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One of the most challenging things about booking hotels during COVID has been figuring out what you’re actually going to find when you get there.

We’ve talked before about changes in hotel service during COVID and how hotels compare vs Airbnb. Nowhere are these changes felt more than the ubiquitous hotel breakfast. Before COVID, most hotel chains had a pretty standard procedure for breakfast. When you went to a Hampton Inn or a Holiday Inn Express, you knew what you were likely going to see. Whether you love or hate the hotel breakfast, you at least KNEW what to expect and could adjust your spending and stay patterns accordingly.

But with COVID, it seems like every single hotel is doing something different. I’m sure I’m not the only one trying to scour hotel reviews to get an idea of what to expect when arriving at the hotel. Would the pool be open? The fitness center? Would there be breakfast? I totally understand that there is a WIDE range in people’s opinions and expectations about traveling during COVID, and that’s fine. Not to mention that due to mask mandates and specific local laws and orders, it is probably impossible for every single Residence Inn to have the exact same standards. Again, I just want to know what to expect.

Calling 37 Different Hotels: My Methodology

I am planning an upcoming county trip with my son and we have 3 nights of hotels in Tennessee and Mississippi. I started calling up hotels we were considering staying at, and then I thought it might be useful to see a range of what these different hotels are doing. After I called the hotels in the areas we were looking at, I went back and called hotel brands in other areas to try and get a bit more of a sample. I focused on the low-to-middle tier hotels where — before COVID — you would have expected a free hot breakfast. So not the Rodeway Inn where they told me they’d charge me if I stole their alarm clock, but not the Grand Hyatt, either.

Keep in mind that the change in CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated people has only just recently been announced (at the time of the writing of this post). And just as it took time for individual businesses to start mask mandates, it will also take some time for those businesses to change their policies. But I would say that it is only a matter of time before mask mandates in all hotels are dropped and breakfast becomes more standardized. Whether the hotel breakfast buffet is dead, as some have surmised, remains to be seen.

COVID Breakfast at Marriott Hotels

Here is what I found about the Marriott hotel breakfast during COVID:

  • TownePlace Suites Louisville Airport – Grab and go. Cereal, yogurt, fruit, juice. Already in a bag. They have labels for different options.
  • TownePlace Suites Hattiesburg – Hot breakfast waffles, bacon, and eggs.
  • Springhill Suites Columbus Easton – Grab and Go. Hard boiled eggs, bagels, muffins, croissants. Buffet area is open but no hot stuff. You just take whatever you want.
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Hattiesburg – Bagged breakfast – granola bar, fruit, and 2 water bottles.
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Murfreesboro – Granola bars and pop tarts – grab and go.
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Chattanooga I-24/Lookout Mountain – During the week, a continental style. You come down and take what you want from bagels, cereal, milk, etc. On the weekends (Saturday and Sunday) there is hot breakfast.
  • Residence Inn Hattiesburg – Grab and go – bacon egg and croissant. Go down and tell them what you want and they put it in a bag. Not doing the weeknight managers reception (AKA free dinner)
  • Residence Inn Nashville SE / Murfreesboro – Hot breakfast – only difference is instead of a buffet, hotel employees serve the food. Grab and go items. Mixers on Mon/Tues/Wed started back on May 1.

How Hilton Hotels Do Breakfast During COVID

Here is what I learned about Hilton’s hotel breakfast during COVID:

  • Home2 Suites by Hilton Charleston Airport/Convention Center, SC – Scrambled egg bowls, waffles, yogurt, not a full hot breakfast. No sausage / bacon. They do have breakfast biscuits.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Hattiesburg – Hot breakfast no restrictions.
  • Hampton Inn by Hilton Hattiesburg – Full service started back up on May 1.
  • Hampton Inn Chattanooga West/Lookout Mountain – Full breakfast, same as it ever was.
  • Hampton Inn & Suites Murfreesboro – Boxed breakfast. Yogurt, bagel and cream cheese, fruit. You come down to the front desk and pick it up. Pre-packaged.
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown – $10 credit for the breakfast. Mon-Fri it’s at The Daily Grind / Starbucks. Saturday and Sunday it’s something else.
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Murfreesboro – Back to buffet breakfast in the restaurant, which is complimentary for Golds and Diamonds.
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton Chattanooga – Hamilton Place – Grab and go. Pre-assembled boxes – breakfast sandwich with yogurt. Another box is boiled egg and bagel with cream cheese. You pick between the 2 boxes. Plus fruit and other things. No evening reception.
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Nashville SE Murfreesboro – Full service hot breakfast in the restaurant. Complimentary for everyone. Evening reception 5:30 to 7 every day.

