This is the most popular food at hotels offering free breakfast — and what else our readers love to eat

Feb 19, 2022

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They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day — and I think that’s 100% true. It’s my absolute favorite time of the day. For me, nothing gets my day going better than a strong coffee (preferably iced) and two eggs over easy.

For many of our readers, especially those with elite status with various hotel loyalty programs, it’s one of the best perks. And even if you don’t have elite status, a handful of hotel brands always offer free breakfast for guests.

In fact, free breakfast is the top value amenity guests look for when booking a hotel, according to a recent survey commissioned by Hilton, a brand that offers free breakfast at a number of chains, including Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hampton by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton.

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Hilton isn’t the only major brand offering free breakfasts to guests, though. You can also find it at IHG’s Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites, Marriott brands like Fairfield Inn & Suites and Residence Inn, Wyndham’s Days Inn and La Quinta, Country Inn and Suites by Radisson, Best Western and Choice Hotels’ Comfort Inn, among others.

Related: 5 ways to get your hotel breakfast for free

Yes, breakfast is important, but not all free breakfasts are created equal. Different brands have different offerings. Some feature continental options, while others come with a wide range of hot dishes. Breakfast took a hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of our favorite menu items being replaced with lackluster grab-and-go options. But in the last few months, things have started to get back to normal — and, in some cases, even better than before.

Last year, Marriott announced a nice update to its breakfast offerings at Residence Inn by Marriott, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Fairfield by Marriott and TownePlace Suites by Marriott. The company introduced “highly customizable” options made with artisanal products, build-your-own bowls of yogurt or oatmeal featuring all kinds of toppings, hot sandwiches, a hot sauce bar and even jalapeño cheddar-baked souffle.

egg quiche with tomatoes on plate
(Photo courtesy of Marriott)

At the time, Marriott did its own survey and found that 75% of guests would rather eat at a hot breakfast buffet than have a traditional continental option — and I concur.

Hilton took it one step further and asked guests the following: If they could only have one breakfast item for the rest of their life, what would it be? The answer: pancakes. And for sides, bacon reigned supreme.

With that fact in mind, we wanted to know what our readers love to eat for breakfast and where they prefer to stay that offers the free meal. I went to the TPG Lounge, our official Facebook group, to ask just that — and the answers had my mouth watering.

Related: The 11 hotel breakfasts we’d order for every meal if we could

While the responses varied from breakfast classics to many new health-conscious options, one item was clearly the overwhelming favorite for our readers: omelets.

“For me, [an omelet] made to order is huge — that wins me every time,” one reader shared. “Made-to-order omelets are the best to me, and the place that most often has those is Embassy Suites,” another responded.

In fact, Embassy Suites seemed to be a clear favorite among those who chimed in on Facebook. “I’ll second Embassy Suites,” one person commented, adding, “I’ll [take] my eggs freshly cooked every time!”

And the love for Embassy Suites just kept coming. “Of free breakfast hotels, I say Embassy Suites is best.”

Holiday Inn Express breakfast buffet
(Courtesy of IHG Hotels & Resorts)

Growing up in Texas, I spent a lot of time at hotels that offered very hearty breakfast options, including my all-time favorite (and an item mentioned by our readers): biscuits and sausage gravy.

Waffles, another classic, are also commonly available at hotels. They were noted by Hilton as the second-most popular breakfast item, according to the company’s survey. At many hotels, waffles are self-prepared by guests using a waffle iron that you fill up with batter and flip yourself, a love-it or hate-it experience for our readers.

“I like the make-your-own waffle breakfast at Hyatt Place and some IHG hotels,” one person said. “I like waffles but honestly I hate the ‘make it yourself’ stations,” another added.

Personally, I was always a little wigged-out by the hygiene of a make-your-own waffle station, probably because the batter seemed to be everywhere. In reality, though, that never stopped me from taking advantage of the machine, especially back in Texas where you could find Texas-shaped waffle makers at hotels dotting the state.

Waffle makers are one thing, but these days, hotels even have automated pancake makers. At Tru by Hilton, for example, an automated machine will make pancakes before your eyes and drop them on a plate after a simple wave of your hand in front of it.

But while waffles and pancakes are truly delicious, many readers agreed that it’s time for more hotels to double down on their efforts to provide healthier options for guests.

“I wish hotels could implement more health-conscious breakfast foods …” one reader shared. “Bring in acai bowls, freshly squeezed juices, nondairy unsweetened yogurt with toppings like chia, goji, fresh fruit [and] coconut. More options for people who are gluten-free and vegan. I sincerely despise every breakfast option I’ve seen in main hotel chains.”

bowl of yogurt on wooden cutting board with spoon of berry compote pouring down
(photo courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy)

For another reader, items like pancakes, waffles and pastries are “neither health nor filling.” Or, as they put it, they are “just a cheap check-in-the-box to say they offer breakfast.”

Another interesting idea suggested by readers was for hotels to offer more breakfast options inspired by local tastes. “I would love a breakfast buffet that highlights their regional cuisine … I can make my own omelet or over-easy egg,” one reader said.

Ultimately, it seems that, more than anything, people want a variety of breakfast options to choose from — and that makes perfect sense. If I’m staying at the same hotel for a few days, I may want to go for something sweet one morning and counter it with something healthy the next.

For a lot of folks, having free breakfast can help save a lot of money on a family vacation or an extended work trip. I’m glad that so many hotels offer free breakfast, and I’m excited that those offerings are slowly but surely getting more innovative. However, there’s still work to be done, especially as people continue to look for healthier, more sustainable foods.

That said, I’ll always be a sucker for a Texas-shaped waffle maker and the joy such a simple machine gives to people young and young at heart.

Featured image by namaria Mejia/EyeEm/Getty Images.

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