How hotel breakfast services have changed post-pandemic

Breakfast, or the lavish breakfast buffet spread to be precise, has always been one of the highlights of a stay in a hotel and one of the main factors worth getting up early for. Imagine walking into the dining hall to be greeted by the sound of sizzling bacon, plates of fluffy omelets, rows of cereals and freshly squeezed juice and helping yourself to warm pancakes and fresh fruit.

The pandemic, however, forced hotels to suspend breakfast services as contactless methods of operating became the main goal and the morning meal service became one of the casualties of the stringent safety norms. Breakfasts, though, are gradually making a comeback at hotels, amid the normalizing pandemic conditions and increasing travel demand, with a keen demand for healthy, pre-packaged meals.

Adam Crocini, senior vice president and global head, food and beverage brands, Hilton.

Although many hotels were forced to stop breakfast services during the pandemic, it gave them time to change their menu, methods and also rethink the overall breakfast experience. Many of the innovations which became popular during the pandemic are now here to stay.

At Hilton, QR codes and self-service kiosks enable guests to set their own pace as it relates to service cues. The company was among the first to return to breakfast buffets after the pandemic, prioritizing hot breakfast options for the brands for which this service was the main attraction.

Free breakfast is the No. 1 used search attribute on, said Adam Crocini, senior vice president and global head, food and beverage brands, Hilton.

“Reaffirming that breakfast is a priority for our guests, we have leaned into this growing consumer demand with signature favorites, including Embassy Suites’ cooked-to-order omelettes, Hampton’s seasonal flavors of our fresh-baked waffles, and new offerings like Tru by Hilton’s automatic pancake maker,” Crocini said.

Guests continue to seek variety and the ability to pick what works best for them, even when they are in a rush and looking to catch a quick bite. avid hotels by IHG Hotels & Resorts offer small go-to bags for guests, while some airport locations also add small trays for guests to grab an early breakfast from continental options along with hot coffee.

Despite the preference for packed breakfasts, there has been a post-pandemic demand for the traditional sit-down hot breakfast buffet, said Justin Alexander, vice president, global brand management, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites & Candlewood Suites at IHG Hotels & Resorts.

Many of IHG’s brands offer breakfast options. Breakfast is a brand hallmark and a signature component of Holiday Inn Express. When travel resumed after the pandemic, Holiday Inn Express conducted pilots using a test-and-learn approach in hotels to better understand how guests would enjoy an adapted experience, resulting in a revamped menu to infuse more variety.

Breakfast options at Holiday Inn Express hotel.

“With the growing demand for breakfast, Holiday Inn Express launched a marketing campaign last summer promoting ’breakfast anyway you like it.’ Not only is it the brand’s most successful marketing campaign ever, but it has also driven booking consideration five times higher than travel industry benchmarks (a true testament to our breakfast offering and the value we provide our customers),” Alexander said.

Besides Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and the recently launched Garner- an IHG Hotel brand also feature complimentary breakfasts.

The pandemic may have altered the F&B landscape in the hospitality sector but there has been a steady rise in both in-house guests and local patrons taking advantage of hotels’ new table service offerings.

At Dimension Hospitality, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based hotel management company, buffet breakfasts have been fully operational at most of their hotels at least the past year. Their grab-and-go options have been a source of considerably bigger growth, providing their culinary teams the opportunity to drive creativity.

“By and large, brands are a little less prescriptive when it comes to the grab and go, so that gives us a broader pallet from which to curate interesting offerings,” said Dimension Hospitality’s COO Joseph Viglietta.

While brand standards dictate most offerings, the company tries to make their buffets, as well as all guest interactions, unique by embracing opportunities for guest interactions.

“Guests may not remember the types of juice served, but they will remember how we made them feel. It comes down to engagement and that’s how we attempt to set ourselves apart. The opportunities for interaction with guests are becoming increasingly infrequent due to mobile technology. So, when we have an opportunity like breakfast  time, it’s important to engage,” Viglietta said.

Dimension Hospitality tries to add a personalized touch to their offerings, with some hotels incorporating adding a regional décor to their buffets. For example, in the music city of Nashville, the company has made serving bowls out of melted vinyl record.


Hoteliers anticipate the trend of pre-packaged breakfasts to continue. The demand for pre-packaged breakfast items, in general, has been growing since the pandemic. Demand for premium grab-and-go has been especially robust as quality in this field continues to improve.

Justin Alexander, vice president, global brand management, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites & Candlewood Suites at IHG Hotels & Resorts.

The rising preference for pre-packaged breakfasts depends on some factors, Viglietta said, including the recent spike in COVID variants and time constraints. “A fresh fruit cup or granola parfait, a muffin or bagel. These are all very portable and easily pre packaged. When we have more autonomy, we can get creative. Our grab-and-go bags are typically curated based upon highest volume sellers, as well as local favorites. Each of our hotels that provide such offerings are encouraged to infuse an innovative touch point, which may include customized packaging, signature chocolates, and even hand written notes. It’s a nice surprise when you open the bag.” Hilton has prioritized grab-and-go markets over grab-and-go bags, programming these outlets to feature freshly prepared items and healthy alternatives along with the classic breakfast staples.

In the coming months, Hilton will introduce farm-fresh yogurt from dispenser units at its Home2 Suites and Tru brands. Spark by Hilton will feature fresh bagel bars, complete with spreads, and there will be an option for a packaged “bagel and schmear” to-go, as well.

With all these changes, costs have seen a dramatic rise since the pandemic. These are related to both direct influences (inflationary pressures, cost of raw materials, supply chain pressures, transportation costs, etc.), as well as indirect influences (wage spikes, insurance premiums, low unemployment, etc.), said Viglietta.