If you travel often or have ever stayed in a hotel, there’s a good chance you have come across a continental breakfast.
These complimentary breakfasts are available at many chain hotels, on cruises, and at resorts.
While continental breakfasts are common for many people, they actually have an interesting history and are more complicated than most people realize.
Understanding everything that goes into a continental breakfast will not only give you a little more appreciation for such a simple meal but will also help you determine if this type of breakfast is right for you.
What Is A Continental Breakfast?
A continental breakfast is a meal that is served during morning hours and consists of a variety of light foods such as pastries, eggs, yogurt, and cereals.
Coffee, milk, and fruit juices are also served as part of a continental breakfast.
The food items can vary but are usually fast and simple items that are easy to prepare and restock.
Most continental breakfasts are served buffet-style, but in some cases, a staff member may serve the foods.
Many options are grab-and-go, but there are also various stations where food can be prepared to order.
Continental breakfasts are typically offered as a complimentary service for guests who are staying at hotels, resorts, or even on cruises.
What Foods Are Served At A Continental Breakfast?
The items served during a continental breakfast are at the discretion of the establishment that offers it.
Since continental breakfasts are supposed to be quick to allow travelers to get a tasty meal and head out the door to their next destination, the food items are usually simple, easy for the hotel to prepare, and easy for guests to add to their plates while moving through a line.
Some common continental breakfast items include:
- Packaged pastries
- Fresh fruit
- Instant Oatmeal
- Instant Grits
- Peanut Butter
- Jellies and jams
- Scrambled eggs
- Sausage Links
- Biscuits and gravy
Do All Hotels Offer Continental Breakfast?
Not all hotels offer continental breakfast, and not all continental breakfasts are the same.
Some only offer a very limited selection of items that are mostly grab-and-go and prepackaged.
Others will prepare foods that are served warm or chilled.
Many hotels proudly advertise their free continental breakfast on their websites, signs, or commercials because they are attractive to travelers.
If you are unsure if a hotel is offering continental breakfast, or you need to learn more about the types of foods that are included with the breakfast, you can check the hotel’s website or call customer service.
Is Continental Breakfast Served On Cruises?
Some cruises do offer continental breakfasts.
This can vary by cruise line and cruise ship.
Some only offer continental breakfast on the first or last day of a cruise, and others offer it every day.
The continental breakfast is typically served buffet-style and will be offered in one of the smaller bars, restaurants, or lobbies of the ship.
Some cruise lines also provide continental breakfast with room service.
They will offer a room service menu in the stateroom with a list of continental breakfast items that are available.
You choose the ones you want and call to place your order.
The continental breakfast is typically free on a ship, even as room service, but the menu may be limited.
Some ships also have door hanger menus that have continental breakfast options on them.
You check the ones you want and must have the menu hanging back on the outside of the door by a certain time on the night before.
Continental breakfasts may be available any day of the cruise or only on port days.
Is Continental Breakfast Served At All-Inclusive Resorts?
Many all-inclusive resorts offer continental breakfast.
It is not always a popular option at resorts because most meals are free, so many guests are less likely to choose simple options.
Resorts do offer continental breakfast as a quick option for anyone who may have an excursion or beach day planned and doesn’t want to wait in line at restaurants or buffets.
Continental breakfasts make it possible for resort guests to grab something quickly before they head out for their next adventure.
Can Continental Breakfast Be Served By Room Service?
Continental breakfasts are typically served buffet-style, but some hotels, cruises, and resorts do offer continental breakfasts as part of their room service menu.
These items may be the same as the options service in a traditional continental breakfast or may be more limited.
In most cases, guests will need to arrange for a room service continental breakfast the night before it will be delivered.
Many hotels do not offer room service at all but do serve a continental breakfast in the lobby of the hotel or a separate dining area.
Why Is It Called Continental Breakfast?
The continental breakfast gets its name from the continent of Europe and the type of breakfast that is common there.
Until the late 19th century, many Americans were working labor-intensive jobs that required a large calorie intake.
Breakfast meals were the heaviest meals of the day because they were meant to provide energy for a morning’s worth of work and also keep workers from getting hungry before lunchtime.
At the end of the 19th century and into the start of the 20th century, Americans started working more sedentary jobs in offices or factories.
This meant they needed fewer calories to sustain them between meals and to help them get through the morning until lunch.
A lighter breakfast was more sufficient.
During this same time, Europeans began to travel to the United States and other parts of the world, and they brought many of their traditions and personal tastes with them.
They were unimpressed by the heavy breakfasts offered in many parts of the world and instead used their own preferred light breakfast to influence a new lighter option.
They persuaded the British to change up their heavy breakfasts first, and the continental breakfast was born.
