Because hotels in different segments offer varying breakfast experiences, the design of each hotel has to match guest demands while still maximizing usage of space. Heather Balsley, SVP Americas brand management for InterContinental Hotels Group, pointed to the buffet-style breakfast space at limited-service brand Holiday Inn Express. The Express Start breakfast bar is integrated into the hotel’s open lobby. Signs point guests to specific items, minimizing delays and managing traffic. Meanwhile, full-service IHG brand Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts serves grab-and-go breakfast items either in a small convenience store or at what the brand calls an “Energy Essentials Wellness Station” near the front desk in the lobby.
The Holiday Inn Express brand, Balsley added, recently updated its design for new-build and renovated hotels in the U.S. and Canada. Notably, the updated design, called Formula Blue, has an enclosed breakfast bar. “Guests arriving during non-breakfast hours felt that the darkened breakfast bar area was ‘off limits,’” Balsley said. The redesign lets the breakfast attendant clean and stage the area behind closed doors, she added.
Wyndham Worldwide VP of global design George Scammell also noted the popularity of incorporating breakfast spaces into the lobby of the company’s economy Super 8 brand, and said that flexibility of function is key. In some cases, counters are built into walls to hold a breakfast buffet, but when mealtime is over, everything can be cleaned away and the counter becomes a communal table with electrical outlets and stools that guests can use throughout the day. The morning’s beverage station, meanwhile, becomes a 24-hour coffee counter.
Full breakfasts are available at the full-service Holiday Inn hotels, so these properties often have a separate restaurant with a buffet space. Balsley said that midscale hotels need to have a “clearly defined space” for a quiet meal—but that the seating area should be close enough to the lobby for guests to “feel the energy” from the open space.
Wyndham’s midscale brand, Tryp, is generally “urban-centric,” as Scammell called it, which drives up the cost of square footage. “It doesn’t make good business sense to have an area that’s closed off,” he said, so Scammell and his team created furniture pieces that incorporate the restaurant equipment. For example, the captain’s table has undermount induction heating. When breakfast is being served, chafing dishes can be placed on top of the table to keep the buffet food hot. When the meal is over, the team can quickly remove the chafing dishes and the heating elements and, by surrounding it with chairs, turn the captain’s table into a communal environment. “It continues to support the idea of a mixed-use social lobby,” Scammell said.
At the Wyndham Garden Clearwater, under construction in Florida, the hotel’s breakfast buffet is in the main full-service restaurant, where all F&B options are kept together. The restaurant is just off the lobby in a traditional style and a breakfast bar is built into one of the walls, which can be concealed by a sliding barn door during the off-hours. In the evenings, the breakfast bar becomes a sushi bar. Adapting the open-plan food preparation area for different meals, Scammell said, is “smart for the owner, interesting for the guest, and it makes good business sense.” Ultimately, he said, a hotelier cannot offset the cost of a buffet with cost of the space being closed for most of the day.