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:
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- Hilton HHonors
- Starwood Preferred Guest
- Marriott Rewards
- Club Carlson
- 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?