyond, offering restaurant buffet breakfast when their club lounge is closed

Marriott’s breakfast benefit in the U.S. and Canada is only during the week (other regions include the weekend), and does not apply at resorts. Go on vacation, where you tend to have more time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and you’re expected to pay for it.

Guaranteed Lounge Access/Free Breakfast

Help yourself to light snacks, beverages and complimentary continental breakfast in our Concierge/Executive/Club Lounge at participating JW Marriott Hotels, the Autograph Collection, Renaissance Hotels and Marriott Hotels & Resorts. If your hotel doesn’t have a Concierge/Executive/Club Lounge, we invite you to enjoy complimentary continental breakfast on your weekday stays. Outside the U.S. and Canada, you are entitled to continental breakfast 7 days a week. (Not available at resort locations.) Learn more

Hyatt Gold Passport: Full Restaurant Breakfast for Up to Four People, and Sometimes Bonus Points for Your Trouble, Too

Hyatt Gold Passport offers their Diamond members club lounge access for breakfast. If there’s no club lounge breakfast available they provide full — not continental restaurant breakfast for up to 4 registered guests in the room. (If there is a club lounge that happens to be closed they also compensate with 2500 bonus points as well.)

The keys here are full breakfast not continental, for up to four people and not just two (although all names but be registered to the room, and some hotels do charge extra for additional guests on a reservation).

    The Park Hyatt Vendome is Paris allows you to take the full buffet in the restaurant — 49 euros per person — or a similar value credit from room service.

    Hyatt Olive 8 in Seattle provides restaurant breakfast for up to 4 people

    Andaz 5th Avenue does a nice restaurant breakfast but you can also take a room service credit instead (sadly the credit is now $75 rather than unlimited). Either way you can have my favorite lemon poppyseed pancakes.

Full breakfast is even defined,

daily complimentary full breakfast inclusive of one entrée (or standard breakfast buffet), juice and coffee (tax, gratuity and service charges included) for each registered guest in the room, maximum four (4) people.

There is, however, one full service hotel that gets an exception and is allowed to offer only continental breakfast.

For stays at Hyatt Regency Bethesda, daily continental breakfast (tax and gratuity included) will be provided to the member and each guest registered in the room, maximum four (4) people.

Some of my favorite breakfasts have come through room service, which isn’t something the program offers but rather is a hotel going above and beyond. A year ago there was a push to get hotels not to do this, it sets expectations too high that then aren’t met by most properties. And yet some still do, and those are often my favorites.

Club Carlson: Showers You With Points, But Reluctant to Buy Most Members Breakfast in the Morning

Club Carlson offers free in-restaurant continental breakfast at the 75 night/30 stay Concierge status level — that’s the most nights required to be guaranteed breakfast with any hotel chain I’m aware of.

Bottom-line: Hilton has the easiest breakfast benefit to obtain, since they offer it at the Gold level and they give that away to credit card holders. While Hyatt has the most generous breakfast benefit — the only one offering a full (not just continental) restaurant breakfast, and for up to four people not just two. If you get to Hyatt Diamond you’ll eat well, but if you can’t you can probably scrounge Hilton Gold so at least you can eat something.

My breakfast benefit ranking of these programs:

  1. Hyatt Gold Passport
  2. Hilton HHonors
  3. Starwood Preferred Guest
  4. Marriott Rewards
  5. Club Carlson
  6. Priority Club

How has breakfast been for you? Have you had hotels that really go above and beyond the stated benefit? Is breakfast important in your hotel loyalty program decision?

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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  1. As someone fairly new to the travel scene, I sometimes still shake my head at the inverse hotel value proposition – the more you pay, the less you get. Stay at a $80 Hampton and you get a breakfast that looks exactly like what you had at the Marriott Boca, save for the lox. Stay 50 nights at a $300 a night place and you get to earn that privilege back. Yay!!!

