Breakfast club

Feeding the soul as well as the body with the first meal of the day.

Lodging choices are becoming increasingly important as more guests are considering a hotel to be part of their destination, rather than just a means to it. They are making use of the entire property—not just the guestrooms—and many properties are revamping their common spaces in light of these changes. Lobby is the new coffee shop, and folks are working and relaxing in these communal settings. Bringing people together over the first meal of the day is also an excellent way to make them feel a sense of community.

Even if you’re not a big breakfast person, it’s hard to pass up that complimentary hotel morning meal. Pancake, waffle, and omelet stations lure the breakfast faithful, but even the sleepy-eyed who just come for the coffee can hardly pass up on a little Greek yogurt and fruit. And whatever the offerings, a free meal goes a long way toward gaining customer loyalty.

In 2016, USA Today conducted an informal reader survey to determine which economy and midscale brands offered the best complimentary breakfast. IHG, Marriott, Choice, and Hyatt all got praises. But among frequent travelers surveyed, the favorites were Hilton brands: Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, and Hilton Garden Inn took 61 percent of the votes.

It’s been more than three decades since Hampton Inn introduced free breakfast as a brand standard. Now Hilton is shaking up the breakfast world a bit more.

First, there’s Tru by Hilton, the new midscale franchise-only brand inspired by a “millennial mindset” and offering public spaces for lounging, eating, playing, working, and working out. Tru is bringing a complimentary “toppings bar” to the breakfast table, with 30 sweet and savory options for customizing offerings like bagels, donuts, oatmeal, and yogurt, and staying, well, true, to its interactive model for guests.

Intended to be “more than just a place to sleep” Hilton intends its Tru brand to be “a true travel experience” in and of itself. A toppings bar goes a little further in making breakfast an experience. With so many options, guests are bound to start conversations over the myriad possible creations. They are more likely to linger in the dining area and have positive feelings about their stay as a whole.

Tru isn’t the only brand subverting the breakfast paradigm. Hilton’s upscale new Canopy brand is now open in Washington, D.C., at The Wharf, with other properties opening this year in Bethesda, Dallas, and Portland, Oregon. Canopy is putting a renewed focus on the continental breakfast with an informed eye towards the latest “healthy and indulgent” trends like fresh-baked bread, charcuterie and cheese, smoked salmon, and daily rotating frittatas and breakfast flatbreads. For those guests who must hurry out the door, however, there is the “Rise and Dine” option. Staff will hang a light offering of fruit, yogurt, and juice outside the door so guests can grab and go with ease. Nespresso machines in the rooms ensure that no one’s too caffeine-deprived to face the day.

Aside from frequent business travelers, most people only stay in hotels a few times each year. Of course room comfort matters: no one will clamor to return to an establishment offering dimly lit, poorly appointed rooms. But the way to guests’ hearts might just be through their stomachs.