The great buffet breakfast rip-off

The great buffet breakfast rip-off

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 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?

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User comments
The best one I ever had was the Marriott in Hurgada, Egypt. My favorite is the Hyatt inner harbor in Baltimore, Maryland.
marriott hotel budapest - has the best food amazing eggs, cheeses, tables and tables of breakfast food. Amazing
Rydges Hotels are in every major city in Australia & beside having the same food on for breakfast in all the hotels I really get *** when Im paying my bill to be charged an extra for using my credit card. The bank charges me an annual fee, more outlets are charging me a fee to use the card...what a rip off! When I book a flight I get charged for using my credit card as a "Service Fee" what nonsense! When I eat a restaraunt they want to charge me 15% "Service Charge" ...well my response is "If I didnt eat there they would get nothing" so what is their staff for? so its time for us as travellers to stop being taken for a ride Stacker
the best breakfast buffet i have ever had was many years ago at the Squids Ink motel in Belmont, Newcastle it had everything imagineable and all beautifully cooked. Next best has been at the Radisson Kuhio (now Hilton) in Waikiki. scrummy!!
Best buffet breakfast we enjoyed as a family would have to be The Novotel Darling Harbour and at the time was included in the tariff which was very reasonable. Everything was fresh and hot and all cultures were catered for. This was 10 years ago and a lot has changed...sure hope the buffet brekky at Novotel has not.
I can recommend 2 hotels for excellent value buffet breakfast - Hotel Weiss Kreuz in Innsbruck, Austria and Hotel Matyas in Budapest, Hungary.
I have had two wonderful stays where the beffet breckies were sublime. Recently The Langham MELBOURNE and The Hilton BRISBANE.
Years ago I went on a round the world trip and the best place for a buffet brekky was at the Hilton in Anaheim, Disneyland. It had everything form continental to a cooked brekky, it was all fresh as the dishes were being replaced all the time with freshly made and cooked stuff, the fruits and pastries were delicious and staff very helpful. Yes there are those who stack up and use doggie bags which is not on in my book and take their meal away for later in the day
As a restaurant owner, how much would you be prepared to pay for a full buffet breakfast. and when you say it is slowly creaping up define creaping up, because if does go up this end aswell. As i do agree that is very expensive to pay for breakfast but what would be the write price!!!!!
Recently I stayed at "The Western" in KL the buffet breakfast was one of the best in the world! it had everything from european to western to asian dishes, a bakery with every baked sweet and savoury you could imagine, plus everything in between, and was a staggering 100m long! I was in heaven. Little dissapointed when we flew to Phuket the following week only to have a very standard buffet breakfast.. still was good, but not as good as "The Western"