United States: Land of the Free (Budget Hotel Breakfast)

Foodie Friday

When it comes to hotel breakfasts, the U.S. lives up to it’s reputation as the Land of the Free. Budget hotels are the most likely to offer free early eats, but the ratio declines as the number of stars increases.

Complimentary hotel breakfasts are more common in the United States than in other countries, and they are most common at budget hotels.

More than half of 2 star hotels offer free morning eats, followed by more than 1/3rd of 3 star hotels. You’re least likely to get a complimentary breakfast at a 5 star hotel.

Only 14% of hotels around the world serve complimentary breakfasts, but fully 43% of hotels in the United States offer free morning eats.

What is interesting is that – with the exception of one star hotels – the cheaper the room rate, the more likely the hotel is to offer a complimentary morning meal. And even one star hotels are more likely to offer breakfast than 5 star hotels.

Fully 53% of 2 star hotels in the United States serve free breakfasts while only 36% of 3 star hotels, 10% of 4 star hotels, and 5% of 5 star hotels serve a complimentary breakfast. For one star hotels, the ratio is 16%.

Source: Hipmunk.

Does any of this make sense?

One of the reasons could be that the higher the number of stars, the greater the expectations of hotel guests.

Travellers staying at 2 star hotels tend to be budget minded and probably have lower expectations than travellers staying at 5 star hotels. I guess they are thrilled just to get a meal – no matter how simple it is.

If a 5 star hotel is going to offer a complimentary breakfast, hotel guests are going to expect something pretty spectacular, so maybe hotels just decide not to do it.

Or maybe hotels think that anyone that can afford to stay at a 5 star hotel can afford to splash out for a nice breakfast – or is on an expense account and simply doesn’t care.

In Room Coffee

The Best Western Loyal Inn in Seattle, Washington, offers a free breakfast. It was pretty satisfying on day one, but since I spent a week there, the lack of variety got old by the 3rd morning.

Living overseas, where tipping is not as common as in the United States, I was also surprised to see a tip jar on the counter. Were they serious? Not only that, most people DID seem to be tipping!

I couldn’t understand why you were expected to leave a tip because everything was self-service. You were expected to bus your own trays. And there was practically no interaction between guests and staff. 

Not only that, staff did NOT keep the food service areas clean and tidy. You would expect them to wipe things down occasionally, but they didn’t. It got pretty messy by the end of meal service.

I must say, however, that the do-it-yourself waffle maker made better waffles than any of the waffles I have tried at 5 star hotels in Asia (I rarely finish them. They are simply not worth the calories).

Not only that, the in-room coffee maker was not only extraordinarily easy to use, it also made better coffee than most of the fancy French or Italian coffee makers that have confounded me at my many stays at 5 star hotels and resorts in other parts of the world.

And I loved having an EMPTY half-size refrigerator, a micro-wave oven, and a sink at my disposal. I sourced many of my meals at the Whole Foods supermarket just 2 blocks from the hotel and consumed them in my room.

Top 10 Countries for Free Hotel Breakfasts

If free breakfasts at budget hotels are the norm in the United States, that is not the case in other countries, where you are more likely to score a free meal at a hotel with more stars than at a hotel with fewer stars.

But even then, the odds of being served a complimentary breakfast are usually less than one in 5.

In the U.S., you would be most likely to score a free meal at a 2 star hotel. In other countries, you would have a 17% chance at a 3 star hotel, a 19% chance at a 2 or 5 star hotel, and a 21% chance at a 4 star hotel.

  • 1. United States – 43%
  • 2. Tanzania – 32%
  • 3. Honduras – 30%
  • 4. Peru and Sweden (tie) – 29%
  • 6. Tunisia – 28%
  • 7. Bolivia – 27%
  • 8. Cambodia – 25%
  • 9. Colombia and Uruguay (tie) – 24%


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