The buffet breakfast is one of the most loved parts of a hotel stay, as eager guests seek to try as much of the offer as possible. However, despite their relaxed appearance, hotel buffet breakfasts require careful management, not only to control costs in an area that could quite quickly run away from an operator but also to maintain food safety standards. When guests are left to help themselves, many may not realise that spillages or sharing cutlery between serving plates can have serious consequences so it’s wise for operators to set service up to succeed.
Malcolm Muir, Consultancy Director of business solutions company Venners, offers his 10 top tips on how operators can ensure food is served safely for all without costs spiralling out of control.
1. Buffet breakfasts should be kept to a limited service window to contain covers and staff costs
2. Operators should ensure the layout of the buffet flows in a way that influences customer choices away from the most expensive menu items
3. It’s wise to be mindful of the types of dishes offered and how they are presented. For example, to speed up preparation time and prolong shelf-life on display, operators should consider leaving the skin on sliced fruit
4. Crockery size is important. Offering smaller plates will encourage customers to choose manageable portion sizes and reduce leftover waste
5. The service should be adequately supervised to track supply and demand, and to manage costs per head. This will help with longer-term forecasting of how much to prepare, allowing for seasonal adjustment and based on customer profile ratios
6. Ensuring wastage is kept to a minimum is key. Operators should consider tracking chilled items such as meats and cheeses during service to minimise leftovers and ensure items that probably won’t be required don’t leave the cold store. In addition, towards the end of service or when hotel occupancy is below a certain threshold, operators might switch to an à la carte system for the hot breakfast element so only food that has been ordered is prepared. A separate bin for plate waste will help with quantity tracking. When one operator looked at the details of their buffet breakfast this year, they found ways to reduce plate waste by 50%!
7. Staff should be trained to replenish buffet plates at a cost-effective rate to avoid encouraging customers to serve themselves more than they normally would
Managing food safety
8. Cross-contamination between dishes is a significant risk for the hotel buffet breakfast because customer behaviour, such as sharing serving spoons between dishes, can have a real impact. Meat-free dishes must be separate from meat products, while items that contain, or could have been exposed to, allergens must be labelled and separate. Best practice is to assign designated allergy-friendly and vegetarian areas within the servery
9. Holding temperatures and holding times must be monitored closely and regularly
10. Displays must be laid out according to the agreed specification
Carrying out a SWOT analysis should show whether a buffet breakfast will benefit the hotel – financially and reputationally. Working through the pointers and implementing the right controls should safeguard well being, minimise waste and maximise profit. When the costs are no longer hidden, operators can really make buffet breakfasts add up.