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Hotel Needs Breakfast: Buffet vs. Off the Menu Choice?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

Backstory: Last year, my first year of employment at the resort, a national chain hotel in New England dissolved an "out of a bag or box or frozen" quality buffet breakfast when the on-site restaurant was totally renovated last year.

 

While our restaurant has opened for dinner service and gaining popularity, upper management has not yet initiated breakfast service. Other hotels in the chain offer a mix of buffet and sit down service to my knowledge.

 

While guest surveys rated the former buffet in the pits, current guests are lamenting the fact that our hotel does not offer breakfast - and being in a very rural area, decent breakfast choices are a drive away. I'd love to part of the solution to the problem.

 

Question: As a first year chef now working the dinner service (and hoping to be asked to head up the breakfast service)  I'm asking fellow chefs who might have worked in the hospitality industry which is most popular, profitable, possible, etc.breakfast formats found at similar level hotels.

 

I'd love to approach my chef de cuisine and management with my recommendation: a sit down service with a limited menu that reflects the dinner service of handmade, fresh and innovative selections beyond the usual pre-made pancakes, eggs from a carton, soggy homefries and par cooked bacon.

 

Am I right? Wrong? Missing something? Being relatively new to the industry, I'm trying to factor in food costs, server availability, guests desires (like grab and go buffet vs. sit down) 86 costs etc.

 

What say thee? And thank you in advance!

post #2 of 22

That would be the way to go, and you would need a server as well.  A good way to sell it is to bundle it with other things, like frequent traveler perks or something like that.  

 

But key is you have to do it well.  Run room service, have good coffee, use real eggs, etc.  You know how it goes.

post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 


Thank you Kuan... I do know it goes :) and I totally agree on freshness and consider room service. At the minimum one chef and one server would be needed seven days a week and a buffet is great for guests departing or who have plans while a sit down would be attractive to guests staying over or would want a slow start to their day.

 

At the present time, we offer take out meals at dinner but not room service. I'm assuming that the higher ups are holding off on the breakfast service wanting to not do it at all vs. do it badly as was done before. Right now the restaurant is dark two nights a week as we attempt to staff up. Being in a countryside environment has its downside and that's recruiting and retaining passionate and dedicated staff.

 

I'm not privy to food costs/profit percentages but overall, on the average, is a hotel chain breakfast service buffet vs off menu more profitable?

post #4 of 22

I see no advantage to a buffet unless you anticipate an extraordinary amount of covers per day. In general, the waste involved in a buffet will give far lower margins with its higher food costs than made to order. Also, a buffet is harder to maintain than off menu dining. We operate a breakfast /lunch cafe and your food costs should generally run at 20-25%. A simple menu done right should have a 5 minute ticket average. One chef should easily do 100 covers in a 3 hour shift. No need to have a "slow start to your day" with made to order eggs, omelets, pancakes, waffles, and pancakes and a few specialty items.

post #5 of 22
I would suggest a continental buffet, one where you could set up your cereals so you can reuse them. There are a lot of attractive vessels for that.

Jams, jellies, croissants, danishes can all be made, and coffee as well. You'd need one server to set up and clear, unless it were busy.

A bonus to that is you can also sell meeting packages.

As for waste, if you are a hotel you have an occupancy rate. Prepare accordingly. This is where your record keeping will come in handy.

For experience, I have done continental breakfast and regular buffet breakfast for the last 15 years, and that's what I've seen or done.

Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

Reply

Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

Reply
post #6 of 22

The only way to get compliments on a breakfast buffet is to have an egg bar. That means all the eggs come out fresh made. The eggs would be from over east to omelets to eggs Benedict. This  way you get one of the hardest things to hold fresh made. The rest could be the usual breakfast meats and potatoes. If you wanted it a bit nicer you could have a waffle and crape bar with different topping. A fresh bread bar with croissants and all kinds of breads and pastries. Fresh fruit bar along with some smoked cured meats and cheese. Juice and coffee bar would complete the buffet. All you need for this is people to bus the tables.

  The sit down breakfast is easier to handle with food cost. A sit down breakfast with room service gets you into a bit more labor. 

post #7 of 22
Forgot to mention... You can be sure that if the hotel is selling rooms at a package price with continental included, you can get a transfer for the room rate included to offset your costs.

As for the only way to get good reviews? I disagree. It's all in what you offer, and what the ambiance, setup, and products you have that will get the review. I've personally been in charge of continental breakfast buffets that have gotten rave reviews. You can have cold hard boiled eggs, little shot glasses with birchir meuslix, cheeses, fresh juices, etc.

Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

Reply

Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

Reply
post #8 of 22

     Given all the factors others have mentioned and the fact that you will be negotiating this with management, I'll add two cents as if I were going to be a guest. 
Whether you serve  a la carte, continental or an expansive buffet, what I most want to see when I travel is quality. I don't enjoy seeing a wealth of choices if those items are of poor quality. 

I would rather have fewer choices of high quality items.  A lot of good tasting coffee, one quality bread product (roll, danish, croissant, etc.) and good butter would be more than enough for me compared to twenty types of cheap pastries, cereals, dry eggs, etc. 

So perhaps not everyones' concern but whatever you do, quality over quantity and make sure the items you choose are attractively presented. 

post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post

     Given all the factors others have mentioned and the fact that you will be negotiating this with management, I'll add two cents as if I were going to be a guest. 

Whether you serve  a la carte, continental or an expansive buffet, what I most want to see when I travel is quality. I don't enjoy seeing a wealth of choices if those items are of poor quality. 
I would rather have fewer choices of high quality items.  A lot of good tasting coffee, one quality bread product (roll, danish, croissant, etc.) and good butter would be more than enough for me compared to twenty types of cheap pastries, cereals, dry eggs, etc. 
So perhaps not everyones' concern but whatever you do, quality over quantity and make sure the items you choose are attractively presented. 

I second this. I won't take a Benedict off a buffet because it's almost always a dissapointment. Same goes for scrambled eggs, greasy bacon, or God forbid those pancakes you know done from a box of frozen prefab.

Freshly baked muffins, croissants, bread, housemade artisan jellies and jams (which can be made with fruits to offset your food costs) and butters are very nice indeed.

Spend the money on a good coffee program, and you can't go wrong. In fact, I worked at a place where the coffee they gave you was a bodum, and it was fabulous!

Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

Reply

Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

Reply
post #10 of 22

I wish to offer my $.02 as well from a customers' point of view.

If I am staying at a hotel or lodge there has to be some kind of breakfast offered so I don't have to leave the property and go some places else.

Where I live in rural America we have a few places where you can stay, but you must get into your car and drive to only 2 places that offer breakfast.

 

IMHO I have little use for "Continental Breakfast."  Most or all of it is convenience foods packed with carbs. My personal feelings are that since I cook for people 6-7 days a week, when I am out, I want to be served.

 

As to the OP, I agree that buffets are cost prohibitive in small places. If you are looking to serve breakfast, make it the best there is anywhere. 

I'm sure there are many of us here that have eaten some pretty bad breakfast foods at places all over.

post #11 of 22

Quote:

While guest surveys rated the former buffet in the pits, current guests are lamenting the fact that our hotel does not offer breakfast - and being in a very rural area, decent breakfast choices are a drive away. I'd love to part of the solution to the problem.

 

For the reasons stated here I would think a bit more than a  "Continental Breakfast." There are some Hotels I stay at that are more of a Food destination type area. Places like NYC, Boston, San Francisco. If I were staying in these towns It's easy to venture out for local eats. With you being rural it brings a different feel to the morning start of the day. People in resorts don't want to get dressed and shoot to town for breakfast. I also feel it's important to know the average stay for your guests. If they come for a three day weekend or are they one night and out. I see at some hotels everyone is trying to get out early to get out on the road to get home. These type people and hotel locations are looking for a quick breakfast. The layed back resort that people are checking out at 12noon is different........More info helps to know what is needed.

post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefBillyB View Post
 

Quote:

While guest surveys rated the former buffet in the pits, current guests are lamenting the fact that our hotel does not offer breakfast - and being in a very rural area, decent breakfast choices are a drive away. I'd love to part of the solution to the problem.

 

For the reasons stated here I would think a bit more than a  "Continental Breakfast." There are some Hotels I stay at that are more of a Food destination type area. Places like NYC, Boston, San Francisco. If I were staying in these towns It's easy to venture out for local eats. With you being rural it brings a different feel to the morning start of the day. People in resorts don't want to get dressed and shoot to town for breakfast. I also feel it's important to know the average stay for your guests. If they come for a three day weekend or are they one night and out. I see at some hotels everyone is trying to get out early to get out on the road to get home. These type people and hotel locations are looking for a quick breakfast. The layed back resort that people are checking out at 12noon is different........More info helps to know what is needed.


