Free Breakfast for SPG Platinum Elite – the Weekly Wish

by on July 24, 2014 · 17 comments

in Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Starwood, TPG Contributors

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Today TPG Contributor Nick Ewen continues his series The Weekly Wish, looking at flaws, shortcomings, and room for improvement in the world of travel and loyalty programs. Today’s wish: free breakfast for SPG Platinum elites.

Two years ago, Starwood Preferred Guest announced some significant positive changes to their program. In addition to creating different levels of Platinum, the new program also offered complimentary continental breakfast as a new Platinum amenity. This new benefit brought the program closer in line with others like Hyatt and Hilton, who already offered their top tier elites free breakfast (and had done so for years). However, I believe that there is still opportunity to improve on this benefit without adding any significant expense. Today’s Weekly Wish will focus on just that: Starwood Preferred Guest should offer full breakfast as a Platinum amenity at all of their hotels worldwide.

My wife and I got full breakfast as the Platinum amenity at the St. Regis in Mauritius.

My wife and I got full breakfast as the Platinum amenity at the St. Regis in Mauritius.

You may be thinking that free breakfast would be a significant change for hotels, and that they would be hesitant to provide this added benefit. However, in my experience some hotels already offer full breakfast, choosing to go above and beyond the published SPG policy. One example is the Sheraton Suites in Plantation, FL. In the last year, I’ve stayed there on both an award stay and a paid stay, and in both cases, when I selected breakfast as my Platinum amenity at check-in, the front desk agent let me know that they offer their full breakfast buffet in the restaurant.

My experience at the St. Regis Mauritius was similar. My wife and I spent three nights there in June 2013 using points, and they also provided a full buffet for me as a Platinum member. Incidentally, it was probably the nicest breakfast spread I’ve ever seen: an incredible variety of pastries, meats & cheeses, fruits, salad, seafood, an omelet station, a hot menu, juices, smoothies, and even complimentary champagne! The retail price (had we paid) was around $75 per person.

Obviously in a place like Mauritius, SPG options are somewhat limited, so the fact that the St. Regis offered breakfast wasn’t necessarily a determining factor in where we stayed. However, in South Florida there are plenty of other hotel options, so having a full breakfast in the morning might incentivize me to return to their hotel over, say, the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport. Adding full breakfast as a published amenity would remove this distinction and level the playing field for all Sheraton properties in a given area.

This would also bring the SPG program closer to the other big hotel brands in terms of their breakfast offerings. Here’s what Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott currently provide to their elite members:

Hilton HHonors Diamond members receive free breakfast at almost all of their properties.

Hilton HHonors Diamond members receive free breakfast at almost all Hilton properties.

Hilton: Hilton HHonors provides breakfast for both Gold and Diamond members at their full-service properties (Conrad, Hilton, Doubletree, and Hilton Garden Inn; only Waldorf Astoria properties are excluded). This may be provided in the Executive Lounge or in the hotel restaurant, depending on the property. Diamond members also earn 1,000 additional bonus points for Conrad, Hilton, and Doubletree stays, while Gold members must choose between breakfast or points. It’s interesting that the official T&C of the program lists the benefit as “complimentary continental breakfast for you and up to one additional guest” in the same room. However, I ‘ve found that almost every Hilton property I’ve stayed at offers full breakfast rather than just continental.

Hyatt offers full breakfast to Diamond members and up to three guests in the same room.

Hyatt: Hyatt Gold Passport actually offers the most generous breakfast benefit for top tier elites; Diamond members receive complimentary breakfast for them and up to three additional guests in the same room, which is great when traveling with families. Just like Hilton, this may be offered in a hotel’s club lounge, but if that’s unavailable, you’ll get full breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. Many hotels even offer room service as an option, as I experienced over New Year’s at the Park Hyatt Istanbul. This is also in addition to a welcome gift (either bonus points or a food & beverage amenity).

Marriott Gold and Platinum members would get free breakfast at hotels like the Renaissance in Phuket, Thailand.

Marriott Gold and Platinum members get free breakfast at hotels like the Renaissance in Phuket, Thailand.

