There's no question that guests love to eat breakfast while at a hotel. And while what they are eating has changed over time (more fruit and oatmeal, fewer danishes and bagels), hotels still are tasked with keeping costs manageable while providing a quality experience.
According to Susan Terry, vice president of culinary and food & beverage operations for Marcus Hotels & Resorts, which owns and/or manages 19 hotels, resorts and other properties in the U.S., the amount of food that is thrown in the trash must be controlled at the property level.
"This really comes down to the team at the hotels and their ability to control waste," she said "They need to be very tuned into their occupancies and consumer behavior trends and be able to react quickly so as to control any overproduction."
Heather Balsley, senior VP, Americas brand management for IHG, said there are a number of processes in place at the company's Holiday Inn Express properties to ensure hotels are cost conscious while still meeting their guests’ needs.
“Hotels monitor occupancy numbers in order to determine food quantities to be served and also manage the amount of food presented, especially during slower periods, to avoid compromising food quality when held too long,” she said. “Additionally, given the size of IHG and our brand portfolios, we are able to leverage our scale to deliver negotiated rates with national vendors on behalf of our hotels. This allows us to offer the recognized, preferred brands that we know our guests desire at a price that delivers [return on investment] for owners.”
About 88 percent of guests at Holiday Inn Express hotels take advantage of the Express Start breakfast, which offers more than 30 items. Healthy and hearty options are featured, including cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, bacon, turkey sausage and cinnamon rolls, according to Balsley.
Days Inn introduced a new, healthier breakfast in 2014, and that alone has reduced the amount of waste, according to Patrick Breen, Days Inn brand senior vice president. It also has cut down on the amount of food that disappears when guests take more than their own personal serving.
"We have simplified the breakfast," Breen said. "We have taken off things that people weren't eating because there was a fair bit of waste that went along with it. The funny thing about healthy items is that they don't seem to disappear in quite the same volume as bad things. People take enough yogurt for one person, as opposed to danishes and doughnuts for four people."
But in certain circumstances, taking more food is entirely acceptable. For instance, Days Inn allows people to take food back to their room as a convenience, such as when parent want to take food back to their young children instead of bringing the kids into the breakfast area.
This policy does at times pose a risk for abuse, Breen said.
"We do require a breakfast attendant, and a breakfast attendant has a unique ability to help people take the appropriate amount of food," he said. "If food is left unguarded, it does have a tendency to disappear, but if you have the ideal breakfast attendant, which would probably be like my grandmother, it's that gentle touch that often keeps the food from walking out into the rooms, in a quantity greater than should be taken."