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A journey to the Isle of Breakfast

The times of a simple caffee and Danish have changed. Particularly in the mid and upscale categories where it is not rare for guests to leave the hotel for breakfast. This creates a new challenge for brands that are increasing their efforts and doubling the appeal of their breakfast offer to give guests every reason to stay…

For several years now breakfast has been gaining importance, to such an extent that it casts a shadow over lunch. It must be said that businessmen often prefer business breakfasts in order to optimize time and also to economize: even a copious breakfast is more affordable than a gastronomic meal. Between the changing eating habits of guests and the new “social status” of breakfast, expectations and demands have moved up a notch. To such an extent that the first meal in the morning has now become a key factor in the quality of the stay. After all, isn’t this the last impression a hotel guest has?As they often set the tone for the entire day, the first hours of the day must be void of all stress, so no waiting and unfriendly personnel, which are particularly poorly tolerated upon waking... Hotels have understood this well and we are surely only at the beginning of a great wave of innovative initiatives aimed at optimizing, re-enchanting and personalizing breakfast.For Anglo-Saxons, the notion of a big breakfast is hardly a cultural innovation. But what is new is that other clientele are following suit. This is happening in France and even throughout Southern Europe. “On the Leisure segment we have noticed that French clientele are increasingly inspired by foreign clientele. Today they are eating richer, more complete breakfasts,” remarks Hieu Alexis To, president of the Club des Directeurs de la Restauration France, prior to pointing out another basic phenomenon: “there has been a distinct increase in buffet breakfasts. Previously, 40% of clientele opted for this formula versus 60% for the continental breakfast. Today the proportions have been turned around”. Worldwide, the arrival of certain emerging clientele —with very specific habits that can sometimes be very different from western ones— have forced hotels to adapt. Cantonese rice and noodles for Chinese and miso soup for Japanese clients… all in an effort to develop a powerful loyalty tool with regard to these tourists who while they enjoy the change, prefer to choose it rather than have it forced upon them when they wake up in the morning!The time set aside for breakfast needs to be adjusted as well because not all cultures take their breakfast at the same time. In Asia, the service begins at six o’clock in the morning, which European and American hotels targeting this clientele must take into consideration if they don’t want to risk losing market shares. The proof: brands that have done this make it a veritable part of their sales pitch. The options available on the menu have also been enriched: “other products have appeared,” pursues Hieu Alexis To, “particularly ones that are lower in fat and sugar that are in high demand: yogurts with 0% fat, omelets made with egg whites, light butter, nonfat milk... Guests are also eating increasing amounts of fruit in all its forms (cut, in salad, in cocktails). Soy milk is very popular and the tea list has grown significantly as well”. Moreover, brunch, the trendy late breakfast, is also at its peak. It has even become a veritable institution in very upscale hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton chain.In North America, where large breakfasts are more of a habit than an innovation, the challenge for operators lies more in standing out because of their different services and original concepts. The Hyatt group has perfected this with its Signature Breakfast. Last summer the American chain totally rethought its breakfast offer by implementing fifteen new original recipes in its 120 Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt hotels in North America. Far from going against the initiative of the management chefs welcomed these new dishes –developed by the management at the risk of limiting their freedom– with open arms. Selected after rigorous market sampling, their success was immediate. But updating breakfast does not mean just changing the menu. As in other areas, differentiation and originality are spreading. Hyatt, once again, automatically offers a small fruit smoothie to its guests. In a partnership with Starbucks, coffee is served in a French coffee press left on the table throughout the meal. Everything is done to give the brand its own identity. At Carlson, the final touch may come in the form of offering a toy to children. The goal remains the same: create something unexpected within a service that has been (overly?) standardized.For many the start of the day must be immediate. Thus, to meet the needs of guests in a hurry, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel launched “breakfast-togo”, a continental breakfast (bread, muffins, croissants) may be ordered in the evening for takeaway the next morning. This type of no madic breakfast is also a strong international trend because it is in tune with the extensive mobility that characterizes this era. Wi-Fi computer under the arm, the guest of 2007 often expects the hotel to provide a complete takeaway package, with no waiting, to eat wherever he likes while checking his emails... Buffet, room service, breakfast-to-go, the goal is to free guests from all constraints, by offering formulas that meet all types of imperatives and all desires. Mercure, a brand of the Accor group, illustrates this diversification well. Very recently it changed its breakfast offer throughout the French territory, creating three formulas: “Express & Co” for those in a hurry (coffee and bread with butter and jam in the bar where conviviality and rapidity join forces; the “Grand Régal” for gourmands (a buffet with a wide array of choices centering on a selection of local products) and “Matin Douceur”, which is available in two themes – classic or balanced, for those who prefer the comfort and calm of their room.As they often set the tone for the entire day, the first hours of the day must be void of all stress, so no waiting and unfriendly personnel, which are particularly poorly tolerated upon waking... Hotels have understood this well and we are surely only at the beginning of a great wave of innovative initiatives aimed at optimizing, re-enchanting and personalizing breakfast.

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