plate with buttered bread, eggs, orange slices and an apple on the side

The Rise of Grab-and-Go at Breakfast

For limited- and select-service hotel brands, offering full complimentary breakfast has always ranked highly on guest satisfaction surveys. It’s such a popular amenity that these value-oriented guests often describe it as “free,” when, in fact, the cost is built into the room rate.

As with many popular amenities, what is intended as a positive benefit can — on occasion — turn into something of a negative when guests aren’t able to take advantage of them. One prominent example: that complimentary breakfast buffet. Business and leisure travelers sometimes are upset that the breakfast service doesn’t begin until after they must check out.

By 6:30 a.m. on weekdays – a typical opening time for many hotels – these road warriors may already en route to their first appointment of the day or their flight home. Leisure travelers may be forced to leave early to get o line at the local theme park or catch an all-day sightseeing tour.

For families, the frustration can be particularly acute. A complementary breakfast can represent a savings of $100 for a family of four staying in a Manhattan hotel. Whatever the reason, these guests feel frustrated and short-changed as they rush past the juice, coffee and cereal stations, the line-up of chafing dishes holding eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes or waffles, not to mention the trays of pastries and bowls of fresh fruit.

Sensitive to keeping a positive amenity positive, brands increasingly are offering grab-and-go bags early for guests whose morning schedule doesn’t allow a leisurely start to the day. Grab-and-go bags are bakery-type paper bags that can hold three to four breakfast buffet items.


Grab & Go Bag at the Holiday Inn Express Midtown West.

Of course, offering grab-and-go bags is an extra expense for hotels. But such bags typically are cheaper to offer than a hot breakfast. (An apple, muffin and yogurt are cheaper than pancakes with syrup and bacon.)

Most general managers would say the added expense is well worth it. Early-bird guests walk away pleased, feeling their every need has been anticipated, which is at the heart of genuine hospitality. The resulting goodwill will contribute not only to higher guest satisfaction scores and praise on social media outlets but ideally it will lead to more repeat bookings as well as referrals to friends and family.

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