Experiences with Starwood’s new Platinum breakfast policy?

Several weeks ago Starwood announced that they would be revamping their loyalty program, adding several new benefits for super-frequent guests. While they didn’t add a new top tier above Platinum status, they did start to differentiate between Platinum guests that requalify on 25 stays per year and those that spend 75+ nights per year at Starwood hotels. They added benefits like confirmed suite upgrades, 24 hour stays, free breakfast, and even lifetime status.

Anyway, the changes kicked in on March 1, and the one thing I was most curious to see the execution of was the complimentary breakfast benefit. Platinum members now have the option of selecting continental breakfast as a Platinum amenity at check-in, in place of 500 Starwood points or a welcome gift. The reason I was so curious about the execution is because I stayed at the Le Meridien San Francisco a few weeks ago on a Fine Hotels & Resorts rate, which includes continental breakfast, and was offered orange juice and a croissant. Yes, that’s technically continental breakfast, though certainly not in the “spirit” of continental breakfast in North America.

Starwood has promised they’ll have “brand standards” as to what a continental breakfast consists of, though it appears some hotels are off to a rough start with the new benefit, as noted in this FlyerTalk thread. While some reports are good, others note that some hotels are pretty stingy with the benefit. One FlyerTalk member notes that the W Los Angeles Westwood offers a $12.50 breakfast credit, enough for juice and a muffin. Another member notes that the Westin Jersey City set up a table outside the restaurant for Platinum members (with no seating) containing coffee, orange juice, and muffins, instead of giving them access to the continental breakfast inside the restaurant.

So while I trust Starwood will follow up with these hotels, it seems the benefit is off to a somewhat rocky start.

Reader sendaiben even notes that the St. Regis Bangkok previously offered Platinum members complimentary breakfast (as is the case with many hotels in Asia), though now you have to choose breakfast and the 500 point Platinum amenity. Anyway, it’s hardly surprising and the hotel is perfectly reasonable for doing so, though if you previously planned your Starwood stays well by frequenting properties that offered free breakfast, you might just come out behind with the new benefit.

I have several Starwood stays over the coming weeks, so can’t wait to see how they handle “breakfast.”

Have you guys had any experiences with the new continental breakfast benefit yet? Would love to hear your experiences!

Comments

  1. Le Meridien Brussels offered their standard 19 EUR breakfast as the breakfast benefit. There were lots of breads, pastries, waffles, cereals, meats, yogurts and tons of fresh squeezed juices and coffee. So far so good…tomorrow I check into Sheraton Park Lane London and we’ll see what happens there.

  2. What’s the “spirit” of a continental breakfast?

    A continental breakfast is “a light breakfast (as of rolls or toast and coffee)” (see http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/continental%20breakfast )

    Time you stop whining about getting exactly what you’re promised: there are lots of hotels where you don’t even get that, or regular stuff (like ski storage at the Westin in Whistler) is an extra, undisclosed, hefty fee.

  3. @ No to obesity — Well serving muffins and croissants certainly wouldn’t help with preventing obesity, now would it?

    The “spirit” or “interpretation” of continental breakfast in North America is what we see with most continental breakfast buffets in the US, and what Starwood Lurker on FlyerTalk has said a continental breakfast should consist of: “The free continental breakfast will vary by hotel but will typically include cereals, breads/pastries.”

  4. this is why i was skeptical of the breakfast benefit. Not only will hotels that previously had Plat breakfasts begin to downgrade, but many hotels without lounges will do like the Westin Jersey City or the Westin LAX.

    That is why I like the Hyatt approach. Full breakfast, period, without tradeoffs or guesswork.

  5. Just checked-in to the Westin LAX and they gave me a voucher for the local Starbucks for a bakery item and a coffee…honestly, that’s all I want so I am good with it.

  6. @theblakefish – the one and only time I stayed there, that is what the Westin LAX gave for having their club lounge closed on the weekend. I much prefer the Sheraton LAX, one of the better hotels in their system.

  7. Per Chris Holdren, the head of the SPG program, there’s specific guidance on what continental breakfast means — coffee and juice, fruit, yogurt, cereal, breakfast breads.

    There’s also a recommendation that hotels allow Platinums to buy up to full breakfast for the difference in price between the two offerings, but they are not out of compliance if they fail to offer this.

    It’s a big change and it’ll take some time with some properties, for sure.

  8. Seriously? Why is a free continental breakfast so important when you can have whatever you want out in the street? Hotel food is never my favorite anyways. Same for the F meals… Unless they start serving Kobe beef or stArt having raw bars I wouldn’t be all too excited

  9. @Zzkgg I’ve had some pretty good Wagyu beef on planes. Good Iranian caviar and top champagne. Halfway decent lobster..

  10. I’m glad I dropped Platinum status with SPG. It’s another nickel-and-diming Starwood special of the type you don’t experience at Hilton or Hyatt.

