Why Aren’t Hotel Breakfasts Open Until 11am?

a plate of cookies and a teapot
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It seems a bit of a cruel joke when on holiday. You finally get away from the office with your loved one, enjoy a romantic evening, and then sleep in for the first time in months. Ensconced in a pile of cozy pillows you imagine starting your day together with pancakes and leisurely cups of coffee. You snake your arm out from underneath the duvet and inch the clock toward you. 10:23am. You groan, remembering that the hotel said breakfast ended at 10am.

Oftentimes a lazy breakfast is just what you want when staying at a hotel for vacation, but the hotel doesn’t always agree on the time you’d like to keep it open until because hotels often cater to business travelers as well. At some properties where a buffet is available, it is not uncommon to see staff stop refilling the bowls and clearing items away more than half an hour before it closes.

So why isn’t breakfast open until at least 11am at all hotels?

Here are some of the reasons behind the earlier breakfast buffet end time –

1. A lot of work goes into keeping breakfast buffet items fresh, and some items cannot (or should not) just sit there for hours on end. Think eggs, juice, cut fruits. Hotels usually have a ton of warming containers and refrigerated cases to help with this, but it also means they have to have extra stock to keep items replenished.

2. Breakfast can be a messy ordeal, with lots of condiments to clean up like individual jam containers, pats of butter, multiple glasses and dishes for juices, tea, coffee, oatmeal, milk, etc. If breakfast starts at 6am and ends at 10am, that’s a full 6 hours for the staff to work (including the hour of prep and hour of clean up afterwards) plus they need an hour for lunch and breaks to round out their day. If breakfast runs until 11am, it lengthens their workday or requires extra staff.

3. The hotel has to get all those bread crumbs cleaned up and linen refreshed in time for the lunch service. Since hotels often have business traveler guests needing breakfast at an early hour before heading out to meetings, they also need to have lunch available at a reasonable hour. If breakfast is still open at 11am that means the hotel won’t be able to offer lunch starting early unless it is in a different restaurant, thus losing out on revenue.

4. With standard check-out around noon, if breakfast always went until 11am people would be tempted to linger, then return back to their room to pack up. It might take them longer to get their items together and then push the check out time a little, affecting the travelers arriving early.

How can you get around the early breakfast end time?

Hotels that have grab and go items rather than a full buffet don’t have the same constraints as properties needing the extensive cleanup, so you may find the hours extended.

Grab and go breakfast
Easy grab and go breakfast

Another option is to stay at a luxury hotel. Many luxury properties offer breakfast until 11am at least on weekends as a nicety and nod to traveler preferences.

Park Hyatt Tokyo Breakfast
Park Hyatt Tokyo Breakfast

One of the best options is to order room service.

Room Service Breakfast at InterContinental Monterey
Room Service Breakfast at InterContinental The Clement Monterey

Even if you can’t drag yourself downstairs in time before breakfast ends, as long as you can make the call a minute or two in advance you can still enjoy a leisurely late breakfast…in bed, which is perhaps the most enjoyable way of all.

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  1. If only someone would manage to find a way to serve food whole day. That would be brilliant business idea!

    1. @dotti cahill, you are right. Some properties do delay lunch until noon or so (especially the luxury ones), but others either feel their workers need more time to clear everything away or think they’ll get enough business if they start lunch earlier to justify the 10/10:30am breakfast end time.

  2. Should I assume you are talking only about Inns that offer a free buffet breakfast? At a hotel with a full hotel restaurant, they should be (but aren’t always) willing to accommodate reasonable requests.

    Just by chance, I recently had this conversation with a manager at a large (11 story) Residence Inn. It has a very narrow breakfast window (7-9:30), and becomes very crowded, so I got breakfast neither before I left in the morning nor when I returned. I told them they had a breakfast area woefully undersized for the size of the hotel, and they could rectify the crowding by simply extending hours.

    The response was interesting. I was told breakfast hours are set by the corporate office and the individual RIs have NO flexibility. I was also told they had tried methods to encourage guests to come to breakfast before the rush, and had little effect. (No surprise)

    Fair enough. My response was that the hotel should make it easier to simply take breakfast back to the room, to eat at the guest’s leisure. If you wanted breakfast at 10:30, but had to pick it up at 9:30 and take it back to your room, would that bother you? It would be fine with me.

    1. Interesting, @Joseph N. That does seem like a small window for breakfast hours, and I’m not surprised the hotel’s efforts to get guests to come to breakfast early didn’t work out either. I like the fact that they tried though. What did they say to your suggestion to allow guests to bring back food to their rooms?

      I was thinking primarily of chain hotels when I wrote the article, including those that have Club lounges where breakfast may be included via loyalty status. I’ve been in Club lounges that are overcrowded too, and indeed the problem typically seems to be the size of the space for the number of guests arriving at the same time (or just too small overall). When that happens I usually pass on breakfast altogether, not wanting to deal with the mayhem in the morning. In that case I don’t think extending the hours would help since they are usually decent.

      I would be absolutely fine with having the option to order from room service in lieu, but wouldn’t go to the lounge to put together a plate to bring back to the room. In breakfast areas that are too busy, the food is usually picked over and scarce and I’d have to stand in a line just to get a plate. If I had to come at an earlier hour than I wanted to eat I’d just skip breakfast and eat later but that’s just me. Others may think differently.

  3. Basically lunch starts at 11am most places so they have to transition at some point. If it ended at 11am there would be people asking why it doesn’t last until Noon.
    Think about it this way. Sure there is possible jet lag events but if you need 8 hours of sleep which is what most people need for a full night of sleep and you sleep in until 10:23am it means that you went to bed at 2:23am’ish. Maybe in Vegas this is normal but for most places it’s not.
    I actually think that business hotels that don’t start breakfast until 6:30am or 7am are more of a problem for most travelers. Don’t even get me started on fitness centers that aren’t open 24 hours a day though 🙂

    1. @DaninMCI I completely agree – the transition has to be somewhere. My favorite is when breakfast is available 24 hours a day via room service. That way it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, I can always get a couple of eggs.

      You’d think that fitness centers would be open 24 hours a day, and there is nothing more discouraging than actually getting geared up and motivated to work out only to find that it is closed. Sounds like you feel my pain there!

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