Thursday, April 05, 2007
Not the way to start the day
I am officially outraged (again). How can any hotel charge a whopping €42, around $56, for breakfast? The hotel in question is the Westin in Rome (I have no problem with a “name and shame policy.”)

I stayed there last week and, with limited open cafés in the area in the early morning, popped into the main restaurant. I have always believed breakfast to be the best meal of the day, so wasn’t about to miss out on morning fuel for the day.

I was staggered. The continental breakfast cost €30 for an offering of juice, coffee, and bread rolls or Danish (I am not sure if cereals were allowed!) Read this again: €30 for basically a drink and a snack!

If you wanted the hot food they charged you another €12.

I have delayed writing this blog a few days to see if I am out of touch and if Westin’s pricing is fair – it is not. I have just stayed in the Radisson SAS in Nice, where the full breakfast with a buffet as good as the Westin’s came in at a more reasonable (but still expensive) €22.

It is time we said enough! Nothing can justify charging such a large sum of money for a meal that is eaten relatively quickly, and is purely fuel for the day. Westin are charging this horrible amount because they can get away with it. I want to know how on earth they justify charging such a vast amount.

If you are like me, and travel on a per diem, you are guaranteed to be out of pocket – our allowance for breakfast is $10 (ok, so CNN isn’t the most generous when it comes to allowances). This means even before I have set foot out of the door most of my daily allowance ($70) has been eaten up as breakfast.

Sure, the Westin selection was good, but nothing out of the ordinary! The only exceptional part was the hotel’s ability to charge the customer like a wounded bull! I want to know Westin, how do you justify more than $50 for breakfast?

So – what do you think is a fair amount to pay for breakfast?

p.s. I have a policy of not responding to the responses usually because I believe you have the right to say what you will about the blog – however several of you have asked questions or raised issues about the shower incident. I will answer them this weekend. And then normal service will be resumed.

