Breakfast is widely reported as being the most important meal of the day, but how much are you willing to pay for it?
I’ve eaten some amazing buffet breakfasts in my time; tables laden with fresh honeycomb; heavenly cheese platters; croissants baked to order; pots of fresh fruit; and even bottles of champagne for those wanting to start the day with a real pop.
That said, for every memorable buffet breakfast I’ve had, I’ve been wildly disappointed by at least five others. The ones with stale cereal and odd-smelling luncheon meat, where the eggs are congealed, the bacon is fatty and the fruit is tinned. But my gripe is not with the quality. No, it’s with the price.
On my latest traverse across Europe, I’ve noticed the cost of breakfast slowly creeping up. And up. When I recently lodged at a hotel that charged 42 euros (a whopping $57 AUD) I flatly refused to eat there. How on earth can you get value out of a 42-euro breakfast?
For most guests, a breakfast buffet offers two things: convenience and variety. Once upon a time breakfast was complimentary (and occasionally still is), but with the rise of low-rate internet bookings and the lingering strain of the GFC, the breakfast buffet is now viewed as a cash-cow by hotels.
The price extortion, in the eyes of the hoteliers, is vindicated by those in on business, who after a nibble at a croissant and a sip of coffee, swipe their company card and make a dash for their nine o'clock.
Where does that leave the holidaymakers though? When I’m travelling I don’t get out of bed that early, and most of the time my first meal of the day is lunch which is long after the shutters have been brought down.
Is it pure laziness that leads people to overpaying? It is indeed easier to stay in and eat breakfast. Then there are those value-seekers who take the ‘doggie bag’ approach. You know who you are.
I’ve never been one to pack a lunch from the breakfast buffet on the sly. However, a recent survey from Hotels.com showed that 44% of people take food from the buffet for later in the day. So know that you're not alone.
When I complained to my network of friends on Facebook about the great breakfast rip-offs, I received some interesting responses, including one from a friend who posted a snap of his breakfast menu from the Ritz Carlton hotel in Moscow.
The Ritz Carlton Tsar’s breakfast consisted of tea or coffee, juice, champagne, an assortment of baked goods, jam and honey. Nothing new there you're thinking. Well, it also included beluga caviar, Kobe beef steak (with a truffled omelette) and foie gras, along with a selection of Italian cheeses and hams.
Now that sounds like the perfect way to start the day, even if you have to give the hotel 24 hours notice. As you'd expect, this breakfast is worth a little more coin. It will set you back a staggering 90,000 roubles or $3000AUD.
Another friend pointed out the virtues of the 'Vegas buffet', where lavish casino-based spreads cost no more than $10. In Sin City buffets often lose money but the their profit is made from punters wandering onto the gaming floors post-buffet, gambling the money they saved on their meal.
But what about the relationship between profit and cost elsewhere? How much money does a breakfast buffet cost to operate? For most hotels buffet expenses are fixed and they operate at a low-cost level.
They don’t cost all that much to staff, and they also have a high table turnover. Some of us have meetings while others choose to explore what's beyond the cutlery basket.
For hotels overcharging for the buffet here's some food for thought – breakfast is often the last impression a place can make, so why leave guests feeling as though they are being ripped off?
Does being ripped-off at the breakfast buffet make your blood boil too? Where is the best buffet breakfast you've had?
Related: The world's weirdest food