As hotel restaurants increasingly take on a life and soul of their own, it can be easy to forget that breakfast remains the most popular meal for your guests.
And because the proportion of guests taking breakfast is far higher than those taking lunch or dinner, your restaurant will be judged on the quality of that one meal. In simple terms, disappointing breakfast customers means turning away diners.
But your lunch and dinner offerings are not the only things in the balance if you get breakfast wrong. Breakfast is more often than not the last impression that guests have of your hotel – and you’re only as good as your last offering.
The revenue potential of breakfast also can’t be ignored.
Steve Munkley, executive head chef at London’s Royal Garden Hotel says: “If chefs are astute they’ll quickly realise that the revenue that’s taken from breakfast is quite a big chunk in any operation. For us, about 68 per cent of guests will eat breakfast, compared to 15 per cent who will eat lunch or dinner.
“Out of all food sales in the hotel, breakfast makes up about 35 per cent of revenue. Banqueting is about 50 per cent and 15 per cent comes from restaurants.”
So how can you get breakfast right in your hotel?
Quality and range
Getting right down to basics, you need to make sure the quality and range of the products you serve at breakfast will meet your guests’ expectations.
Today’s consumer is tuned-in to the provenance of ingredients and you need to keep in mind that local sourcing, organic and ethical will often be important considerations for your guests.
Also keep in mind that a large proportion of your clientele will be international visitors, so you need to provide what they expect to find.
People also have different needs at breakfast, and your offering needs to cater for a range of appetites and timings. At the very least, options should include à la carte, a good buffet that is frequently replenished with freshly prepared products, and an express option of coffee, juice and a basket of pastries.
Also remember that breakfast on weekdays and at weekends are two entirely different beasts with different guest expectations, so make sure you adapt your offering accordingly.
Finding the right price to charge is a delicate balance to ensure you’re not pricing yourself out of the market in your attempt to capture the crucial breakfast revenue stream.
Prices will vary according to the level of your establishment, but in all cases it’s important to give your guests the flexibility of choosing different breakfast plans to suit their needs and their pockets. If your only option is a £30 all-inclusive breakfast, don’t be surprised if you have a low sleeper-diner ratio.
Hotels are all about meeting guests’ needs, and this is no different when it comes to breakfast.
“Guests are mixing their work with leisure all the time, and they might not necessarily want to rush out of bed to have breakfast by 11 when we stop serving,” says Rafi Bejerano of the Arch hotel in London.
“In many hotels the breakfast team will leave after the service, or they might need to switch the room around for lunch. But it’s a wasted opportunity in a way if you can’t be more flexible to meet your guests needs.”
It might be tempting to allocate your less experienced front of house staff to the breakfast room, but the art of service is as applicable at breakfast as it is at any other time of day.
Service staff must know the needs, preferences and expectations of guests, and breakfast is the one meal when these are most likely to vary.
Most critically, staff need to understand a guest’s timing from the moment they step into the restaurant; failing to do so will compromise the entire breakfast experience. For example, a business traveller on a tight schedule will not be prepared to wait seven minutes for a cup of coffee.
Staff also need to be ready to provide guests with the little touches that can make a hotel breakfast stand out from the crowd.
“Meeting guests with a smile, using their names and not just their room numbers, or going the extra mile and taking a newspaper to a lone diner is all it takes,” says Rob Wear, group food and beverage manager for BDL Hotels.
Also pay attention to the decoration and atmosphere in the breakfast room, advises Micahel O’Dwyer of hotel concept development consultancy HGS Partnership.
O’Dwyer, who was the opening general manager of London’s Marriott County Hall and the opening managing director of The Grove resort near Watford, points to the importance of details such as natural light, cottage garden flowers on each table, light classical music in the background and a calm, bustle-free breakfast room.
Although many people still don’t think of hotels as a breakfast venue if they’re not guests there, the proportion of external breakfast diners is growing – so make sure you get your piece of that market.
Get the message out there that you’re open for breakfast, and make outside guests feel welcome. Breakfast business meetings are particularly popular, and these guests might have particular needs you should cater for, such as larger tables for working space, or regular coffee service throughout the breakfast.
The first step to achieving all this is to make sure you have the organisation and infrastructure in place to successfully deliver your breakfasts.
“You’re catering for large numbers of people over a condensed period of time, so you need to ensure you have sufficient product available, enough service staff and kitchen staff, and the right equipment so the food gets to your guests in the condition they expect it in,” says Tim Fryer, food and beverage director at the Royal garden Hotel.