This is the second mention in this thread of a made to order breakfast not being a "quick" option as a reason to consider a continental option. I used to travel extensively and I came to loathe the "business hotel" model of a toaster on the counter in a small self service dining room surrounded by packaged pastries, stale bagels, a bowl of fruit with cereal, milk, juice, and marginal coffee. Likewise, if it was a more upscale hotel with a buffet option in addition to ala carte, I'd always opt for made to order. There is nothing slow about making eggs, omelets, etc. Pancakes take 3 minutes. As do waffles. Eggsof any kind, except hard boiled, are all 3-4 minutes or under. Even an eggs benny is only a 3 minute ticket time. To me it's a no-brainer from all perspectives, quality, profitability,, ease of service, you name it. Made to order is the way to go.

post #13 of 22
Thread Starter 

Cape Cod Chef,  Chef Billy, Well Done Chef and all... thanks for all of your responses. As originally stated, I'm leaning towards a la carte service as well. As stated by Cape Cod Chef, "To me it's a no-brainer from all perspectives, quality, profitability, ease of service, you name it. Made to order is the way to go." However, your responses regarding buffet service has given me talking points if our management is buffet-bound. For those who asked for more information, our guests typically stay for one week, based on a vacation club style resort. Another unique curve thrown into the decision mix is that the majority of our units are equipped with a complete kitchen. Sooooo you rented accomodations with a full size kitchen and you desire a restaurant provided breakfast? Hmmmmm. In any case, thanks for all the replies so far, and if my added details generate any additional viewpoints, they are most welcomed. Again, thanks guys!!!

post #14 of 22

As part of the decision making process, I'd talk to house keeping and see how many and how often those kitchen units are actually used. If not very often, why not? if often, why? 

Some questions to ponder.

If guests have kitchen facilities, would they be more inclined to stop by for some basic ingredients to return to their units? If so, perhaps a small supply of coffee, eggs, bread and fresh vegetables.

Why, with kitchen facilities in most units, do guests request breakfast? Lack of ingredients or lack of desire to cook on vacation? 

Would greater use of those in-room facilities be better for the hotel or make more work by increasing house keeping costs? 

Last, I'll suggest fresh popovers. I rarely see them anywhere any more but I know on my list of fresh baked goods for breakfast, fresh popovers would be at the top. 

post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post
 

As part of the decision making process, I'd talk to house keeping and see how many and how often those kitchen units are actually used. If not very often, why not? if often, why? 

Some questions to ponder.

If guests have kitchen facilities, would they be more inclined to stop by for some basic ingredients to return to their units? If so, perhaps a small supply of coffee, eggs, bread and fresh vegetables.

Why, with kitchen facilities in most units, do guests request breakfast? Lack of ingredients or lack of desire to cook on vacation? 

Would greater use of those in-room facilities be better for the hotel or make more work by increasing house keeping costs? 

Last, I'll suggest fresh popovers. I rarely see them anywhere any more but I know on my list of fresh baked goods for breakfast, fresh popovers would be at the top. 


Popovers are a terrific suggestion.  I really like all variations; plain, cheesy or herbed. He could also offer filled ones as specials, like soft scramble eggs, diced smoked ham and cheese, smoked salmon & eggs with chevre and chive, individual toad in the hole with gravy, etc. I've no experience trying to hold them for service, though. We always eat them fresh out of the oven and never seem to have any left over!  How would you suggest to hold and reheat them?

post #16 of 22

Years ago I worked at a restaurant that served them as a starter instead of warm bread. I remember they made quite a few shortly before dinner service and perhaps some during dinner service. I believe a standard bread warming drawer was used as an intermediate step between oven and guest. If I were serving them for breakfast, I'd make some fresh and work out the details as I went. As I remember, the batter is simple, ladle into hot fat in muffin tins and bake. As many could be made as there are tins and oven space. As you mentioned, I don't think holding would be much of a problem as they would go fast. So someone could be making them while keeping to other early morning duties but what a great way to build a reputation. 

post #17 of 22

Sit down breakfast with a small selection on the buffet is definitely the way to go IMO.

As welldonechef argued - Continental buffet is easy to do and to maintain while you offer a few selections a la carte.

 

For those guests that have an early start - one option is always to provide a small a la carte selection in room, the guest can then notify the front desk when ordering their wake up call that they will place their selection on the door.

So - the guest orders a wake up call for 7am. Housekeeping will be starting to do their rounds and can easily pick up the breakfast order outside the guests door and bring it down to the kitchen so they can start prep on this order.

The guest comes down at 8am, ready to check out, but before leaving gets a nice fresh breakfast to go on the way - happy customer.

 

Not sure how investment happy your hotel is, but one thing I recently saw blew my mind:

 

Every room had a tablet (this was fixed permanently as they had a disappearing problem before). This tablet basically is your own little concierge in room.

From booking a spa package to ordering room service to "booking" check out the guest could do almost everything via this tablet which was tied into the hotels system.

This way, when the guest had to leave earlier (before breakfast service for example) they could put in the request for a "small" breakfast. They selected from a small menu and also put down the time they would be down in the restaurant to have their breakfast the night before.