    I also feel bad for the dishwasher at the Andaz.

  2. Odd thing happened to me recently at the Radisson Martinique in NYC. I got a free breakfest for me plus guest and I’m Gold not Concierge….not sure if it was just a simple mistake by the front desk but if you’re there it’s worth a shot:)

  3. @WhiteDesert yes of couse I knew that 🙂 [http://viewfromthewing.com/2012/12/02/hilton-quietly-increases-qualification-requirements-for-elite-status/] fixed… I was tricked when I saw the Hilton Gold page I linked to still say 16!

  4. I find many Marriott lounges to be overly crowded to the point that I just skip it. Apparently gold isn’t that difficult to achieve. I don’t care that much about breakfast during the week anyway give me a coffee and a muffin and I’m good.

  5. I’m not a big breakfast guy — I don’t travel for work, and on vacation, I tend to rise at the very end of breakfast hours. I almost prefer places without breakfast, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something I earned/paid for if I want to sleep in.

    OTOH, I understand why the hotels are pissed. Breakfast is the highest margin meal of the day, and if you’re forgoing that and the room service fees and charges, they’re giving up a lot of money.

    Yet again, the loyalty programs are strong drivers of business. Chains are the first place I check, but I will stay on local properties if they are of better value. Translation: If you aren’t part of a chain, and you’re an average hotel, I’d never book you.

  6. Gary, I’m ‘Lifetime Platinum” with Marriott Rewards…seems like any Marriott I visit, finds a way to serve me breakfast – lounge or not and even on weekends. “Platinum” pays off with Marriott!

  7. Breakfast is an important loyalty consideration for me. I get up at the crack of dawn and fire up the computer. By the time 06:30 rolls around, I’m bloody hungry. Whereas I understand and appreciate the idea of getting a great meal at a local greasy spoon, it’s usually more time and energy than I’m willing to put in on a work trip. If I can instead just go down to the lobby and get fed–well, that’s a big convenience.

    Breakfast for golds is one of the things that keeps me tied to Hilton (that and the fact that they usually beat SPG properties in the room rate game).

  8. Regarding the Hilton Gold benefit, “…when there’s no executive lounge access available to a Gold member, the hotel must provide restaurant continental breakfast.” I don’t see that anywhere in the benefits :-/ In that case, why would anyone ever choose the 1K points options over breakfast, if what you’re saying is Gold’s get breakfast no matter what (just depends where, restaurant or club).

  9. Most annoying is that Courtyard Marriotts do not provide free breakfast to anyone, even Platinum. That leads to the absurd result that elites get free breakfast at the higher-end Marriott brands, everyone gets free breakfast at the lower-end Marriott brands, but no one gets free breakfast at Courtyards.

  10. Being new to Marriott Gold and not yet fully aware of the benefits (or lack thereof), I will never forget the look of disdain on the face of the front desk clerk at the Marriott Marquis when I checked in on a Friday and inquired about complimentary breakfast. I guess an American has to leave the country on a business trip to get fed by Marriott.

  11. Which NYC hotel in the Hilton family (high end–plan to use the 2 free weekend Hilton Reserve nights) have decent breakfast for HHonors Gold?

  12. @chemist i’m not personally impressed by breakfast at any NYC hilton, but depends what you’re after, what do you define as good?

  13. @Dave see other Marriott experiences in the comments on this post, and have you had luck at resorts in the US?

  14. Stayed at JW and Marriott in SF recently and was surprised at both that the lounge drinks access was not only very limited in hours available but also moved to a honor bar basis where you put your drink and room number on a tag in a pot.

  15. As hotels sell off their properties and move responsibilities to franchises, the chains must lay out their offering and direction to the hotels or else you get NOTHING, this happens to me in europe often.
    Its like a constant argument to get what you deserve, even at properties your frequent. Oh, and if I hear the “crisis” one more time I am going to scream. I have status with spg, HH, and priority club it doesn’t matter. Sometimes priority club is the best on breakfast as you stay in lower level Holiday Inns etc.