COVID Breakfast Options at Hyatt Hotels

Here’s what Hyatt is doing about breakfast during COVID:

  • Hyatt House Chicago / West Loop-Fulton Market – Grab and go. Already in a bag. Water, muffin and an orange.
  • Hyatt Place Cincinnati / Sharonville – Grab and go. You pick what you want. Fruit, juice, pre-packaged things.

Breakfast at IHG Hotels in the Pandemic

Here is what I found about the IHG hotel breakfast during COVID-19:

  • Staybridge Suites Orlando / Sea World – To-go box – pick off a list. Juice, fruit / granola bar or muffin. Breakfast sandwiches. Big selection. No evening reception. Once they start that, they’ll also go back to their buffet breakfast.
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chattanooga-Lookout Mtn – Grab and go. Muffin, fruit cup, milk, yogurt, bottled water, juice. This was actually (correctly!) listed on their website.
  • Holiday Inn Express Murfreesboro Central – Full hot breakfast. They make it for you instead of buffet. Cinnamon rolls are back.

I appreciated that the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chattanooga-Lookout Mountain actually had the change to breakfast listed on their website. The Staybridge Suites Orlando Seaworld, on the other hand, showed this on its website:

a close-up of a white background

Which just makes me feel like …

a man with a beard

COVID Breakfast at Wyndham Hotels

Here’s Wyndham’s hotel breakfast situation:

  • Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Cincinnati/Sharonville – Grab and go. Pick what you want. Muffins, buns, cereals, pre packaged things. Juice / Water.
  • Wingate by Wyndham New York Midtown South/5th Ave – Grab and Go. Muffin (different one each day), granola bar, fruit cup or yogurt and a juice. In a bag inside a bag.
  • La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Cincinnati NE – Mason – Grab and go – already packaged. muffin, dry cereal, granola bar, milk carton, breakfast croissant.
  • Baymont by Wyndham Hattiesburg – Hot limited breakfast. Not a grab and go.
  • Days Inn by Wyndham Chattanooga Lookout Mountain West – No breakfast at all.
  • Ramada by Wyndham Murfreesboro – Full breakfast – sausage, biscuit, gravy, waffles, danishes. Same as pre-COVID.

COVID Breakfast Choices at Other Hotels

Here is what I found about the hotel breakfast during COVID at other hotels:

  • Drury Inn & Suites Columbus Convention Center – Still doing normal buffet and evening reception. Someone from the hotel will serve it.
  • Comfort Suites Hattiesburg – Pre-packed muffins, sandwiches, orange juice. Already in a bag.
  • Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Chattanooga-Lookout Mountain – Grab and go. Muffins, fruit, granola bar. You pick what you want.
  • Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Murfreesboro, TN – Granola bar, apple, coffee cake and juice. Grab and go.
  • Best Western Royal Inn – Putting out pre-packaged plates, scrambled eggs, sausage and biscuits. Coffee in room but no drinks as part of the breakfast.
  • Comfort Inn & Suites Lookout Mountain – Egg and cheese breakfast sandwich, banana and other types of muffins, breakfast sandwiches, sausage biscuits, juice, coffee. You pick what you want and then bag it to go or take back to your room.
  • Clarion Inn Murfreesboro – Grab and go. Water bottle, granola bar, cupcakes, honey bun.
  • Econo Lodge Inn & Suites Murfreesboro – No breakfast.
  • Sleep Inn Murfreesboro – Sausage, waffles. Back to pre-COVID except no eggs and bacon.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, the range of what to expect during a COVID hotel breakfast varies widely:

  • Hotels that are not offering any sort of breakfast at all, even though they previously did.
  • Places doing grab and go of pre-packaged items that are already in a bag.
  • Hotels offering grab and go where the food is out and you point to what you want and they pack it up for you.
  • Lodging that offers hot breakfast but with limited items.
  • Hotels that are back to exactly what you would have expected pre-COVID.

Hopefully things will begin to standardize soon … and it will be interesting to see what the future of the “free hotel breakfast” looks like in a year or two.

What has your experience been getting hotel breakfast during COVID? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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