Hotel Breakfast! What Must Change In Post COVID World ?

“Now and then, we get a glimpse of what things may look like after we start reopening, and something that concerns me is breakfast,” said Rajesh Patel . “It’s hard to see how trying to deliver anything close to a pre-COVID-19 breakfast buffet can happen without costing us more money.”

Many hoteliers are currently deciding if providing a free breakfast to guests is sustainable once they reopen their doors. The previously popular — and expected — free breakfast buffet at limited-service and economy hotels is suddenly less appealing. The model no longer attends to the needs of guests or the industry.

Hotel Breakfast Safety Concerns

Buffets can do little to minimize contamination. Utensils and handles get touched by multiple people before being cleaned and sterilized, and there are minimal barriers between the individual and the food. Precautions that were sufficient before, no longer are.

Will people still want self-serve eggs and waffles?

If so, hotels may need to give each guest their own set of disposable tongs to remove items from the chafing dishes. Or will staff need to be hired to serve at buffets instead of allowing guests to help themselves? Both options come with added operational fees.

Additionally, serving a pre-COVID-19 style breakfast buffet is likely to come with added liability. That risk comes paired with increased insurance premiums that hardly make it worth the while.

In the least, sanitizing wipes and gloves will need to be made readily available for guest use. And in all likelihood, prepackaged meals may be the best alternative.

Grab and go breakfasts – muffins, granola bars, and yogurts — with optional additions from the kitchen. Whether those grab-and-go items carry a price tag for the guest is up for discussion.

The Financials of Hotel Breakfast

Owners at limited-service hotels need the ability to pass on breakfast costs to guests. Optional amenities and upcharges may become the new standard. Before recent events, the cost of breakfast was already a large expense item on hotel financials. The added costs of serving free breakfast amidst the new normal are not sustainable for future business.

“If we go back to the pre-COVID-19 breakfast programs, our costs will go up due to the additional equipment, labor, and products necessary to mitigate potential transfer and exposure,” explains Alkesh Patel .

The difference between limited- and full-service hotels revolves around breakfast options and room service and guest amenities. With the removal of free breakfast, the market becomes imbalanced, and the distinction between the two styles of stay are blurred.

Most hotel companies have both limited- and full-service brands in their portfolio. Corporations will need to question if it makes sense to continue offering products with little difference, one with a higher price tag.

If guests need to pay for breakfast at both, what other changes will brands need to make to maintain the distinction?

Breakfast or no breakfast is a decision that falls on both the hotel brand and the franchisee. Brands may dictate wide-spread changes to dining options, or hotel owners may be left to make the call themselves.

If owners are left to make the call on their own, locations will suffer from a lack of continuity. Shared experiences among locations become an added issue. Without knowing what to expect, guests may be left disappointed as they travel.

Just as important as safety and financials, franchisees must consider the impacts on guest satisfaction. Breakfast options have forever been an expectation. If removed, what will the response be? While some people will appreciate and understand the shift, others will be angered. The industry needs to be prepared with a response.

Leaving Hotel Breakfast Behind

Heightened scrutiny will undoubtedly come on the backside of this pandemic, and costly challenges will be faced. “I feel like we are driving down the Interstate trying to avoid one fiery crash after another. From worrying about our families and staff to the devastating financial impact this is having on all of us. It’s a crazy time,” Anil Patel FFI Chairman concludes.

Brands and franchise owners need to think creatively, and collectively so hotels can still offer great service to guests at costs that are achievable to all parties. Upholding the free breakfast model is not feasible for the industry moving forward, and flexible solutions must be required.

There is one positive consideration if hotels walk away from serving. It opens the door for our brethren at surrounding restaurateurs to earn traffic. Local dinners and breakfast destinations can benefit significantly from the boost in business and leisure customers.

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