I completly agree with Mr Quest. As an influental individual he has the power . I support him 100%.
No comparitive to other hotels in the area? No feedback from Westin corporate?
Cheap motel breakfasts should be far under $10, a donut and bad coffee should come with the room.
A decent CONTINENTAL breakfast at a fairly high end place like the one you were at in Rome should be less than $10, a hot breakfast should really not exceed $20. The Bank Restaurant in London offers breakfast dishes that include beluga caviar with potato waffle and cr�me fraiche and fish cake with poached eggs--- prices for the entree start at $16 with a cap at $30. Throw in coffee and OJ and it would be hard to part with $35 and this is in a much higher end spot and more costly city than the Westin, Rome...I doubt you had beluga caviar with your meal in Rome.
And to add insult to injury, the coffee usually served in hotels outside the US is instant.
You don't have to go that far, the hotel next to your office charges 43$ for a breakfast.
Just about every hotel on the planet charges outrageous prices for breakfast. US$56, woever, is outrageous even by those standards. I usually find a small cafe or bistro nearby, and if I am staying long enough, I take the trouble to make friends with the staff there.
not more than 10 Euro
Breakfast $20 is fair... Love your shows!
What can I say?
You knew how much they charge, you walk in, ate there and complained about it.
That kind of business exists only because people do what you just did.
Next time walk away.
But, thank you for letting us know.
Hi Richard, your Westin example is exactly the reason why I hardly ever eat breakfast at the hotels I am staying. It is outrageous that many hotel feel they have the right to charge over €20 for breakfast. I usually go to a small cafe around the corner where you get better service, proper coffee and a much better breakfast at reasonable prices. Fully support your name and shame policy, it is the only chance of getting a reaction from either an airline e.g. your shower experience and in this case hopefully and explanation from Westin. Over the years I have created a list of restaurants and cafe's around the world where I prefer to have my meals! Might be an idea for your blog!
classic robbery.
In my opinion, it should cost 10 eur offering standard continental breakfast.
It is rip-off. North American hotels are unfortunately following Europe footsteps. $25 for bacon & eggs. Give me a break.
I was outraged at the Gatwick Hilton's £20 breakfast, which was typical, nothing special hotel buffet fare. And, being in the airport, you can't even step out for a quick cheap bite, so it's pay up or starve! Really, if you are already paying over 200 bob for a (not that great) 4 star room, how 'bout a break on breakfast?
Agreed! Basic breakfast at the Connaught Hotel in London (toast, yogurt, coffee) was the equivalent of $36. For toast and yogurt! I went to Starbucks around the corner and ate better for about $7.
I usually run around the corner, buy what I need, and go back to my room...
$7.50 for a full blown breakfast.
i dont see anything wrong with the price. You after all are staying in the westin ! Just be thankful it was not the four seasons !
I lived in Florence Italy for 5 months about 14 years ago. I travelled across western Europe as many 'fresh out of high school' kids do.
I stayed in Florence because I was able to pick up a job and earn enough money to stay overseas.
I took many day trips to all the cities that are attractive to tourists while in Italy. Sienna, Rome, Venice, etc.
What was truly digusting even that many years ago was the way tourists were gouged by the restaurants and hotels.
One memorable meal was in Venice where I was charged $30 US for spaghetti bolognese, which was actually cold noodles and ketchup. I was hungry, so I ate it, and followed it up with an $8 can of coke.
This was not an iscolated incident in Italy.
Having travelled through most of Western Europe, it seemed that Italy was the worst for exploiting tourists into paying crazy amounts for food. The problem was, that if you went to the restaurant or hotel next door, it was the same thing. Almost as if they had all gotten together and plotted how high they can put their prices and get away with it.
In response to your article, it is really no surprise to me 14 years later that a Westin in Rome would charge $56 for their continental breakfast. What was your option, no breakfast at all?
I have had amazing breakfasts at hotels in Europe, the US, Canada, and Mexico. Often I find if you book a room with a special rate including breakfast, you get a far better deal than ordering off a restaurant menu. This was especially true in France where we dined liked royalty for an additional $20 on the room charge. In a country where a cup of coffee frequently costs $7-8, paying $10 for a breakfast which includes juice, cold meat and cheese, pastries, cereal, eggs and some of the best coffee anywhere, is the deal of the century.
An excellent example of how some businesses attempt and it seems do �rip-off� customers. Actually, this info should be posted anywhere and everywhere possible�.but still this will continue. It would be interesting to see what the manager of the hotel would say about this unacceptable pricing. Keep up the good work Richard.
In Italy there are a lot of confectioner's shop where you can have a tasty and plentiful breakfast for very small prices, almost always less than 10�.
Obviously you've been travelling through the civilized world only. I've been to places where room service is a menu with no prices on it, and when I asked the management, I was told room service charges are in function of what type of room you are in!! So the Royal Suit occupant will be charged almost double for the same Orange juice ordred by a Single room guest!!
#1 Don't eat in hotels
#2 Move to the orient where breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper are available 24/7 almost everywhere, rendering hotel meals unnecessary. In Singapore you can have an eat-till-you-drop breakfast for less than US$7.
And mouth watering stuff too; none of the bland, insipid western food hotels dish out.
If a restaurant is prepared to charge 50$ for breakfast, then this is what the value of the breakfast is if people accept to eat at this restaurant. It is the consumer who decides what the value of an object or a service is. The restaurant is charging the right price if in this case they can continue to operate with these price ranges. The consumers have the responsability to determine what is acceptable and what is not
When we go to Europe, including London, we look for the nearest Starbucks....guess why....breakfast, not just a midday coffee
Dear Mr. Quest, I am managing a middle size 4 star "boutique" hotel in an Egyptian seaside resort. Our breakfast, consisting of a full buffet with hot & cold breakfast items, as well as a live cooking station with a full choice of egg dishes, crepes etc. cost LE 35 or $ 6,15 - taxes included. However, most of our guests have breakfast & dinner included in their room rate; all, the room as well, at less than the cost of your breakfast! Perhaps you should travel to Egypt next time...
It is the same in most European capitals, but Paris and Rome take the cake in exploiting strangers. What about their laundary bills where they charge a euro a sock because it is pressed! What about the clerks who play dumb and cant give you vital information! You should alway always always only go where the locals go, and always always always think twice.
The Romans have thousands of years of experience as they say all roads lead to.....
IN all seriousness, how much is lunch and dinner at this hotel? HOW about room service?
TOURIST TRAPS are tourist traps.
This is just one reason I stay at Bed & Breakfasts or small family run hotels.
Like Mr. Friis of Germany, I do not eat at hotel restaurants when I am traveling. I like to use the opportunity to get to know the city and its people as much as possible. So I head to the cafes & restaurants outside the hotel where I can immerse myself in the culture. It's cheaper & more fun that way, too!
I currently live in Italy and I must say, breakfast is not a big thing here.
When my husband and I travel we usually find the nearest coop the day before and buy cheese, bread, fruit or tomatoes and make our own breakfast. It is very cheap and tasty.
NEVER eat breakfast in an Italian or French hotel! B&B is unheard of in cities, and if you didn't get the small print, you're sunk. Step out the door, pop 'round the corner: you'll find a great little bar that does fabulous coffee and roll for a pittance, because the locals eat there. Be prepared to stand for rock-bottom prices, but even sitting down you can do better than back at the hotel.
And you can still go back and brush your teeth, since you don't have to check out before noon.
Hotels are known to overcharge for everything. Ever tried making a phone call from a hotel in the US without using a calling card ? A colleague of mine ended up being charged about $50 for a 10-minute call to Germany when staying at a hotel in the US.

