There are a variety of valuable perks to having elite status with a hotel group. Historically one of the most valuable benefits has been complimentary breakfast, at least for those belonging to higher elite tiers.
In 2021, Hilton Honors made a controversial change to its elite breakfast policy. Specifically, at properties in the United States, Hilton stopped giving elite members complimentary breakfast, instead replacing that with a daily food & beverage credit. While this was initially marketed as being temporary, all signs point toward this sticking around. In this post I wanted to take a closer look at how exactly this benefit works.
In this post:
Details of Hilton Honors elite food & beverage credit
Historically Hilton Honors Diamond and Hilton Honors Gold have received complimentary continental breakfast as an elite benefit at all hotel brands that don’t offer it for free, which is one of the primary benefits of having hotel elite status (note that some hotels go above and beyond, and offer a full hot breakfast).
However, since July 2021, this is no longer the policy at properties in the United States. Specifically, at hotels in the United States, elite guests are instead offered a daily food & beverage credit. At the time, Hilton marketed this change as being a limited time response to a request from guests for more flexibility.
How does the Hilton food & beverage credit work?
How exactly does the Hilton Honors food & beverage credit work? Here are the basic things to be aware of:
- The credit is per person, for up to two registered guests per room; people have varying experiences as to whether they can get the credit for two people if they’re booking a room for two guests but staying alone
- This credit applies at many brands, including Waldorf Astoria, LXR, Conrad, Canopy by Hilton, Hilton, Curio Collection, DoubleTree, Signia, Tapestry Collection, and Hilton Garden Inn
- The credit is valid for all participating food & beverage outlets at a hotel, including restaurants, bars, markets, and room service; it can be used in one or multiple transactions
- Hilton Honors members can simply charge food & beverage purchases to their folio, and then the charges will be manually removed; there’s nothing that needs to be done when you visit the actual outlet
- The credit needs to be used on a daily basis, and the value can’t be rolled over to the next day
- The amount of the food & beverage credit varies depending on the brand and location
- Hilton Honors Gold members have the option to either receive points or a food & beverage credit, while Hilton Honors Diamond members will receive both
- If you’re staying at a hotel with a club lounge that serves breakfast and you receive access to it, then you don’t receive the food & beverage credit
- If you book a rate that includes breakfast, you can still receive the food & beverage credit as an elite perk
How much is the Hilton food & beverage credit?
The Hilton Honors daily food & beverage credit varies by hotel brand and market. Specifically, Hilton Honors members receive a daily food & beverage credit for a maximum of two registered guests per room, as follows:
- $25 per person per day for luxury brands, including Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, and LXR
- $15 per person per day for full service and lifestyle brands ($18 in high-cost markets), including Hilton, Signia, DoubleTree, Curio, Tapestry Collection, Canopy, and Motto
- $10 per person per day for Hilton Garden Inn
The high-cost markets include Boston, Chicago, the District of Columbia, New York City, San Francisco, the county of Los Angeles, the state of Hawaii, Key Largo, and Key West.
Is the Hilton food & beverage credit good or bad news?
In an ideal world, hotels would offer a credit big enough to cover breakfast for two people with flexibility to use it elsewhere, but I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t what Hilton is going for here. Make no mistake about what’s going on:
- The credit amounts are nowhere near large enough to cover a “proper” breakfast at a vast majority of properties in the United States
- By offering a credit that has to be used daily, Hilton is hoping that this will drum up business at hotels’ food & beverage outlets, and cause people to spend more than they otherwise would (above and beyond the food & beverage credit amount)
Whether or not this is good or bad news really depends on which hotel you’re staying at and what your travel habits are:
- Before this change, there was huge variance in terms of the elite breakfast offered across hotels — at some properties you received a full breakfast, while at other properties you received a coffee and a croissant, so the implications here aren’t equally bad at all properties
- As a morning person I always have breakfast, while I know plenty of people who don’t even wake up in time for breakfast, and therefore found the old breakfast benefit to be useless, and like the new system
- Some hotels unofficially offered daily credits in place of breakfast for a long time before this was implemented, so this wasn’t even totally new across the board; for example, the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills has long offered Diamond members a $50 daily credit per room in lieu of a formal breakfast benefit
For those who value breakfast as an elite perk, I think it’s safe to say that Hilton Honors has the weakest offering in the United States of the major hotel groups:
- World of Hyatt Globalist members receive a full restaurant breakfast when there’s not an executive lounge
- IHG One Rewards Diamond members receive a full restaurant breakfast
- Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador, Titanium, and Platinum members have the option of selecting continental breakfast as their welcome amenity at most brands
Is Hilton’s elite food & beverage credit permanent?
When the elite food & beverage credit was first introduced in 2021, it was marketed as a temporary feature. In the context of the pandemic, it sort of made sense:
- At the time, many people didn’t necessarily feel comfortable dining indoors in restaurants, so the flexibility was valuable
- Many hotels had shut down some of their food & beverage venues, and many weren’t serving breakfast
However, from the beginning I predicted that the motive went way beyond that. The credit was first extended into 2022, and now into 2023, with no mention anymore of this being limited time.
This is pretty clearly part of a bigger long term change at Hilton, intended to cut costs. Hilton’s CEO has made it clear that many hotel service cuts are permanent, and that hotels will become higher margin businesses. This new food & beverage credit helps to reduce costs (fewer people are having breakfast) and increase revenue (people are spending more at Hiltons while utilizing their food & beverage credit).
I’d be willing to bet that these changes will stick around in the United States permanently. The big question is if they expand globally or not. Personally I don’t see that as being particularly likely for now.
That comes down to a couple of factors:
- Free breakfast and a higher level of service continue to be more of an expectation outside of the United States than within the United States
- Hotel owners outside the United States don’t seem quite as greedy and cutthroat as the companies that own many hotels in the United States
Nowadays Hilton Honors Diamond and Gold members receive a daily food & beverage credit in lieu of complimentary continental breakfast at properties in the United States. That credit ranges from $10 to $25 per person per day, depending on the market.
While this was initially marketed as being temporary, I suspect this program is here to stay, as it’s a great way for hotels to reduce their breakfast costs while generating more revenue, as people probably pretty consistently spend more than their credit when visiting outlets at a hotel.
What do you make of Hilton Honors’ elite food & beverage credit concept?