Ode to the Complimentary Hotel Breakfast

Comfortable Bed. Convenient Location. Complimentary Breakfast. 

These are the amenities I look for most when choosing a hotel, and while I may have listed it last, free breakfast is the one that will usually get me the most excited. Breakfast happens to be my favorite meal, and I'm told the most important of the day, so it's an added bonus anytime I can score it for free. Unfortunately, the quality of this "free" amenity seems to vary widely, and in my experience the offering tends to fall into one of the following three categories... 

Category 1 - "Can I come back for lunch?"

When it comes to the complimentary hotel breakfast, these guys are at the top of the food chain - no pun intended. Made to order waffles and omelettes...Check. Fresh fruit and pastries...absolutely. Coffee that would put Starbucks to shame...an added bonus. One would expect to only find such a spread at a property with 5 diamonds in the vault, but I've found that assumption to be totally false. For starters, the word "Free" is usually missing from the vocabulary of high end hotels. In addition, there is a lot more competition at the mid-tier level, and many properties choose to use their breakfast as a way to create value for their guests. Nobody does this better, in my opinion, than Embassy Suites, where one will usually find everything I listed above on the spread, and sometimes more. 

Unfortunately, this is the rarest of species in the hotel world, and their numbers are dwindling by the day. 
Embassy Suites Breakfast
The Awesome Breakfast at Embassy Suites. Photo Credit: Hey Joe

Category 2 - "I'll be hungry again by 10am"

In my travels to hotels around the country and beyond, my experience is that most tend to fit into this category.  The common approach is to take a continental spread, toss in a few self-serve waffle makers, and call it a "hot breakfast." I've found this offering everywhere from a Hampton in Dalton, Georgia, to a Country Inn & Suites in Naples, Florida, and while the spread won't change your life, it certainly beats a sausage biscuit at McDonald's.

My beef with this category lies with the self-serve waffle makers. I love waffles, but it seems I am absolutely lousy at making them.  I use the non-stick spray, cook them for the right amount of time, utilize the provided waffle retrieval tool, yet every time the finished product comes out mangled beyond recognition, as if a rodent got to it before I did. What am I doing wrong?

The Cursed Waffle Makers at Hampton Inn Dalton, Georgia
Category 3 - "You're kidding, right?"

By far the worst offenders of the hotel breakfast, these guys have just given up trying, and send their guests off defeated before the day has even begun. Day old pastries and some Maxwell House coffee is far from my definition of breakfast, yet there are still a few out there that proudly list it as such on their website. A few which will remain nameless, have even resorted to frozen biscuit sandwiches, causing me to wonder what marketing genius decided that was a good idea. 

Thankfully, better offerings from their competitors have forced these guys to step up their game, and they are becoming just as hard to find as their counterparts in Category 1. 

As you can see, there is a wide range of quality when it comes to the complimentary hotel breakfast. The frustration I experience as a guest is the inconsistency in brand offerings. I've experienced Category 1 at a Best Western, and Category 3 at a supposed four diamond property. My hope is more hotels come to understand that breakfast is often the final impression they make on a guest, and spending a few extra bucks can be a worthy investment in building loyalty.  

Where was the best complimentary hotel breakfast you experienced? 

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~ 



  1. LOL..A fellow waffle mangler! I always send my wife up to make mine. I just can't do it.
    Embassy Suites does have pretty good breakfasts in most places. Better than most of the other hotel chains in my experience anyways.
    Best complimentary breakfast ever was at Urbane at Olive 8 in Seattle (it's a Hyatt), but that's kind of cheating a little as only Hyatt Diamonds get free breakfast there.
    And hey! I kind of like the McDonalds breakfast sandwiches!

  2. The breakfast at the Embassy Suites is probably the best we've come across during our travels so far. Unfortunately that was the exception and we've encountered way too many 'Category 3' breakfasts over the last few months.

    Stale cereal, warm milk - what the hell is the point?

  3. I too have never been able to manage those do it yourself waffle makers (yet, I make waffles here at home all the time without an issue!). I agree, the range of findings in what is considered "free breakfast" is large. We recently stayed at an airport hotel (due to weather conditions and not wanting to miss our flight.) Let's just say even using the term "breakfast" was a stretch for this hotel! Luckily for my three kids, there was a Dunkin Donuts at the airport!

  4. Overall, I try to avoid the complimentary breakfast where the kid that just picked his butt may have just grazed my bagel.

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