  16. Priority Club: I believe all Holiday Inn Express properties offer a free breakfast for everyone. Platinum status (obtainable by simply getting its credit card), usually gets me a nice upgrade of my room upon check-in.

  17. Stayed at Double Tree in Portland, ME as HH Gold. Two rooms / 4 people. All 4 got a choice of the full breakfast buffet or ordering off the menu in their restaurant. Also the full breakfast buffet was served in the lounge which we were given access to. All food was excellent.

  18. @Gary Steiger re HI Express, I write “And here I deal only with full service hotel properties — not a chain’s limited service brands like Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn, or Hyatt Place which may offer breakfast to all guests or…”

  19. In response to Chemist 661, just stayed at the Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square and they offer a very nice full breakfast buffet for Hhonors Gold.

  20. Hyatt at Olive and Eighth has changed their policy to only two breakfasts per room instead of four.

  21. My best breakfast ever was at the Conrad Singapore – amazing spread with hot and cold dishes from around the World – and even an ice cream bar. For breakfast!

    It’s this free breakfast that keeps me coming back to Hilton. Also outside the US most are very generous with providing full breakfast and Diamonds are normally given the choice of restaurant or lounge breakfast. Hyatt sounds good but sadly far too small a chain in Europe for me to consider 🙁

  22. One serious issue with the Starwood benefit for Platinum members is that the fine print of said benefit is virtually impossible to find. And, while some insist that it includes 5 or 6 items (juice, coffee, pastry, fruit, yogurt, etc), there are still a substantial number of Starwood properties — most especially W Hotels — that do not extend such an offer. Instead, they issue $15 per person credits, which (let’s face it), at a W gets you a bagel, coffee, and small juice. I’d hardly call that a real breakfast and I feel sure that was not the intent of this benefit. I’m disappointed in Starwood for not ensuring that this benefit enhancement hasn’t been flawlessly rolled out.

  23. Agree with PSL in response to chemist 661. I really like the breakfast buffet at the doubletree suites Times Square in NYC. Includes some cooked to order items. Comp for hilton golds. Rooms are 2-room suites! Great value & great location in NYC!

  24. I agree with Alan, Conrad Singapore has an amazing breakfast. Also the Doubletree in Istanbul has a great breakfast spread although no club. And the Hilton New Delhi/Janakpuri hotel has a wonderful restaurant breakfast buffet as well, for up 4 in each room.

  25. Regarding Chemist451’s question. Last time I stayed at the Waldorf in NY I got a delicious complimentary hot breakfast as a HH Gold.

  26. Hilton Sydney – was there Mon/Tue last week. I am HH Gold, and received a complimentary upgrade to Executive King (included lounge access – very nice evening spread and open bar – and shoe shine + 1 item of pressing daily).

    Anyway, they also offer HH Gold members breakfast in the Glass restaurant. Extensive full buffet, nice range of cook-to-order items & coffees (lattes, flat whites, etc.) Had read mixed reviews, but I thoroughly enjoyed my stay.

    A$246/night – a steal for downtown Sydney.

  27. I kind of have to disagree with this, but I do come from a different view point (and I find pretty much everything pictured, other than the bowl of fruit, pretty awful way of starting my day…) Being an extremely frequent business traveler I cannot afford to eat 1000 calories and 5 grams of salt for breakfast every day, so I look for hotels that offer lighter choices, like fresh fruit, fat free low calorie yogurt and low sodium cereal. Being a top tier in 3 hotel chains (Hilton, IHG and Accor) I would have to say that it varies by hotel and location more than by chain, so blanket statements with rankings like those should not be made. (i.e. if someone offered free all you can eat breakfast at a Golder Coral or the like, would that be awesome?)

