Breakfast Blues

Why do so many hotels, which do so many other things so well; serve brutal breakfasts? Of course, this may be about to change given that the monster that is the buffet breakfast may be consigned to the bin until Covid19 is history.  

It is an ongoing mystery in the hospitality sector as to why a hotel which may well be at five star level in every other respect completely drops the ball regarding breakfast.

Breakfast is the last dining experience most guests will have in a hotel and for many it is a bitter one which completely negates previous experiences.  Many hotels rightly pride themselves on the quality of their food experience, hiring skilled chefs to produce top quality, carefully sourced products. They spend weeks and often longer developing, testing, tasting, costing and pricing lunch and dinner menus. Food is meticulously paired to bring complimentary flavours to the plate. Service style and presentation is tested and polished to perfection.  Chefs seek and receive guest, food critic and peer admiration for the depth, breadth and innovation of their menus; and yet, and yet.

Some of the worst breakfasts this guest has ever eaten were in four and five star hotels. We had dined well on the previous evening and after a bracing walk to work up an appetite looked forward to similar quality for breakfast. There are words that could be used to describe the food, but polite society does not allow those to appear here in print.

The scene is by now a familiar one. The dining room/restaurant, which the previous evening was so conducive to relaxation, comfort, calm and tranquillity has now been transformed into a bustling ‘farmers market’ type environment in which the guest has to jostle for sustenance. Help yourself is the name of the game. The breakfast buffet is by now a common sight in hotels. The guest helps themselves to the entire meal, with the result that it is possible to do your 10,000 steps just by helping yourself to breakfast.

This would not of itself be necessarily a problem, however it is the quality of what is generally on offer that is. Such was my fury (not an emotion, I am given to) in a London four star hotel with the tripe that was on offer; from fruit salad which had been prepared in a factory somewhere, coma inducing sugary cereals, pastries of unspeakable staleness, that I presented one such pastry to the manager and rapped it on the desk in front of him. It made a clunking sound like that of two hard surfaces connecting. When challenged regarding the revolting bright yellow (reconstituted) powdered scrambled eggs, the rock hard croissants, the undrinkable juices and frankly indescribable hot food offering; he blithely announced that it was the hotel group breakfast policy and I could take it or leave it.  How do men and women who travel regularly for business eat this stuff? How do they not end up ill and malnourished? When did it become acceptable for a very large, mostly four star hotel group to serve such muck? Actually, how do they qualify for four stars?

How do some hotels not understand that this type of experience just before a guest leaves the hotel obliterates any positives that went before?

In the post Covid environment, the hotel buffet will most probably be reconfigured. Depressingly there is talk of every single item being wrapped in plastic. That alone has such an appalling environmental implication that it is hard to contemplate.

   There have been memorable breakfast in places such as Inis Meain Suites , Ballymaloe House, The Old Convent, The Dunraven Arms, Dunmore House Hotel, Rathsallagh House, The Pembroke Hotel, Perryville House    and there are no doubt many more hotels which do breakfast very well. There are so many that don’t however, that it is sullying the efforts of those who do.

Breakfast at Ballymaloe House

Thanks to initiatives such as The Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards, the bar has been steadily rising and hopefully this prolonged period of closure will encourage many more hotels to revisit what has been a shockingly neglected part of the hospitality experience. Ireland is after all renowned for its breakfasts. Hoteliers owe it to our visitors to finish each hospitality experience with a sensational spread which pays homage to our fantastic producers, our clean environment and our seasonal bounty.

Breakfast at The Old Convent