Marriott: Like Hilton HHonors, Marriott Rewards offers complimentary breakfast to both Gold and Platinum elite members. This too can come either in the lounge or in a property’s restaurant if there’s no lounge option. Unfortunately, this excludes resort properties, and the benefit only applies to the member and one additional registered guest, but it’s nice to have the benefit for both mid-tier and top-tier elites. Like Hyatt, Marriott also provides a welcome gift for Platinum members (generally bonus points or a food & beverage credit, depending on the property.

Basically, any way you slice it, the SPG breakfast benefit comes up short, even when you just look at the highest level of elite status. Hilton HHonors Diamond members get bonus points and breakfast. Hyatt Diamond members get full breakfast for up to four plus a welcome gift, and Marriott Platinum elites also get breakfast and a welcome amenity. Platinum SPG members, meanwhile, must choose breakfast in lieu of other amenities.

The continental breakfast at the W Montreal was actually more pricey than any other option on the menu!

The continental breakfast at the W Montreal was actually more pricey than any other option on the menu!

Finally, upgrading the benefit from continental to full breakfast may not cost the SPG program much (or anything at all), based on my experience at some properties. Just last month, my wife and I stayed at the W Montreal, and I selected breakfast in the OTTO Ristorante as my Platinum gift. They actually had a decent continental buffet, with hard-boiled eggs, pastries, cereal, fruit, yogurt, and coffee/tea/juice. However, the price of the buffet was CAD$19; every other hot dish on the menu (there was no hot buffet) was less expensive. Since there was no other option, we got the buffet each day. Not only did it start to get old by the end of our five-night stay; it also cost SPG $19 a day, whereas giving us a choice would’ve lowered the amount charged to the program.

The chance of this benefit being implemented so close to last year’s changes is very slim. However, one way to remove the sting for SPG would be to add free breakfast as an additional benefit only for those Platinum members who stay 50+ nights a year. That would not only reward those who spend more time in Starwood hotels, but also incentivize “regular” Platinum members to push for that additional threshold. Don’t get me wrong; I’d love to see free breakfast offered as an amenity for ALL Platinum members, and since this is the Weekly Wish, that’s how I’ll leave it.

How much does free breakfast influence where you stay? Would full breakfast as a Platinum amenity lead you to stay at SPG hotels more? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Sick of SPG

    Just another example of where SPG does not stack up. Already falling behind with their redemption (per dollar spent). No breakfast is a sham as bad as “resort fees”.

    There are far too many pimping this program for the value “they” receive in funding rather than the benefits to the consumer and this article at least shows that off.

    This coming from a SPG Platinum member that drank the kool-aid for far too long.

  • alxstevens

    I agree that they should offer a better, more consistent benefit. The having to ask what’s offered every time I might want it is a pain. I do however continue to find lots of properties that did offer the full breakfast including the St. Regis DC, Sheraton Virginia Beach and Westin Hilton Head most recently. The latter two even included full breakfasts for my kids.

    Disagree with Sick of SPG below about the pimping – thought this article was pretty balanced.

  • Joe

    Your Marriott section should make mention of no breakfasts at Courtyards, something that many elite members have been grumbling about for years.

  • Traderlatino

    Nothing is perfect. Probably the best breakfast policy is the Hilton’s, but the redemption points for rooms is so devaluated that 99% of the time is better to pay cash for the room that with points…

  • alcw

    For me the free breakfast is a reason I stay at Sheraton’s over other properties. They almost all have executive lounges that offer the free breakfast, even if it’s a limited menu of scrambled eggs or oatmeal. They always have out bagels, toast and yogurt.

  • RegMerc

    I am a Diamond member in Hyatt, Gold at Hilton and SPG Platinum.

    SPG Platinum usually gets full buffet breakfast in Europe according to SPG. One of the best full buffet breakfast I always enjoys is offered at the Meridien hotels (Meridien Budapest, Meridien Vienna, Meridien Etoille. However, in the US, you can get continental or full buffet breakfast depending of the hotel. And a couple times, I had to pay extra ($) to upgrade from continental breakfast to a full buffet. In Hawaii, I had to pay $15 extra per person to get a full buffet breakfast even though I was a SPG Platinum

    As a Hyatt Diamond, I always get a full buffet breakfast at the restaurant or Regency club lounge access. At the Andaz Amsterdam, instead of going to the restaurant, you could choose a full buffet breakfast and have it delivered to your room. Price was around 60 Euros for breakfast for two. As a Diamond member, I did not have to pay.

