Hilton shares details of food and beverage credit replacing daily breakfast
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Hilton Honors dropped a pretty big announcement on May 20, 2021: Starting in July 2021 and continuing through the end of the year, Hilton Gold and Diamond members will not receive complimentary continental breakfast at U.S. Hilton hotels. Instead, Hilton would replace this benefit with a daily food and beverage credit that will vary by hotel. This credit would be valid at all luxury, full-service, lifestyle and Hilton Garden Inn properties in the U.S.
Today Hilton finally released full details on this altered breakfast benefit. Starting in July, Hilton guests in the U.S. will receive a daily food and beverage credit of $10-$25 per person, depending on the hotel brand. You’ll get one credit per registered guest, for a maximum of two per day. Hilton Gold and Diamond members must select the food and beverage credit as their MyWay benefit in their online profiles to qualify.
*Select markets include Boston, Chicago, the District of Columbia, New York City, San Francisco, the county of Los Angeles, and the state of Hawaii.
While this appears to be a drastic change, it only applies to U.S. hotels through the end of the year. So if you’re headed to an upscale property like the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, where dining isn’t cheap, you will still get complimentary breakfast as an elite member.
Let’s take a detailed look at the new policy and how it will impact guests depending on the type of hotel they stay at.
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Hilton’s previous elite breakfast benefit
The Hilton Honors program has always offered one of the most generous complimentary breakfast benefits, even extending it to mid-tier Gold members who get their status by way of a co-branded credit card. A complimentary breakfast has been a consistent benefit that Hilton elites have found valuable over the years.
Under the previous policy, Hilton Diamond members received free continental breakfast for up to two guests at eligible brands. This was in addition to club lounge access, where a more pared-down breakfast is usually served (though most lounges remain closed at this time).
This sometimes incentivized hotels to upgrade Gold members to club-level rooms so they could get their free breakfast at the club lounge. Hilton Gold members also had the option to choose continental breakfast over bonus points at most properties.
With the benefit being reduced to a daily food and beverage credit in the U.S., I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gold elite members getting fewer lounge invitations even as they reopen.
That being said, the daily credit might be an improvement to some and a downgrade for others.
Why the new benefit is bad
At high-end Hilton hotels, such as the Conrad New York Midtown, breakfast can easily cost $30 or more per person. To go from having that expense covered completely to receiving just a $25 daily credit per person may be a downgrade. On the other hand, this credit provides more flexibility. So if you prefer to have breakfast off-site, you can use the credit for drinks at the bar, appetizers or room service snacks.
If you’re traveling with two or more people, the new benefit can also be a negative. I’ve stayed at Hilton hotels where free breakfast was extended for up to four people across two rooms. I doubt that will be the case in the future.
Why the new benefit may actually be good
The good news is that the new benefit is only applicable in the U.S. through the end of the year. However, if you’re an elite member traveling abroad, you’ll continue to receive complimentary breakfast as a benefit.
More importantly, not all U.S. hotels are even offering true breakfast right now. I stayed at the LondonHouse in Chicago a few months ago and received a daily breakfast voucher at a nearby cafe because the hotel’s restaurant was closed. I recently checked out of a Hyatt that closed down breakfast operations but offered room service after 4 p.m.
When there is no breakfast to offer elites, a food and beverage credit is a great alternative.
It’s also worth noting that if you’re a Hilton elite member who mostly stays at low- or mid-tier hotels, the lack of a free breakfast may not be that terrible. In my experience, mid-tier properties in the U.S. tend to offer pretty basic continental breakfast options consisting of coffee and muffins.
That’s hardly worth more than $10, especially on a solo trip. Getting a $10 food and beverage credit, in this case, works out better because you can either pay for breakfast or use your credit to pay for snacks and meals on-site, which tend to be more reasonably priced at these hotels anyway.
To get some additional context for the upcoming change, TPG spoke with Jennifer Chick, the vice president and global head of Hilton Honors and customer engagement this week at Hilton’s global headquarters in McLean, Virginia. She shared that, “People don’t always want to wait in a long breakfast line — and it’s going to get longer when business travel returns.”
Given that there are known staffing shortages at touchpoints in the travel process, this could also be a tool Hilton is using to avoid potential breakfast bottlenecks while staffing ramps back up.
When we announced Hilton’s changing breakfast benefit last month, it was met with skepticism. Now that we have more details, it’s actually not that bad. I’ll give Hilton credit for adjusting the food and beverage credit amount depending on the hotel brand. The fact that Hilton is offering $10-25 per person is also very generous, though families of three or more might find this benefit limiting. It’s worth noting that Hilton’s official policy has always been to extend breakfast to two guests per room, though some hotels have been known to extend it to three or more guests per stay.
Considering most hotels are still offering limited to no true breakfast options, a food and beverage credit might actually be preferable for some elite members, especially as travel demand rebounds and it could take longer to get your eggs and bacon.
On the whole, the new benefit isn’t entirely surprising or strange, considering most U.S. hotels have cut back breakfast services. But, at the same time, this change makes financial sense once travel picks up and hotels begin operating at full capacity again. Hotels are hurting after a year of record-low occupancy and this is one way Hilton can help keep its costs lower and reduce pinch points while some staffing levels remain lower.
Factor in the number of people who have earned elite status due to lower requirements, status extensions and simply by having a co-branded Hilton card and you have a potential recipe for a lot of incurred breakfast costs. Over the past year, we’ve seen airlines and hotels act especially generous with credit card welcome bonuses, point sales and promotions. All of that has consequences in the form of potential devaluations. Elite status is no exception.
It may prove unsustainable to many top-tier elites cashing in perks as travel demand rebounds. And since hotels can’t reduce the number of elite members overnight, they may look to cut benefits to control costs. When everyone is elite, no one is elite — and that may be part of the problem here.
The good news is that the free breakfast benefit still applies abroad. With so many of us aiming to travel internationally this summer, that perk is as valuable as ever.
Are there any restrictions about where the credit can be used?
Hilton Honors members can utilize the daily food and beverage credit towards any food or beverage purchases at any time of day. Participating properties include the following:
- Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts
- LXR Hotels & Resorts
- Conrad Hotels & Resorts
- Signia by Hilton
- Hilton Hotels & Resorts
- Curio Collection by Hilton
- DoubleTree by Hilton
- Tapestry Collection by Hilton
- Canopy by Hilton
- Motto by Hilton
- Hilton Garden Inn
Does this eliminate the other choices that Gold members have through MyWay benefits?
Hilton Honors Gold members will continue to choose between the new Daily Food & Beverage Credit and points as their MyWay benefit options.
What if I booked my hotel stay before July?
This benefit change will apply to guests with reservations beginning in early July, regardless of when they booked.
Will the Hilton F&B credit roll over?
The Hilton food and beverage credit is valid per night. It doesn’t roll over to subsequent nights.
Featured image courtesy of Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy
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