When Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises was tapped to operate the restaurants at its first hotel, The St. Regis Chicago, the company knew that no ordinary breakfast menu filled with omelets and French toast would cut it. After all, this upscale hotel is the third tallest skyscraper in Chicago and was designed by renowned architect Jeanne Gang.
“Most people like to keep breakfast consistent when at home,” said Kiran Pinto, LEYE managing partner in charge of the hotel’s restaurants. “We wanted to make it special but stay true to the concept.”
Miru, the upscale restaurant at the St. Regis, celebrates the flavors of Japan. So the LEYE team collaborated with the chef/partner Hisanobu Osaka and the culinary team to create the Tokyo Breakfast ($32). It includes grilled umami King salmon, a soft-set egg with salmon roe, dashi tamago, ginger rice and miso soup.
“We source the best ingredients and serve it on beautiful china in a dining room with beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River,” said Pinto. Miru means “view” in Japanese.
Diners are split between leisure and business travelers staying in the 200 hotel rooms, as well as residents of the 400-unit condominium tower that soars above the St. Regis. Plus Chicago business people are coming in for breakfast meetings—which have returned to hotels post-pandemic.
But not everyone wants an elevated Japanese-style breakfast with tea. So Miru’s menu also offers Buttermilk Pancakes with Yuzu Ricotta and Blueberries; Avocado Toast with greens and poached eggs; Cinnamon French Toast; Coconut Chia Pudding; and even a Midwestern Omelet with ham, cheddar and succotash. Plus, there are breakfast pastries and a selection of coffees.
Meeting guests where they are
“We’ve done lots of research around what the guest is looking for and what they value in a hotel stay, and breakfast is in the top five,” said Adam Crocini, VP and global head of food and beverage for Hilton hotels. “So we took a close look at what we’re offering and reimagined breakfast post-pandemic.”
Hilton has an extensive portfolio of brands, from the economy-conscious Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites, where a breakfast buffet is typically included, up to the hip Tempo and luxe Waldorf Astoria.
“We are changing up the buffets at most of the breakfast-included brands, focusing on quality, not just quantity,” said Crocini. Guests can still make their own waffles, a family favorite, but there are also better-for-you choices and on-trend products. “Along with regular dairy milk, we now offer almond milk and oat milk. These are brand standards,” said Crocini. He also noted that 85% of guests take breakfast when it’s included, “and having the ability to touch that guest gives them a reason to return.”
Hilton’s newest brand is Tempo, positioned as a lifestyle brand for the young professional.
“They want to wake up in the morning, work out in a great gym and have a fresh, light, clean breakfast experience,” Crocini said. Hilton recently partnered with Bluestone Lane, a “lifestyle coffee café” with roots in Australia, and every Tempo will have a Bluestone Coffee experience, he added.
The Omni Louisville Hotel also offers a breakfast option geared to younger diners. Although there’s a traditional sit-down restaurant on the premises, Falls City Market offers a more flexible and varied food hall experience. The food hall serves as a destination for hotel guests and locals alike, with morning meal concepts including Con Huevos Craves, Heine Brothers’ Coffee café and JJBakes.
Service is fast-casual style, and diners can grab a coffee, snag a table, and go back to order up a fresh-baked muffin or croissant at the bakery. Or they can opt for a breakfast sandwich at Con Huevos, made on a warm brioche bun stacked with ingredients like a chorizo patty, cage-free egg, cheddar, jalapeno aioli, avocado, arugula and pickled onions in The Mex-Pert ($9.99). There are four breakfast sandwiches in all, as well as four bowls for gluten-free customers and specialties such as a breakfast burrito, chilaquiles and 3 Leches Pancakes topped with fresh fruit. Prices range from $8.99 to $13.99.
Hours are flexible too, going from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Breakfast like a chef
The Source Hotel, a boutique hotel in Denver, is home to Safta, Chef Alon Shaya’s modern Israeli restaurant. Every weekend, Safta serves a traditional Israeli breakfast buffet laden with favorites including several types of hummus and other spreads, olives, smoked fish, borekas, shakshouka with eggs, pastrami hash, vegetable salads, fruits, and Rosenberg’s bagels, a famous bagel and deli destination in Denver.
The buffet gives guests control over their eating decisions, something today’s hotel customers desire, and there are countless ways to create combinations with the dozens of dishes on display, said Shaya in an email.
“A great hotel breakfast and brunch is personally one of my favorite things to experience when traveling. It’s a window into a culture or a town or country,” he added. “I believe that through executing a well done breakfast menu, you set the tone for your guests for the rest of the day. That is the ticket to a great hotel experience.”
Chef-driven restaurants continue to be a selling point for hotels, but previously, the dinner menu had been the focus. Shaya sees an opportunity in the earlier daypart.
“Hotels have to always outdo one another to get guests to decide to stay there versus the competition. Breakfast and brunch menus allow chefs the creativity to flex their muscles, but it’s a delicate balance to offer something special and still hit all the notes that people are seeking,” he said. “If it’s done well, it can also attract locals who aren’t staying at the hotel but want to make the meal a special occasion for a group of friends or families.”
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