What the Hell is Wrong with Breakfast in the United States?

How many times have I heard “breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” since moving to the US, you ask? Probably way more times than I have actually believed it to be true.

In most places in the world, breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day. Many places have four meals a day instead of three! I myself grew up in a world where both those things were true. Breakfast,  as it is in most of Europe, consisted of some sort of pastry (or cookie, or bread) and a cup of coffee or tea (for children, substitute milk or hot cocoa in winter months).

International Breakfast

As a grownup, and because I wake up at the ass crack of dawn and I refuse to waste my time getting breakfast ready before I leave the house, I have defaulted to a cereal bar and a cup of coffee. I do, however, love myself some European hotel breakfast every time we find ourselves on the other side of the pond. I have been known to gorge myself to the point I am forced to skip lunch because I have literally stuffed my stomach full for hours. It makes for a great money saving strategy while traveling if your stomach can take it (not actually endorsed by any nutritionists).

I’ll eat pastries, muesli, waffles, Greek yogurt, smoked/cured salmon, cold cuts, cheese, poached eggs, berries, figs, and more. I have even felt comfortable having caviar and champagne to start my day in Portugal and sushi and ice cream for a well-balanced diet while in Bali. For my beverage, I usually alternate between a cup of warm caffè latte or an espresso doppio, or if I’m feeling really fancy, a cappuccino.

These are some of the wonderful options we have enjoyed while abroad (and a few top notch US hotels).

Domestic Breakfast

When we do domestic travel, however, I find myself reduced to having to eat slop, blobs, goop and mush. Usually those are accompanied by a cup of scalding-hot dirty water with hints of over-roasted coffee beans that sat stale on a back room for too long, was brewed with the slightest care in the world and the wrong water-to-coffee-grounds ratio (I believe you call this Folgers). I invariably end up attempting to mask its nasty flavor with a non-dairy creamer (what on earth is a non-dairy creamer anyway?) and way too many sweeteners, so that the metallic taste makes me forget that some people call this coffee. I’ll usually drink a couple sips and stir the rest until it’s lukewarm or I have developed instant heartburn, whatever comes first. If I’m lucky, I’ll placate my early morning hunger with a box of sugary cereal and a bowl of irregularly shaped shards of some combination of week old honeydew or cantaloupe that somehow manage to be both really hard and really mushy at the same time.

Yes, I’ll admit I am a breakfast snob. And yes, feel free to call me entitled when I expect my free hotel Platinum breakfast to include things like edible food and drinkable infusions. To you, I present you with these unbelievably disgusting offerings I’ve had in hotels throughout the United States and their fantastically trashy presentation.

Here we go.


What the Hell is Wrong with Breakfast in the United States?

Yes, I get it, it’s free. But that doesn’t really mean you should offer the shittiest things that pass for food. Seriously. It does not incentivize loyalty. In fact, it causes me to at times opt for hotels that offer the same quality of accommodations at a lower price even if I do not have elite status with them, simply because I know I can quickly find a Starbucks out there where I can order whatever I want and it’ll at least be edible.


Are you bothered by your breakfast options when traveling through the US or are you happy with whatever as long as it’s free?

Author: Ben Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. “Yes, I get it, it’s free. But that doesn’t really mean you should offer the shittiest things that pass for food.”

    But that’s what Americans like. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s not the most delicious food that Americans will eat all day. Heck, as long as it’s unlimited, that’s all that’s important.

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  2. So true. Garbage in the US. The US is not actually a first world county. It is a second world country.

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    • I have mixed feelings about this. Some things are definitely great here, some others are terribly backwards…

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  3. Wow, the language in this article.

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    • Wow, you found the English language more appalling than crap for breakfast?

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  4. Agree entirely. For a country which has the most fantastic fine dining restaurants and the most fantastic fresh ingredients, it never ceases to amaze that the general standards are so low.

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  5. Well, most of the hotel breakfast in the US (actually alot of restaurants as well) come from Sysco which is a large corporation mass producing pre-packaged food. Very rare you would find items cooked from scratch. Land of the cheap and over-processed food.

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  6. Every free hotel breakfast I’ve ever had in Europe and Buenos Aires ranks UP HERE.

    Every free hotel breakfast I’ve ever had in the US ranks DOWN HERE.

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  7. “Why are free breakfasts from 2.5 star budget hotels not as good as the paid spreads at 5 star luxury properties?” Like seriously you’re comparing a Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites to a high-end Hyatt?

    Don’t get me wrong, in the U.S. there’s a huge quality gap even within a US hotel chain. The Sheraton Seattle (excellent) vs. the Sheraton TriBeCa (garbage). My bigger frustration comes from why mid-high end properties screw up simple cheap things like pastries.

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    • I literally posted pictures of a Category 1 Protea hotel in Africa, a Best Western in the Philippines we paid 60 bucks for, a Category 1 Hilton in Morocco and a Four Points in Cuba which all easily bested full service Marriott and Sheraton hotels in the US in general. Of course there are properties where that isn’t the case, but that’s not the majority, unfortunately. And totally agree with the pastries. Ew.

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  8. Yeah……. I used to go to trade shows in the asshole of Germany and stay at the Best Western/Ramada/whatever closest to where we had to be, and even then, in the pits of this weird/nasty town (to be fair the ACTUAL towns were very nice, but we were by the convention area) they had wonderful breakfast spreads with fresh food.

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    • I know, right? First time Jon suggested staying at a Best Western I threatened to cancel the whole trip, but when we checked in in Europe, much to my surprise, it wasn’t trash! I can’t quite get it, but it’s as if they knew the average person in the US has lower standards…

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