Breakfast may boast the highest capture rate of internal guests, but the meal period has often been strictly safety first. Not so at Destination Hotels, where around 25 of the company’s 40-plus properties are making mornings brighter through creative, chef-driven menu items, says Lou Trope, senior VP, F&B experiences, for Englewood, Colorado-based Destination Hotels. “Breakfast offers us the opportunity to put a stake in the ground,” he says. “This meal sets the tone of a guest’s stay.”
A two-pronged overhaul during the past year changes that tone: Chefs examine options that are unique and local to the area, with a healthy perspective in mind. Instead of approaching breakfast in the traditional way—”as a necessary evil,” Trope says—chefs are encouraged to offer “a welcome surprise,” stretching their creativity while offering a truly memorable experience.
Rather than jolt guests completely out of their comfort zones, breakfast menus at Destination properties nudge them away. So the familiar remains, with an upscale twist: At the new Camby Hotel in Phoenix, breakfast hash upgrades with mesquite-smoked brisket, Yukon potatoes, and red-eye gravy, piquing curiosity and stimulating palates without alienating traditionalists. Meanwhile, local and regional products and ingredients snag the spotlight. At Carolina Inn’s Crossroads Restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Executive Chef James Clark plays with ideas in his recently renovated kitchen featuring, among other new equipment, Delfield coolers and freezers, a Restaurant Technologies oil removal system, and a Vitamix 5202 XL. He combines local grits, aged cheddar, eggs, and tomatoes, and a lox-and-bagel spinoff features North Carolina smoked sunburst trout.
Todd Shepard, director of operations, F&B, at Paradise Point in San Diego, calls breakfast the “trust meal,” an opportunity to wow guests and encourage lunch or dinner visits. Handling 300 to 400 covers daily in high season, breakfast at Paradise Point’s Barefoot Bar & Grill is “authentically immersed,” thanks to Shepard’s in-house “coolest dishes” contest. The biggest hits, featured under the menu’s Baja Fresh subhead—Carnitas Hash, Huevos Rancheros, Quesadilla Scramble, and Surfer Burrito—complement specialty drinks such as BBG Sangria.
“We give cooks an opportunity to display their talents, and guests see more than eggs, bacon, and potatoes,” Shepard explains. “Locals drive business, so when developing a menu, I offer conservative dishes for the vacationing Midwestern family and smoked pork belly with chipotle Hollandaise for the beach-dweller down the street.”
As a whole, F&B at Destination properties contributes 44% of revenues, with breakfast as a big driver; Trope notes that its restaurants often boast the area’s “power breakfast,” and as chefs have ramped up breakfast creativity, feedback has been “over-the-top positive. Being ingrained in a regional culture is a huge part of our F&B strategy, so for breakfast, we call out and use regional producers and influences, adapted and pushed forward in creative and unique menu offerings,” Trope explains. “We want chefs to embrace their locale and give guests a takeaway so they talk about the experience.”
The B&C space also benefits from Destination’s fresh breakfast perspective; local items are easily incorporated into action stations, as chefs can boost interaction by sharing with guests information about the products and the philosophy behind them. For groups, the Camby exchanges humdrum Danish pastries for multigrain croissants, local bacon and sausage, and waffle stations with seasonal fruit toppings, which especially appeal to sustainability-minded groups.
A couple of properties have considered or experimented with all-day breakfast items, but most locations reserve them for mornings only, often hosting hotel guests on weekdays, with weekend brunches to accommodate locals. Still, chefs are careful to avoid creative ruts by working seasonally or experimenting with specials. For example, Paradise Point has created a build-your-own Benedict option, with different bases (pork belly, crab cakes, shrimp, or traditional) and five different varieties of Hollandaise, to ensure variety for return guests.
Locals are also a focus at the Camby, where Dushyant Singh, director of culinary experiences, takes a street-food approach for fun, crafty breakfasts at its Artisan restaurant. He puts his own twist
Destination Hotels Breakfast on global favorites, using local products and ingredients. The Costa Rican-inspired Spotted Rooster, for example, combines heirloom beans, rice, fried egg, and plantains. Singh believes dine-in guests crave the memorable, such as shareable kumquat beignets, alongside familiar favorites elevated through preparation techniques, such as seared French toast.
“Hotel guests want to go where locals go, so if we provide that local scene at our restaurant, we’ll see more capture from hotel guests,” Singh observes. “We treat Artisan as an independent restaurant, moving away from the typical hotel breakfast menu.”
Trope wants each hotel to create its own perspective and avoid the cookie-cutter. “It’s not just breakfast; it’s an opportunity,” Shepard stresses. “I want a chef- and culture-driven experience that’s all about the food. Every item needs to be a wow.”