As a family of 8, one of the best perks out there is free breakfast. 8 meals is expensive! But what beats free breakfast? Free breakfast AND free dinner!!!
Most of the US hotels that I stay in offer free breakfast (to one degree or another), though it is true that sometimes I have the misfortune to stay in a “nice” hotel like the Luxor Las Vegas or the Palmer House Hilton or even the Sheraton Suites Columbus, where they love to charge me for everything (breakfast, wifi, etc.) but the bed.
But there are a good chunk of hotels that also offer a free “dinner”. I put quotes around dinner because most times they don’t actually CALL it dinner, but in my book, if you’re giving me lots of food around 5 or 6 pm, that’s dinner!!!
I remember many years ago when I was first out of college, at one of my first jobs I was invited to a holiday party that advertised “Heavy Hors D’Oeuvres”. Carolyn and I were not quite sure what that meant or if we should eat beforehand or not. Turn out that “Heavy Hors D’Oeuvres” is code for “dinner”. In my experience, it’s the same thing with “Manager’s Reception” or “Evening Social Hour”
Ric at the Loyalty Traveler recently returned from a trip around Norway and reported that most of the Clarion Choice hotels that he stayed in there offered something for dinner. Similarly, even in the US, there are many larger hotels that have a “lounge” floor that you can access with a special room rate and/or elite status that often offer spreads throughout the day that are similar to the lounge spreads that I saw in the American Express Centurion Lounge at the Las Vegas Airport.
But today we’re talking just about regular hotels in the US that offer dinner.
Homewood Suites (Hilton)
First up is the Homewood Suites by Hilton. This is actually one of my favorite chains, as a 2BR suite at Homewood Suites is just about the only single room that can fit our family of 8 (otherwise we need to book 2 rooms). The only thing that kills me is that the 2BR units are usually not bookable with a standard award, and instead what we’ve had good luck is booking a 1BR and then using Gold Status to get a free upgrade to a 2BR. We’re 2/2 in doing this.
Dinner is available at Homewood Suites on Monday – Thursday nights. At our latest stay at the Homewood Suites Dayton Fairborn, we stayed on a Friday night, so didn’t get to take advantage of that, but when we were at the Homewood Suites Dublin (Ohio!) we did get a great dinner. The menu changes every day, so since I have a vegetarian wife and picky kids, I actually called ahead and planned my stay on a day they were having something I thought everyone would like (Cheese Ravioli, which was awesome)
Residence Inn (Marriott)
I haven’t focused much on Marriott brands since I’ve been in the miles and points game, but we did have a stay a few years ago at the Residence Inn Denver Highlands Ranch, when visiting my in-laws.
This particular Residence Inn has an “Evening Social” Monday through Wednesday, and actually even post their menu online (pdf). Some Residence Inns also give dinner on Thursdays (check your local hotel for schedule). There is a Flyertalk thread talking about experiences with different RIs and the quality and availability of Evening Social food.
When we were there, they had hot dogs and hamburgers one night, and one night it was pizza ordered from a local place. As an added bonus, at the end of the Evening Social, there was still pizza left over and they let us take it (lunch the next day, anyone?) I know that for some people this would not be considered a “good” dinner, but for us, it was awesome.
Staybridge Suites (IHG)
Here’s an example of the Staybridge Suites San Diego.
Most (all?) Staybridge Suites offer dinner during 3 days on the week. It’s often on Tuesday – Thursday nights, but can vary. The Staybridge Suites San Diego offers “Sundowner Receptions with free beer, wine and sake.” When we stayed at the Staybridge Suites Orlando Airport South, the dinner was Monday-Wednesday and on the day we were there was a full taco bar with all the fixings!
One bonus is that Staybridge Suites are often pretty commonly on the IHG Pointbreaks list. The Staybridge Suites San Diego is on the current (October and November) list, which means that it can be booked for only 5,000 points a night!!
A few others
Drury Inn is a smaller hotel chain that is mostly found in the midwest (property list here). Their tag line is “The Extras are not Extra” and they do not disappoint in food. They offer the “5:30 kickback“, which is free hot food and cold beverages for all guests EVERY DAY. “Our rotating menu features a variety of hot food, including chicken strips, macaroni & cheese, hot dogs, baked potatoes, broccoli cheddar soup and more! Plus, beer, wine, mixed drinks and soft drinks are served everyday”. Unfortunately their rewards program is not that great and the only credit card I’ve seen only offers 15,000 bonus points and 1 pt/$.
When we were at the Drury Inn And Suites Columbus Convention Center (pictured above) they had hot dogs, rice, pasts, and chicken for the 5:30 Kickback, along with 2 alcohol drink tickets – it was the best “free” hotel dinner I’ve ever had!
Some Embassy Suites also offer the “Manager’s Receptions” – here is an example of the one in Greensboro, NC, which only mentions drink (no food), so you’d definitely want to call on that. Others I’ve seen offer “light appetizers” and others didn’t seem to mention anything.
There’s a FlyerTalk thread talking about this that has some more details and suggestions. One good quote
Note that *all* of the lower-to-midrange suburban U.S. brands listed in this thread will have a…umm, how should I say this?…wide variance in the quality of their evening snacks.
This should give you an idea of where to look, but you’ll always want to call ahead or investigate because it’s definitely going to vary by chain and even by hotel.
Have you ever had free dinner at a hotel? What was your experience like? Did I miss any of your favorite dinner-providing hotels? Leave a comment below!