 

As I said - pretty sure such a system integration will be fairly pricy but I can guarantee - I will be staying at this hotel again and again if I get the chance ;)

post #18 of 22
Thread Starter 


I love the popover idea. Since I posted, Ive been collecting menu ideas to reflect a high quality/limited menu sit down style proposal. Im told by our housekeeping crew that the kitchens are always used and many are in dire need of heavy stove cleaning ie. bacon grease splatter etc.

 

My ideas so far are revolving around quick ticket times, holding capability, use of Vermont ingredients if possible, with a country theme ie. Vermont Hunter's Red Flannel Hash topped with a fried egg, served in a personal cast iron skillet. Id like to see a pancake offering, french toast, a bagel entree, the afor-mentioned egg bar and my fave, farmer's egg-in-a-hole. Plus something kid friendly.

 

The restaurant is still trying to find qualified applicants to stay open seven nights a week, so breakfast may take a while to launch. Finding worthy cooks in a rural area is not easy based on a number of observations including lower volume of applicants to choose from vs. a city, folks not willing to dedicate themselves to nights and weekends, failed drug tests, sigh.

 

Thanks again for the feedback... if anyone would like to list their top five breakfast entrée choices based on a rural theme, I'd be most appreciative. Maybe I'm missing something great.

post #19 of 22

Here's one man's ideas.

 

1 - Lemon Ricotta pancakes with fresh berries, ricotta whipped cream and warm Vt. maple syrup.

2. - 6 oz.stack of hand carved smoked local ham with 2 eggs any style & breakfast potato

3 - 3 egg French omelet with asparagus & aged Special Reserve sharp Vt. cheddar from farm of your choosing (Cabot does a fine one)

4 - House made granola with grains, nuts, dried fruits of locally sourced ingredients with Vt. lo-fat yogurt & local honey

5 - Vt sweetened  cream cheese and blueberry preserve stuffed French toast w/ maple syrup, natch (Use a nice local brioche loaf or bake your own)

 

I'd easily switch out any of these for a smoked salmon or trout platter with bagel, onion, tomato, hard boiled egg.

 

Good luck. You're fortunate. Vermont's an easy source, especially in cheese and dairy. Loads of great products and vendors to choose from. A good vendor for locally sourced specialty items from New England and European based small farm produce and specialty items is Sid Wainer and Sons in New Bedford MA. Small minimums and terrific quality.

post #20 of 22

Vermont also has an increasing number of small flour mills, producing some very interesting new grain products. The book "The New Bread Basket" by Amy Halloran is an excellent resource. 

post #21 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CapeCodChef View Post
 

Here's one man's ideas.

 

1 - Lemon Ricotta pancakes with fresh berries, ricotta whipped cream and warm Vt. maple syrup.

2. - 6 oz.stack of hand carved smoked local ham with 2 eggs any style & breakfast potato

3 - 3 egg French omelet with asparagus & aged Special Reserve sharp Vt. cheddar from farm of your choosing (Cabot does a fine one)

4 - House made granola with grains, nuts, dried fruits of locally sourced ingredients with Vt. lo-fat yogurt & local honey

5 - Vt sweetened  cream cheese and blueberry preserve stuffed French toast w/ maple syrup, natch (Use a nice local brioche loaf or bake your own)

 

I'd easily switch out any of these for a smoked salmon or trout platter with bagel, onion, tomato, hard boiled egg.

 

Good luck. You're fortunate. Vermont's an easy source, especially in cheese and dairy. Loads of great products and vendors to choose from. A good vendor for locally sourced specialty items from New England and European based small farm produce and specialty items is Sid Wainer and Sons in New Bedford MA. Small minimums and terrific quality.


Thanks, Chef... I'm sure you were looking over my shoulder when I was making my short list. We are fortunate to be rich in culinary resources here. And on a personal note, the smoked salmon is my personal go-to breakfast special meal.

post #22 of 22
I worked in a hotel where our breakfast was so highly rated that we regularly had guests from other nearby hotels, as well as local residents and walk-ins. Often, we had to advise our in-house guests to make reservations, it was that popular.
Our format was continental buffet with ala carte eggs and small batch bacon pans, hash browns, sausages, mushrooms etc. These items were under heat lamps, but in very small pans, so maybe catered for four or five guests only - kept it all very fresh.

The continental section had tonnes of regular and unusual items - goji berry homemade muesli, fresh mini croissants with Belgian chocolate, house made super juices, freshly sliced fruits, yoghurts, artisan breads and so on. Everything was very high quality and very different to other hotels - no boxed cereals or frozen pancakes. Freshly brewed loose leaf teas in pots, quality French press coffee individual to table, espresso as an upsell.

If, as you say, the kitchenettes in room are getting used, why not also offer a breakfast hamper delivered to their door with the morning paper? Can contain portions of fresh eggs, bacon, bread and butter, individual condiments and fresh fruit.

Good luck!
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