  11. @Explore maybe Hilton and Hyatt will learn from SPG and start providing continentals instead of a full hot brekkie in the restaurant to save money LOL

  12. The Westin Maui gave me a voucher for a “pre-plated continental breakfast”. When I got to the restaurant, they told me it would be juice/coffee and cereal and that I could upgrade to the buffet for $10 (normally $27+). I went with the buffet which had everything from an omelet station to miso soup…

  13. I’d rather swing by Starbucks and get a coffee and muffin than get one at a hotel anyday. If its free and convenient I’ll take it, but otherwise its more of a pain to me. This offer is akin to an airline offering you free in flight magazines-If its there I’ll look at it but not a big deal if not. Just give me my points and keep the crummy breakfast……

  14. Too many commenters here are MISSING the point. SPG announced this as a global benefit for their most elite customers. This is clearly a response to what *wood’s competition has been offering for some time now. Various opinions about having breakfast at the hotel are, frankly, irrelevant. The *wood network has never excelled at “consistency of offering” in the way that, say, Marriott does; however, they can’t afford to roll out a significant benefit like this and then have properties opt to offer something as paltry as a croissant and juice. The “spirit” of this benefit was, indeed, to offer a legitimate breakfast to those who selected this option.

  15. Just checked into Sheraton Park Lane London. Typically, as a Platinum, I would have access to free breakfast in the Sheraton Club. Today they informed me that if I want breakfast in Sheraton Club, I have to choose that as my amenity. That’s what I was afraid of…

  16. Isn’t it strange how some hotels treat their “best” customers?

    Some hotels seem to use the rationale that Starwood Platinum guests are not necessarily THEIR best guests, so it’s okay to treat them shoddily.

    Tells you something about these hotels’ committment to customers, doesn’t it?

  17. @sbtinme-I think you and others are missing the point. Who the %$@# cares? I’m top tier with *wood, Hilton, and Hyatt mid-tier with Marriott. If *wood really thinks they are doing me a favor as a Platinum or providing me a benefit I have bad news….they haven’t. If I really want a breakfast I’ll just stay at the Embassy Suites where I can get a freaking omlette for free! *wood is not trying to compete with the competitors, they are trying to reduce the number of points given and to encourage you to take you “free OJ and muffin” and upgrade to the full breakfast that they’ve been unable to sell except to the infrequent traveler. I’m with *wood for the upgrades…take that away and then they lost me……

  18. Okay, now that I used the breakfast voucher at the Westin LAX, I can say that it was totally lame. They had Starbucks setup and some sort of runny egg burrito on a steam stay for the elites — made even worse when I found out that this property used to allow access to the full buffet in the restaurant.

  19. @Paul I completely disagree. I really value having a free breakfast, and I’d much rather give my business to Hyatt or Hilton because they tend to offer full breakfasts. I don’t want to have to pay for breakfast, and I don’t want to be limited to just an Embassy Suites kind of hotel.

  20. Wow, I think *wood has been short sighted on breakfast for a very long time. About 15+ years ago, I got the breakfast included at the Sheraton in Kauai…it was a dixie cup of sugary juice and a very small sugary muffin!(don’t know what kind. It was brownish)

  21. I think its a bit premature to state that SPG is off to a somewhat rocky start. This benefit rolled out only 4 days ago and there are bound to be different properties implementing this differently. I take comfort in the definition of continental breakfast that SPG has given their properties as Gary mentioned and trust this will end up being a great choice for Platinum member amenities.

  22. Breakfast once was te cheapest meal to get. Basic stuff like pancakes, waffles, toast and, tea/coffee doesn’t cost the restaurant much. 12.50 for juice and a muffin just shows how much hotels are taking advantage of people. Kind f like those bottles of water they put in rooms and hope you open them without realizing they will charge you $4+ fr water.

    Not to mention the resort fees.

  23. Visited W Boston over the weekend. I decided not to have the “continental” breakfast and take the 500 points but asked the W help line what the breakfast voucher would offer. I was told I could order anything off the menu at no extra charge.

  24. I agree that it stinks when properties downgrade offerings as a result of this new policy (i.e., property used to offer free breakfast for elites and now Plats must choose breakfast as the amenity). But, properties that downgrade offerings always take the risk of losing customers. If a customer was 50/50 between an SPG property and another option, this downgrade might cause a potential customer to switch allegiances. Noticing a drop off in Platinum/elite business, the property might choose to restore the old benefit. I would let this thing shake out before jumping to hasty conclusions after a couple of days.

  25. I don’t get the benefit (gold) and that irritates me. Pretty lame that I can stay at a Hilton property as a GOLD and get a better breakfast.

  26. 4 Points LAX offered full breakfast buffet for both registered guests or 250 points. Took the breakfast. Glad to have the option.

  27. I just wonder what would hotel offer to a PLT guest who is either:
    1) maintaining a low carb diet or
    2) gluten intolerant.
    They should be ready for gluten-free muffins then…

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