Monday, January 4, 2010

Hotel Guests: Seek Out Free Food



More guests are flocking to free hotel breakfasts and buffets, bypassing pricier restaurants, according to a research group that tracks the restaurant industry.

The number of free meals or snacks eaten at hotels this year inched up 1 as of Sept. 30 over the same period in 2008, even as the number of people staying at hotels dropped significantly.  That’s in sharp contrast to the number of paid meals eaten in hotel restaurants, which saw a double-digit dip of 14 percent.

“To be up 1 percent… is pretty remarkable, especially in these days and times,” says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for the NPD Group, a market research firm.

“Those hotels offering up a free breakfast along with the cost of their room are holding up relatively well compared to everyone else.”

Hotels have struggled like the rest of the travel industry during the economic  downturn, as companies slashed travel budgets and cash-strapped Americans postponed vacations.

Riggs says the increased popularity of free hotel meals likely signals that more people are switching from high-end hotels to those where they can get more bang for their buck, such as free coffee or a complimentary breakfast.

“At your higher-end, it’s very expensive.  And when travel budgets are being cut, there’s a trade-down,” she says.

The trend, Riggs adds, is visible throughout the restaurant industry.  “We see trade-down from full-service restaurants to fast food.  We even see trade-down in menus, so when people do go to a full-service restaurant, they’re ordering a sandwich instead of a steak.  This seems to be happing everywhere.”

Choice Hotels International, which includes brands Comfort Inn and Econo Lodge, has gotten a boost this year from bargain-seeking travelers.


  1. I'll admit, I look for the free breakfast! When I was in Colorado at the ADA Food and Nutrition Conference, I was super sad to find out our hotel didn't have free breakfast. And, I was shocked! It should be included with all rooms, in my opinion :) What can I say? I'm cheap!

  2. I find that "free" brekkies are usually dry muffins :(

    Happy new year!

    Happy blogoversary!