Will Hotel Breakfast Buffets Return? With COVID-19, most hotels worldwide have stopped serving breakfast buffets. As we site inspect several luxury hotels this week, experiencing the myriad changes occasioned by the pandemic, the missing breakfast buffet is perhaps the change we miss most.
In both of the luxury hotels we've stayed at so far during our current site inspection trip, there were significant waits (over 15 minutes) to be seated for breakfast, and also long waits for breakfast to be served. Admittedly, it's a busy time (spring break), but in a buffet scenario, at least the time between ordering and being served would be eliminated.
- Convenience: With the breakfast buffet, there was no waiting around for a server to take your order, or for the dish to be made. If you had only 15 minutes for breakfast, no problem.
- Variety: With the better luxury hotel breakfast buffets, the plethora of options can be daunting, but it also led to some of our favorite eclectic breakfasts: sushi, Maldivian fish curry, fresh passionfruit, kouign-amann, bircher muesli all on one plate? Yes please!
- Just the Right Amount: With a buffet, there's no guessing whether you've ordered too little or too much: you can take exactly the amount you're hungry for.
- Feasting with the Eyes: It's hard to deny the pure visual appeal of the best hotel breakfast buffets, with the riot of color and artistic presentation. It's also attractive to be able to see what you're getting at a buffet, rather than have to guess from a menu description.
Here's the pre-pandemic breakfast buffet at Velaa private island in the Maldives:
Can Hotel Buffet Risks Be Mitigated?
Most of the risk of hotel buffets stem not from food contamination but from social distancing concerns and shared touch points. Hotels and restaurants are right to be concerned about crowded situations, especially indoors, when guests may not be socially distancing and there could be aerosol transmission of COVID-19. Shared touch points are a lesser concern, since there isn't as much risk of COVID-19 transmission from fomites, but this is also something hotels could easily mitigate.
Our experience at the Hamilton Princess (a Fairmont Hotel) in Bermuda, where a breakfast buffet was served (due to a major golf tournament resulting in a large group of golfers staying at the hotel) points out several best practices hotels could use to bring back buffets:
- All guests must wear face masks when not seated at their dining table
- The buffet is uni-directional
- All buffet items are served to guests by hotel staff who are masked and wear gloves. Guests indicate which items they would like.
Now, admittedly during busy times this could get slow if there's only a single buffet line, depending on the number of guests. It may be that hotels need to start staggering breakfast times, at least during peak seasons, by allowing guests to make breakfast reservations at the time they book their stay (or by setting up additional buffet lines during their busiest seasons).
We could also envision some self-serve stations where all items were pre-packaged or enclosed, such as yogurts or covered containers of fresh fruit, cheese, glass ramekins of granola, etc.
In the meantime, we hope that more resorts will provide some kind of deli with a grab and go option, because waiting 15-20 minutes just to be seated for breakfast plus the additional time to have an a la carte order taken and prepared is just too much time to be waiting around, at least for some guests.
What do you think? Which luxury hotel breakfast buffet do you miss most?
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