The solution ? Check the prices and don't use any service that is overpriced.
If you were at home, you could probably fry up two eggs, bacon, toast, juice and coffee for about $3 (maybe even less), if you itemized it out. Hotels get all those items cheaper still, as they're bought in bulk. (Order an omelet and you're probably getting eggs from a jug, too.) Even tripling the cost to $9 wouldn't be unreasonable. But at a nice hotel you're usually looking at twice that again; about $20.

The last time I went to DC for a conference, I took all my meals out. As I rode in cabs or came up for air from the Metro, I'd keep my eyes peeled for restaurants, then return come meal time. That's how I ended up with great AYCE Sunday brunch at an Irish pub ($16) and the best steak dinner I've ever had (~$50).

I wouldn't even buy a soda from the hotel vending machine ($1.75/12 oz can). I mean, I'm not cheap, but I not inclined to get fleeced, either.
As a Hotelier I have to agree with you. One memorable hotel night stay i had was in a small village in Italy. where not only breakfast was complimentary, but it was a good breakfast. Hotels have to get their attitude together!
When I was younger I used to work in a hotel. This has ben going on for years! Food is where hotels (and tourist trap areas) make their money. I remember $9 for shot glasses of orange juiceor even $5 for a teabag sized sack of peanuts.

The in-rooom honor bars were the worst. They never posted prices and many clients chnecked out with up to $300 in extra charges for a few chocolate bars, some flat pop and a few shooter sized liquor bottles.

The story about tiering room service costs to clients is actually common. IF you remeber the old agadage - if you have to ask - you cant afford it. :D

Internationally the scams get worse. Some restaurants even give different prices on different language menus. (local language is usually the cheapest).

Bottom line: DO NOT buy anything at a hotel be it souvenirs, knickknacks, munchies or eat at their restaurants, unless you want to be gouged badly.

The ONLY exception to this rule, which I have seen, appears to be some Vegas casino-hotels that offer quality food even free if you have certain inhouse "packages" (ie house accounts).
Wow! What ever happened to that "breakfast included" thing that I have enjoyed all over Europe in the past? While my last trip abroad was in the Spring of 2005 I can't believe that things have change that much..My last trip was to London and at the Russell Hotel where I usually stay the English Breakfast was as always big, good and served in a beautiful 19th Cent. ballroom with lovely cupids smiling down on me. Richard is right to be outraged.
Oh, c'mon! They charge that because some one is paying it.
I recently stayed in the Marriot in Moscow. After paying $1000 a night for a standard room, I was shocked to have to pay another $40 for a mediocre breakfast!
Enough is enough
I think you should just sleep in late, wake up around noon and eat lunch. It doesn't sound so outrageous to dish $50 for a lunch but it does for breakfast. Alternatively, you could always buy a bag of bagels and a tub or cream-cheese and feast on less than $5.00.
Way too much to charge. I recently lived in Rome for 2 years and we negotiated reasonable room rates for our out-of-town business guests that included breakfast at no extra charge. Try the Marriott or Sofitel in Rome instead for a better deal.
Dear Sir,
I absolutely agree with mister Quest. Now that hotels cannot charge you extremely with telephone bills like in the near past they now do that with breakfast charges. What I do now is try and have breakfast outside the hotel. Yours sincerely, W.Thijsse.
A carton of eggs cost about $1.80, a loaf of sliced raisin bread costs about $2.00, a 2L carton of OJ costs about $3.50, a jar of strawberry jam is about $3.25. If these hotels buy this list of grocery items from a typical grocery store and then use a bit of each of these items to make the breakfast the reasonable cost of service and sale should only be $FIVE DOLLARS or LESS!