    As a Hilton Gold, I was upgraded to an Executive Room in Finland and have access to the Executive lounge who offered full buffet breakfast.

    Based of my experiences, I truly feel that Hyatt Diamond is the clear winner as you always get full buffet breakfast and your points. Second is Hilton Gold as you get your points and a full buffet breakfast. Last is SPG Platinum as you have to choose between your points or breakfast domestically or internationally.

  • Bill Rubin

    I am SPG Platinum and usually have had free buffet breakfast provided at all of the types of SPG properties I frequent most often (Westin, Le Meridien, W, St. Regis). While SPG may not offer the best breakfast benefit, its points are unquestionably the most valuable of all the hotel chains…and I’ll take paying for full breakfast (which I rarely have to do anyway) over having to pay for premium flights or an award stay at a nice SPG property (since SPG has the most nice properties IMO).

    I’d still love to see SPG give Platinums full breakfast privileges to match the other chains, of course. But let’s be fair when evaluating the perks/privileges between chains, as breakfast is just one detail. It may matter more to some, but it doesn’t matter more to all.

  • Nick Ewen

    It does seem very dependent on the property, but I’m glad to hear that you’ve had some good experiences. I will file those hotels away in my mind in case my travels take me there!

  • Nick Ewen

    Absolutely…we’d all love to design the “perfect” hotel loyalty program, but something tells me it wouldn’t be in business very long! As a top tier elite with Hyatt, Hilton, and SPG, I would say that Hyatt’s breakfast policy is the most generous, but they have other things that are less valuable than Hilton and SPG (e.g. limited footprint, no suite upgrades on reward stays, etc.).

    The Hilton devaluation definitely hurt, but redemptions before were an absolute steal. I spent 225,000 points for six nights at the Hilton in Moorea and 157,500 points for six nights at the Conrad Bali. Those were absurd deals, so the devaluation really just brought it back down to earth.

  • Nick Ewen

    To me, a lot of the lounge breakfasts are pretty consistent, regardless of whether you are at a Hilton, Hyatt, or Sheraton property. However, I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a Four Points with a lounge, and some lounges do only offer true continental breakfast. Again, a lot of it is property-specific.

  • Nick Ewen

    I’ve gotta agree with you about Hyatt. Our room service breakfast in Istanbul was incredible, especially the morning when we had an early morning flight to visit Ephesus and had it delivered at 5:15am! That $15 surcharge you faced in Hawaii is ridiculous, considering that a Hyatt Diamond would’ve gotten the full buffet for up to four people for free.

  • Nick Ewen

    Absolutely right, this is just one factor in the “Where should I stay?” equation. However, it would be nice to see this benefit more in line with the other chains. For me, it would catapult SPG to the unquestioned top of my elite status hierarchy. Right now, the three (Hyatt, Hilton, and SPG) are neck-and-neck in my book.

  • Nick Ewen

    True, but Courtyards in the US and Canada do offer both points AND a food & beverage amenity as a welcome gift for Platinums. Not saying it’s the same as breakfast (and I’ve never been Platinum with Marriott, so I can’t speak from personal experience), but at least the program recognizes that gap to a certain degree.

  • RegMerc

    That’s true. In order to get your points and breakfast, you need to stay at a Sheraton as most Sheraton has club lounge.

  • Jake from MSP

    Hilton’s elite perks are nice, but their points are a joke. Lost this diamond to SPG after last year’s sweeping devaluation. I retain gold status only through CC and they are a last resort.

  • Nick Ewen

    Yeah, the scale of the devaluation was brutal, but many of my work travels take me to locations where Hilton properties are the only option, so I wind up hitting Diamond each year just through that. However, I will always check SPG and Hyatt first.

  • beachfan

    I’ve been Platinum for many years, in general the full breakfast doesn’t appeal to me much and I would rather have other benefits (or more points). It’s only when the breakfast has a great view or something else that I care. Gritti Palace, The Palace Hotel in SF, St. Regis Princeville.

    I’m just as happy if the Starbucks has egg whites on a muffin to go with my espresso.

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