Bringing Back the Hotel Breakfast Buffet
Back the Breakfast Buffet
I recently took a 4,000-mile road trip back-and-forth across the American West to help my son move. The 8-day, 7-night adventure was filled with unexpected events such as wildfires, dust storms, mid-September snow, and a variety of novel approaches to the pandemic-era, limited service-hotel breakfast buffet. The latter may not be exciting to the average person, but on a long road trip, the drive-through gets old fast. And as a 15-year professional in the foodservice equipment and supply business, I am always eager to share great ideas that protect the health of the foodservice and hospitality industry and those we serve.
Many travelers choose a specific hotel because the cost of a night’s lodging includes a hot breakfast. Since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a temporary shutdown of hotel buffet-style operations around the globe, hoteliers have been taxed to find ways to safely serve their guests a satisfying meal to start their day or resume their travels. Many have found clever ways to deliver.
On our journey, what the hotels we visited all had in common was clear signage requiring masks and social distancing, like the TableCraft signage pictured at left, and hand sanitizer everywhere. The rest of their approach to breakfast varied wildly from one property to the next, even amongst properties in the same hotel chain.
Here are a few approaches we experienced and ideas to consider as you continue to adapt your breakfast service to ever-changing conditions, local health codes and mandates.
The Cool Send-off
The key to safety with this type of buffet is providing individually packaged foods preferably in merchandisers that don't provide opportunities for guests to dig around for the best one. TableCraft's spiral fruit basket is a perfect example of a stylish display that safely and gently dispenses a single piece of fruit at a time.
Although vigilant hand hygiene and utensil cleaning practices are always a must, antimicrobial tongs or utensils are valuable tools to have as an added layer of protection in your food safety program.
With this service model, you can still make use of traditional buffet equipment and create a more impressive presentation for your guests that provides a sense of "normalcy". An attendant serves each guest from the buffet as the guest identifies their choices. This way, only the gloved, masked attendant touches tongs, spoons, and handles of chafers and other buffet equipment.
One property we visited went so far as staffing a dedicated attendant at the normally self-service coffee station, an added measure of safety that we deeply appreciated as guests.
Self-service Buffet with a Twist
When I began to lift the first chafer lid, napkin in hand, much to my surprise, I noticed through the glass something I hadn’t seen before. Inside each labeled chafer, everything from sausages, omelets, and rosemary potatoes were pre-portioned into single servings and hygienically wrapped in heat-resistant bags to be lifted out with tongs. It looked unorthodox, but we appreciated the extra time the staff took to protect their guests. Once we reached our table in the socially distanced dining room, we un-bagged the items to reveal an appealing and satisfying hot breakfast.
In 7 hotels, we saw 7 different ways of managing breakfast, proof that there is no single, one-size-fits-all solution. Only one property opted out of breakfast entirely, putting us back on the road hungry and sadly in search of yet another drive-through.
If you're ready to retool your breakfast buffet so you can send your guests off happy, we're here to help. With product solutions and ideas from buffet innovators like TableCraft, BauscherHepp, Cambro, Hatco, and more, we can help with anything from compliance signage to hot and cold holding to touch free dining. Contact us.