I was sitting near the terrace in the back of the Westin Hotel (5star) on Lido Island in Venice and noticed that a small espresso cost 7Euros (around $11). More often than not, the hotel will argue that you're paying for the prestige of enjoying the ambiance and decor of the 5star atmosphere.

Just because it's European doesn't mean that it has to be overpriced. They get away with it anyway.
They charge because they can. One is also paying for the brilliant lights glowing on top of ones head, paintings on the wall, Italian Marble on the floor and what not.

After all whose concept was free market economy ?
4 & 5 star hotels in Europe & S.E. Asia,& Middle East are a complete rip off where the meal costs are concerned.

They know you are on an expense account & they have a right to steal money from you. After all its not coming from your pocket. I would say that a full breakfast should never exceed $ 30.00 at the most hotels including Gratuity.

Some of us travel on our account & not corporate expense account.

How come no response from Westin Hotels!
Yes I agreed that $56 is a bit much for a breakfast, but then again $400 for a room to sleep in over night is just as over the top. You could rent a decent apartment short term in Rome for that. I didn't hear you complaining about that. Or was that because CNN was going to write off the expense on their taxes.
There are times that I think that you are truly out to lunch.

Mueslix & yoghurt, orange juice and milk from a nearby convenience or grocery store,would probably provide 2 servings of each for a max of GBP 6.
I could probably think of a half a dozen variations for the same GBP 6
Jeez!...And I thought paying 150 baht ( US$4.50 ) for a lemon juice at a Bangkok hotel was expensive. The Westin ( Starwood Group) prices trump that. Scary.

Love your style Richard. Stop by my Morning Drive radio show in BKK sometime.
Any experienced traveller knows that airports and hotels are going to rip you clean. People are often tired and not in the mood to "shop around". Hence they know that they can charge and get away with it because people just roll over and pay. Next time, skip breakfast and exercise instead. On your way back from your run, you can go to a market that the hotel possibly buys their food and get everything for 1/20 the cost. Nothing like a bunch of fresh fruit in the morning.
Could't agree with you more. The Room rates are already high enough at these posh hotels and therefore an extra charge for breakfast is not justified. If there is any,it has to be nominal considering the daily rates and taxes.
I think that is absolutely highway robbery to charge that much for breakfast! I do believe they see tourists and or journalists coming and slam it to them! Last fall we stayed at a hotel in Strasbourg;Mercure Strasbourg Gare and they wanted 30 Euros for breakfast of Danish and juice which we thought was absurd too so went out to a cafe! This is outrageous to think anyone would pay such a price and we refuse to be taken like this, for this snack!!
I have always thought Euro hotel breakfasts were too expensive. I also travelled on a per diem. If I were to eat breakfast at the hotel, it'd eat over 1/2 of my per diem. I'd often take advantage of the "minibar" fridge to put in my own supplies for breakfast.
I do agree with everyone.
Unfortunally some of the must of the company is to "make money", and discuss it during budget session. What they do not consider is the fact that restaurant hotel services are "mandatory" in almost of the hotel category, so , the best should be that breakfast should be included in the room rate, maybe just continental and other food on request and at cost, this will mantain down some of the Food & Beverage cost with less complaints.

