How to tackle a hotel breakfast buffet

Who gave us freedom of choice? We need to sit that person down and let them know the immeasurable damage they have done to humanity. They’ve given us the gift of uncertainty and indecision. Who wants that? And it manifests itself in the most grotesque manner when we are confronted with a hotel breakfast buffet.

Waking up to a ready made breakfast is one of life’s pleasures. It is confirmation that someone out there is looking out for you and wants you well-fed and prepared for the day, but too much choice can be taxing, and even worse…. deadly. The hotel breakfast buffet *cue horror music* is one of life’s greatest pleasures and greatest nightmares. What do you do when confronted with an array of crunchy cereals, pastries, breads, eggs and meaty delights? Where do you start and is it even humanly possible to cover it all?

A recent study, done by me, with me as the only subject discovered that tackling a breakfast buffet without a strategy can leave one very unsatisfied, and short-changed. You paid good money for that room, and the least you can do is pig out (in a classy manner) during breakfast. Armed with this frustration, I’ve decided to give you handy tips to tackle the hotel breakfast buffet, itis-less and with your dignity intact.

You want to be full and happy at the end of it, but god dammit you also want to be respected.

1. Coffee sir/ma’am?


That is probably one of the sweetest things anyone can whisper into your ear in the morning and the hotel waiter does it so well. Agreeing to coffee (or tea) is the easiest decision you’ll make in this process. From here it often times goes down hill.

You’ll then make your way to the cold beverages  – the slushy machine looking jusice machine. You’ll fiddle around with deciding on the flavour. The key is to choose one flavour and stick to a maximum of 2 glasses. Hotel juice glasses are usually tinier than Stuart Little’s hands and they’re like that for a reason. you’re mean to pace yourself with it. Nothing is more filling than these strawberry, orange, mango-oprange, passion fruit, apple options.

Commit to one flavour, put a ring on it and DON’T STRAY.

2. Cereals, fruit and yoghurt

You’ve now settled on your juice and hot beverage option and are now side-eyeing the fruit options and cereals. They have Weet-bix, Corn flakes, Rice Krispies (dammit, why?) and muesli in all its granular goodness.  You decide to take some fruit salad drench it in yoghurt as well as muesli and drench it in more yoghurt. You take a glance at the cereals and decide against it, AS YOU CAN HAVE THOSE AT YOUR BORING HOME. 

You’ve made some good choices here. Fruit is good to cleanse the palette for the deliciousness ahead and yoghurt is a breakfast staple, without it you may as well cancel the sun and call this dinner. But a fundamental error is not choosing one. The one thing about breakfast buffets is that you can’t have it all. I know, being confronted with food that makes your eyes drool in tandem with your mouth is a difficult thing, but a possible thing.

Tread carefully here.

hotel breakfast

Remember to take breaks between all of these snacks. 5 to 10 minutes should suffice.


Hotels are single-handedly keeping bakers relevant and in business. It’s the only way to explain the sheer volume of baked good available for your dining pleasure. You’d swear the stock was running out and the hotel had been forced to make a move, so they commissioned for everything.

When you’re confronted with the pastries, you’re also confronted with the cold meats and crackers and cheeses, or as I’d like to call it – the slippery slope of happiness and over-indulgence. Many lose their way here, end up lining their stomachs with muffins, doughnuts (unnecessary), crackers and yummy cheeses instead of looking towards the big breakfast that lies ahead.

When you are this station AVOID THE MUFFINS AND THE CRACKERS. I would say avoid the cheese too, but I’m not Satan. Have a small amount. Keep it tidy. Cheese is hard to ignore. We’re human but this where a lot of people are tested, and the strong ones prevail happier at the end of it.

At this station the gluttonous ones in the room are revealed. And it’s not pretty.

4.When it starts getting serious

You’ve reached the part of the breakfast that you’ve really been thinking about. All the rest of it has been amateurish foreplay to pass the time and make you seem like a dignified individual but the real fun starts now. Choosing your eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, mushroom, brown or white toast etc.

“Will you have an omelette, a fried egg, scrambled. Will you put your eggs on your toast, in a croissant or just have it unprotected? SO MUCH CHOICE I’M GOING TO BURST.

The wonderful thing about buffets , especially for those people who love swine is the endless stream of bacon. There is no feeling more joyous than grabbing that stainless steel apparatus and helping yourself to bacon portions the size of a newborn baby. Piling up your plate with reckless abandon, and hoping you still have time for more.

But be careful in your bacon bliss. There’s only so much of that shoulder or back bacon yummines you can handle without your day completely going the itis route. Limit yourself to streaks that are manageable. A streak for every 10 years you haven’t had a heart attack scare should be enough.

When choosing your eggs, savour that choice. Such freedom in being able to pick how you want your eggs done should be enjoyed. For a lot of people they like what they like, and this is the opportunity to display that.

Drink some water at the end of it all and maybe enjoy another cup of coffee.

The point of a breakfast is to be an energised useful individual for the rest of the day. And not, in the words of our eloquent Sports minister Fikile Mbalula,  “unbearable, useless individuals” like Bafana Bafana.

Now… who’s offering the national team a plate of bacon?

Feel free to leave any other suggestion you may have to make the hotel breakfast experience worthwhile. We’re all here to learn.

And say no to skaftins. Take-aways are for Nandos.


10 thoughts on “How to tackle a hotel breakfast buffet

  1. Excellent piece, except if you want to squeeze more in – hold off on the coffee and pastries till the very end, then there’s even room for a crumpet or mini-waffle.
    The ultimate breakfast I remember was at the Royal Swazi Sun many, many years go.
    You could order up a steak!

  2. I’m a frequent traveller and I must say these tips have come in very handy, I was in that hotel buffet situation just this past weekend – IT GOT UGLY! Enjoyed the read 🙂

  3. I have a strategy that works everytime and has been perfected over many years.

    Muesli, yoghurt and some fruit (small portion)
    Omelette over a buttery croissant, bacon and pork sausages (god bless the pig!)
    one portion of orange juice
    Some pastries and coffee

    this keeps me full for nearly the whole day! the key is to have small portions so that you can cover everything

  4. I wish I had come across this advice before I went on honeymoon. We never had a breakfast game plan, resulting in our honeymoon mornings being a write-off: either we had been to polite and considerate with our portions, leaving us without breakfast closure and complaining until lunch. Or… we had eaten too much, leaving us bed-ridden and paralysed until lunch.

    • I’m still learning. I started off eating everything, even things I didn’t really want to eat just because it was there. Its ok to leave some things out and go for what you want, in moderation. lol

  5. At first I used to want to try it all and often ended up over full and upset. Iv come to enjoy hotels breakfasts by having is simple. Tea and toast with a muffin/croissant or toast, beans, mushroom and cheese.. Love your tips here.

  6. We definitely went a little crazy during our first hotel breakfast buffet, So much to choose from and it’s all so exciting! I dished up too much though and forced myself to eat it all because I felt too bad to leave anything on my plate – my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach! Felt ill for the of the morning….

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