Grab-and-go vs. buffet design

This is part two in a series on breakfast space design. Click here for part one: Breakfast space design across segments.

The decision to set up a grab-and-go limited breakfast counter or to have a full hot buffet can be a serious one. “Designing a breakfast bar with an effective traffic flow is one of the most important considerations, whether guests are dining in or taking items to go,” said Heather Balsley, SVP Americas brand management for InterContinental Hotels Group. With the company’s previous Holiday Inn Express breakfast bar design, she noted, guests would line up like at a buffet, which caused congestion in certain areas. IHG updated its design to reposition the more popular foods, separated the coffee station, and added more space between equipment, “increasing flow and reducing wait times,” she said.


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Wyndham Worldwide VP of global design George Scammell said that he breaks down the stations into a series of “guest experiences” that are generally organized by optimal temperature. Room-temperature goods can be kept in one area while cheeses, fruits and other foodstuffs that require refrigeration can be kept in a climate-controlled area. Depending on level of self-service, he added, chefs can be on hand at dedicated stations to prepare omelets or other hot meals. “That’s where you have the guest-to-associate interface,” Scammell said. “Guests want that. We don’t want to be so mechanized that you lose that personal touch. They can have a conversation and watch as the meal is being prepared and served.” 

When creating a grab-and-go station, on the other hand, Scammell said that designers must find a way to make efficiency aesthetically appealing. “How do you create a grab-and-go and not have it look like an upscale convenience store?” he asked rhetorically. “How do we incorporate the convenience of grab-and-go [to our design]?” By incorporating grab-and-go elements into an existing bar or buffet area, he said, the designer can keep the desired products convenient to the guests but also emphasize that they are part of the hotel’s food-and-beverage service rather than presented as merchandise.

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