Enrico C. from Rome
Absolutely agree... it's outrageous to charge that much. On personal travel I always do what Paul from Canada said... get a room rate w/ breakfast - it usally works out to be less. But for business travel I find I am stuck... have to stay at company-negotiated rate, which does not include breakfast. Some Procurement exec (that never travels) got a raise by saving the company money by negotiating a low rate - by eliminating breakfast. Then they cut the per diems... so wind up buying breakfast foods at a nearby market and squeeze it into the minibar refreigerator... all to make the per diem cover the day. The joys of business travel.
Dear Richard:
You are right on target. Breakfast in just about all hotels in Europe and the USA are outrageously priced. I only breakfast in hotels when I have an early flight. It is far better and cheaper to breakfast as the locals do. Onward Quest!!!!!!
Marina (NYC)
Hotels are able to get away with such outrageous prices only because certain individuals are exploiting their uncontrolled expense accounts. Shareholder and taxpayers need to regain control.
Very rarely is a breakfast worth �42. Sunday brunches at a Four Seasons & Orient Express properties are certainly worth the cost. Then again, you are paying for exceptional food, ambience and service.

I stayed at the Westin Excelsior Rome last year and I have to say the in-house restaurant isn't on that level. The only reason I had the breakfast was because the manager comped it. On the quality of food vs. price scale, I'd rate it at the �20 level (full breakfast). Aside from the stellar hot chocolate, I wasn't overly impressed with the morning fare.

Why the Westin charges �42: because very few people actually "pay" for it
1) Savvy individual guests will try to get rate w/breakfast included (they won't complain)
2) Corporate guests on rack rate �450+ will bill client or company (doesn't come out of personal pocket)
3) Guests in for business meetings in-hotel will eat during the meetings (again, not out-of-pocket)

The restaurant gets enough business from #1 & #2 that they don't depend on extra guests filling up the morning tables to stay in business. It is likely subsized by the hotel, whereas an independent restaurant would need to be more competitive. Bottom line, they don't care if you eat their overpriced muffins or go hungry. You need them more than they need you.

I also think those particular price points are designed to discourage outsiders from dropping in. Call it the Snob Factor. For example, if the Westin offered a fantastic full buffet for �22 (a la SAS Nice), loads of people from the neighborhood (embassies-office buildings-swishy shops) would be lined up to partake of a smashing good deal.

Marketing and arcane hotelier policies aside, I think it's inhospitable to not offer a more reasonable alternative for a quick bite. The hotel does not have a 'club lounge' with complimentary fare for Platinum guests. Nor a kiosk selling coffee. No establishment (forget Starbucks) within dashing distance (a block or two) to pick up a hot cuppa.

The Westin Excelsior would do well to set up a small morning service in the elegant bar/lounge area limited to coffee, tea and pastries. It already has couches, coffee tables and newspapers on the racks. This is a very civilized way to start the day. Why simply greet guests with "buon giorno" when you can also offer them a "good morning"?
Most hotels charge what they do since they feel those having breakfast in the morning are expensing it to their companies (or clients).
Thanks for this one__I always thought my understanding of breakfast billing was skewed. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that in most of such restuarants/hotels, only mornings bring `peak traffic'.
This is by no means limited to Westin or France or Italy. If you stay at the Radisson Mountbatten in London, a full breakfast is charged GBP 25 (at least it was a year ago), which is USD 50 or EUR 38). But if you pay for it to be included, but don't use it, you only get GBP 12 back. The food is excellent, though, provided you can find a waiter who understands ENGLISH (for the record: I also speak French, German and Russian), but the waiters are Thai!!!
I fully agree �50 is waaaay too much. Even in the best of hotels a breakfast shouldn't be more than �15 in my opinion. Anything more is simply a rip off. I realize you're a seasoned traveller but my suggestion for you is next time try the main railway station. There are always nice cafes open even at the most odd hours of the day. The next time you stay in a swank hotel check out the price for breakfast when you check-in. If its expensive try to find time to buy something and keep it in your room. Maybe not exactly a "classy" thing to do but better than the highway robbery Westin pulled off on you.