  28. Another Great post and assessment Gary
    Priority Club is the bottom of the heap agreed
    However even if they threw breakfast in for their frequent guests in most of their properties it would be probably be inedible gross or both!
    Perhaps by being stingy they are doing it as a humanitarian effort ? 😉

  29. Just stayed at two Park Inn by Radisson in Germany and one Radisson Blu in Holland. Gold status but still had to pay for breakfast 17euro at Park Inn and 25 euro at Radisson Blu

  30. @#38 – yes, sadly only the top Concierge tier in Club Carlson offers free breakfast as an elite benefit. Sometimes they’ll upgrade Golds to ‘business’ rooms that include it, but very hit-or-miss.

  31. I have great news spend 75 nights and earn Concierge status in the Club Carlson program and they will give you complimentary continental breakfast or breakfast buffet for up to one person at every stay. Sometimes they will even allow a pasty or muffin and a coffee for breakfast. Wow factor don’t you think? 🙂
    A joke frequently!

  32. We got the Fairmont credit card which came with two free nights and breakfast, which we used for our anniversary last June in Pittsburgh – we could order off the menu, locally sourced, open kitchen – fabulous!

  33. Although I always enjoy reading your posts, it seems that in this post your information is in error regarding Marriott free breakfasts for elites. I’ve been a gold member for about a year and a half now. I have stayed at Marriotts in the U.S. on many weekends; and, I have never been denied my free breakfast on the weekend. By way of example, within the last few months I’ve stayed at the Albuquerque Pyramid Marriott, the Austin Marriott North, and the Austin J.W. Marriott (whose lounge is even open on the weekends!! a rarity for Marriotts in the U.S.) and I was served free breakfast at all of them (though I wouldn’t recommend the Austin Marriott North). In the Blackstone Marriott in Chicago in April I got free breakfast at their awesome Spanish tapas restaurant that is inside the hotel. Furthermore, I’m not sure where you got that language you quote, but the official Marriott website clearly does not make that distinction about free breakfast for golds on weekdays/weekends — http://www.marriott.com/marriott-rewards/member-benefits/gold.mi. I’ve also experienced many Marriott lounges in the U.S. and Europe (the Marriott lounges in Europe are typically much better than the U.S. – usually providing free alcohol). Perhaps my impression is off, but it does seem that across the many travel blogs out there, many of you seem to not like Marriott brands much, yet you all rave about the Starwood program. But, the simple fact is that Starwood hotels are typically higher end and expensive. There are not many Starwood cheap brands in the U.S. (for example, try finding a Four Points in Las Cruces); meanwhile, Marriott has tons of cheap properties everywhere and the Marriott Chase card – with 15 elite night credits – makes it very easy to reach Gold. I can’t reach gold solely on my business travel, but my leisure travel at the wide range offered by Marriott gets me gold. And now that award nights count toward elite status, that makes it even easier. The Marriott brand is really not that bad.

  34. As a Lifetime Marriott Platinum, I really do appreciate the breakfast. However, it amazes me that I can get a free breakfast at any full-service Marriott or Renaissance Hotel (where you know the price of the breakfast is quite expensive), but, NOT at the Marriott Courtyard properties. This just not make sense to me. Even if they offered a FREE breakfast and jacked up the price of the room rate a bit, we would still think we were getting a free breakfast and it just makes you feel good.

  35. @MM this article was written 2.5 years ago, before Marriott introduced breakfast on weekends. They still do not offer breakfasts at resorts or Courtyard properties as a program benefit, however.

  36. Or you can skip the rewards card, stay an Embassy suites, have evening drinks free and have made to order breakfast of almost anything, it seems, for being a guest, the following morning.

  37. Exciting to learn about these hotel programs that go above and beyond to provide generous breakfast benefits to their guests. From gourmet spreads to delightful local delicacies, these hotels are setting the bar high for a memorable morning feast. Breakfast truly sets the tone for a fantastic day of exploration and relaxation. Count me in for a breakfast adventure like no other

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