Where the breakfast buffet once ruled mightily, the grab-and-go market now stands in its place. While this concept isn’t new to hotels, the appeal of takeaway meals increased during the pandemic as many accommodations shuttered their kitchens and scrambled to fill the gap left by in-dining restrictions. It’s a difficult gap to fill because many travellers have come to rely on breakfast, either included in the stay or added on at an attractive price point.
Also fuelling this trend is consumer demand for more convenient food options. In a survey performed before the pandemic by Culinary Visions, 62% of consumers indicate they would consider purchasing fresh grab-and-go meals from a hotel marketplace. That sentiment may have only increased since COVID-19, incited by health concerns. To help partners cater to these unfolding trends, Booking.com recently launched a new ‘Breakfast to go’ tag, enabling you to indicate if you offer takeaway breakfast at your property.
The most important meal of the stay?
A significant proportion of travellers view breakfast as more than just a nice-to-have perk. A survey performed by Hyatt Place found that 63% of frequent travellers chose their hotel because of its breakfast offering. We also know from our research that 61% of guests prefer to book breakfast before they check in, which highlights how strongly travellers link breakfast to their overall stay, how closely they pay attention to breakfast offerings, and how willing they may be to purchase it as an add-on.
When COVID-19 hit and demand became limited, Ryan Goldberg, Key Account Manager at Booking.com, encouraged partners he works with to set up rates that include breakfast to set themselves apart from the competition. At the same time, many of these hotels were grappling with social distancing rules. They began expressing a desire to be able to advertise a contactless breakfast option on the platform.
“For some brands, offering breakfast is part of their brand standard, and I was inspired to work on offering this option because a lot of my portfolio offer breakfast – and they all transitioned to grab-and-go because of the pandemic,” says Goldberg. “Once ‘Breakfast to go’ went live, over 2,000 accommodations implemented it in the first week.”
How to indicate you offer ‘Breakfast to go’
“It's fundamental for guests to know that breakfast as an option is different today,” says Goldberg. You can tap into the opportunity by choosing the ‘Breakfast to go’ tag in the Meals section of the Facilities & Services tab in your extranet.
This detail will be displayed to customers on your property listing and can help sway potential bookers once they start comparing their breakfast options. In addition, Goldberg suggests including a photo of a typical takeaway option that you offer at your property.Are breakfast buffets a thing of the past?
Breakfast doesn’t have to be a buffet
Goldberg spends a lot of time assessing how successfully hotels are marketing their properties on our platform, but his enthusiasm for offering robust breakfast options applies equally to home partners. He recommends property managers begin by comparing themselves to local competitors in search and then determining whether they can offer a simple continental breakfast that guests can take with them while exploring their locale.
“You might be the only property doing it in your area,” he says. “It may be that you can create a partnership with a local cafe or bakery where they send you muffins, croissants and fruit, and you offer juice.” He thinks it can end up being very cost-effective, especially if it offers you a strategic win in search.
Hyatt Place’s literal grab-and-go breakfast
“For hotels like Hyatt Place, breakfast is a brand standard,” says Michael Taylor, Area Director of Revenue Management at Hyatt Place New York. Like most operations, they found themselves pivoting at the beginning of the pandemic to offer alternatives to their popular breakfast buffet.
They began by offering a piece of fresh fruit and juice and slowly expanded as they adapted their supply chain to include an assortment of items like granola bars, yoghurt, muffins and pastries. “We wanted to make sure we were able to get these items regularly and be able to be clear on what we provide as demand picked up.”
They ultimately settled on a literal grab-and-go offering, encouraging guests to choose items from individual baskets and providing takeaway bags. He cites ease and quickness as highlights in customer feedback around these efforts.
The future of breakfast buffets
Will this trend of offering more to-go options continue after the world gets back to staying at hotels on a regular basis? It’s too soon to know, but the issue promises to be an important one. Many food and beverage operations are still sidelined or working under difficult circumstances to produce much smaller outputs, which can decrease their cost effectiveness to the overall business. In addition, both consumers and hoteliers are increasingly leaning into contactless experiences.
Taylor thinks the future for automation around breakfast is still uncertain, with most contactless implementations currently focused on guest check-in. But, he says, “Hoteliers can learn from airports and grocery stores, who have pioneered the use of electronic kiosks”. Nearly all of them still provide options for travellers who prefer in-person contact, while serving the majority of their customers with kiosks. It may be that pre-pandemic buffets will coexist alongside to-go options going forward – if only to satisfy the needs of different guest personas.
- According to research by Culinary Visions, 62% of consumers indicate they would consider purchasing fresh grab-and-go meals from a hotel marketplace
- The pandemic has forced hotels to convert their often extensive breakfast buffet options into compelling on-the-go meals
- After the new ‘Breakfast to go’ option in the extranet was made live, over 2,000 accommodations implemented it in the first week
- You can indicate in the extranet if you offer ‘Breakfast to go’, which will be displayed when guests visit your property listing