p.s. for that price, you are more than entitled to take a few towels with you ;-)
Hi Richard, you have a good example there but I'd like to share mine also. about a year ago I stayed a hotel in New Delhi, five star, I would like to keep the name undisclosed. So, my aim on my visit to India then was to visit Agra and some parts of Delhi, just a day before my departure I decided to spend a whole day in the hotel since it is pretty far away from the city City Centre. As I can recall, I spent about 13,000 rupees on that single day I repeat that single day (13,000 = around 250 US) I was surprised myself when I saw the number. So yes Mr.Quest I do so agree with you and I'd suggest everyone of you to just walk out of your a hotel probably to a close cafe and get yourself a nice breakfast.
You can't do much more than laugh at how big hotel chains gouge their people. They hold you hostage in a place like Italy. It almost makes you want to make a deal for 20 Euros to have a baker show up at your doorstep instead !
Richard: thanks for your post. While the price of this particular Roman breakfast seems exorbitant, I would like to audit the cost of various hotel breakfasts within London. I am certain that breakfast around South Ken and Knightsbridge would easily surpass 43 euros after conversion.
Richard, your style is always entertaining and as being a supporter of comments and your blog can I also name and shame the Hyatt in Adelaide. Red HOt Chilli Peppers were stayin there and it was Rugby Sevens weekend. But waiting 15 mins to be seated for breakfast was a rather naughty of the staff this morning.
that is to too way high..
here in the philippines you can eat breakfast for $10 at a 5 star hotel.
Just wanted to add one more comment. There are people who critize the "Americanization" of Europe, but when hotels charge that much for breakfast no wonder places like Starbuck, McDonalds, etc are springing up on everyother corner. People don't want to be ripped-off and when they feel it's happening will certainly look for more economical places to eat.
I think this is a case of classic price elasticity. Having stayed in hotels in rome, london, and paris, for example, I would say that the hotels in rome are by far the most expensive for the money, at least the big chain hotels as they assume business travelers will pay whatever they pay. I think they nail you for the convenience factor. Is it illegal? No. Is it immoral? Probably not. Is it ludicrous? Yes. I guess this will be a valuable lesson to all that unless you are on a cushy expense account that it is best to stay at a hotel with inclusive breakfast or to grab a meal outside of the hotel.
Its too costly.Cheating the customers...I support you buddy.
Outrageous. The Ritz in San Juan falls into the same bucket of gourging clients for a room service breakfast comprising of yogurt, juice, coffee and fruit ($48).
Dear Richard,
a daily allowance of 70euro is quiet good, i am afraid you should not complain about the prices of hotel breakfasts (of course, to charge more than 50euros is barefaceing!!!).
As I am working for an airline, I have to spend lot of time in hotels, with a daily allowance of 30euros...!
Next time, you should enjoy your meal "on board" !
maybe around 15 euros or so. but not for continental... full english breakfast effort will be even better
By african standards that is incredible. Some university graduates take home the equivalent of that beakfast's cost as monthly pay!
In my country, i eat for all month with 50 Euros.


M�rcio Paoliello
I think $0. In Italy breakfast is typically included with the price of the room. But if you choose to stay at a hotel that charges $600 for a regular room, you should expect to get ripped off for breakfast.
I completely agree that some top hotels overcharge for breakfast. I remember once in the Basel Hilton, breakfast was something like sF25 for continental, and I walked over to the railway station and got a breakfast sandwich and a coffee for about sF4.00. Unless you have to pay in advance for breakfast it's often less expensive to see if there's a coffee shop or take out place nearby. You will likely get just as good a breakfast for a fraction of the cost (even a hot breakfast).
Recently spent a few days at the Amsterdam American-the breakfast buffet
in their main dining room was 25 euros!
Insane! 50 yards across the Leidseplein
were at least 5 cafes where full breakfasts were less than 10!
I agree with most of the comments made. I was in Tokyo earlier this year and the hotel I was in also was demanding an excessive amount for breakfast. I went out into a Japanese coffee shop and had a sort of "bacon and egg butty" with coffee for 500 Yen (about 3.50�). Much more fun as we were with the locals.
I would have thought you would find something similar in Rome too.
I never spend more then €20,00 for breakfast in any given hotel! I've had complimentary breakfasts in hotels that charge way more than €20,00 only thinking to myself that I would be very upset if I had to pay for this myself as it was certainly not worth anything close to €20,00!!
Having lived in Europe for several years, it appears that I learned early and did not stay in hotels that cater to the tourist trade.

Fair price for a European breakfast, included in the price of the room. For this I would expect coffee, bread, or rolls, cold cuts, cheese and jam. If it were a hotel that did do tourist trade include cold ceral and milk and maybe a soft boiled egg.

Were I to pay for a Eurpoean breakfast I would have to say no more than $10.00 would be acceptable.
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