The name officially caught on by 1855 and spread to other countries.
In the United States, Europeans started staying at hotels and expecting breakfast.
Hotel owners wanted to cater to their tastes, so they began creating light breakfast options that Europeans would enjoy.
The ease and affordability of this type of breakfast appealed to hotel owners, and it soon became the go-to option.
At the time, most hotels or lodging options in the United States were operated as boarding houses, and hosts typically provided meals for their guests at no additional charge.
Being able to offer lighter and more affordable meals meant the hotels could increase profits while still providing their guests with the same experience.
The continental breakfast quickly became popular, and as travel expanded from a work-related necessity to a leisure activity, more travelers found that they preferred lighter, faster, and more affordable breakfast options.
Today, many hotels, bed and breakfasts, resorts, and cruise lines offer a continental breakfast to guests.
Why Do Hotels Offer Continental Breakfast?
Hotels offer continental breakfast as a way to entice guests and make travel a little easier for them.
Many travelers expect meals to be available at the hotel where they stay.
Some guests would prefer not to have to leave the hotel once they arrive.
While some hotels offer a large room service menu, have bars that serve food and drink, or have restaurants attached, many smaller hotels do not have the space or staff to provide these dining options.
Continental breakfasts make it possible for smaller hotels to offer breakfast and compete with larger hotels that do the same.
Continental breakfasts are preferred by many travelers.
Some guests have plans that start early, and they don’t have time to go to a restaurant or wait for a big meal to be prepared.
Instead, they appreciate the ability to grab a light meal or pre-packaged item and head off on their adventure.
A continental breakfast keeps things moving so guests who are in a hurry can move through the line and get what they prefer at their own pace, and those who want to sit down and enjoy their meal at a slower pace can do so as well.
Hotels also offer continental breakfast because it is affordable.
Continental breakfasts are often pre-packaged or include fresh ingredients that don’t have to be refrigerated, frozen, or stored for long periods.
Even those that do include meat, eggs, and other prepared options are usually shelf-stable or can be purchased in bulk to save money.
What Are The Different Global Breakfast Options?
While most hotels do prefer to serve continental breakfasts, there are other global breakfast options to consider.
The type of breakfast you are offered may be based on the area where you travel.
In the United States, some hotels offer a full American breakfast.
This is a very hearty breakfast that features a variety of breakfast meats, potato dishes, eggs, toast, biscuits, and pancakes or french toast.
Another healthier option is the traditional Japanese breakfast.
It includes rice, which makes it heavy and filling, as well as steamed vegetables, eggs, fish, tofu, and even soup.
A traditional English breakfast is lighter than some other breakfast options but still includes heartier options.
Baked beans are a staple for English breakfast, but it also includes eggs, bacon, toast, and roasted vegetables.
Puddings are also popular with English breakfast.
In Italy, breakfast resembles tea time.
Italian breakfast consists of coffee and lattes as well as numerous pastries and bread.
Some consider it much lighter than a traditional continental breakfast.
What Is The Difference Between A Continental Breakfast And A Full Breakfast?
Continental breakfast and full breakfast are very similar, but continental breakfasts are typically lighter, and the foods are not heated.
Traditionally, continental breakfasts consist of cold items such as yogurt, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs.
A full breakfast includes cooked foods that are served hot such as sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, and biscuits and gravy.
Some hotels serve full breakfast items as well as continental breakfast and simply call it a continental breakfast.
Many people have come to associate continental breakfast with any breakfast served at a hotel and included in the hotel price instead of the types of foods that are served.
Do Hotels Charge For Continental Breakfasts?
Most hotels, resorts, and cruises offer continental breakfast for free.
It is also sometimes called a complimentary breakfast to ensure that guests know it is free.
Some hotels may charge for continental breakfast.
Some may also offer different food items for an upcharge.
Who Makes The Continental Breakfast At A Hotel?
Most food items served as continental breakfast do not require a lot of preparation.
In most cases, they simply need to be heated or chilled.
Things such as fresh fruit, oatmeal, pastries, and drinks are set out and arranged to make them easy to grab.
Some hotels have employees whose only job is to come in early in the morning to prepare the breakfast items and set them out for guests.
This person may be a cook or chef, or it may be a hotel employee who works at the front desk.
Sometimes housekeeping is responsible for preparing breakfast or making it available to guests.
Hotels that offer continental breakfast as room service may have a specific room service staff that prepare and serve the breakfast.
During What Times Are Continental Breakfasts Available?
Continental breakfast times can vary by hotel or resort.
The most common time for continental breakfast to be served is between the hours of 6 am and 11 am.
Some hotels may offer their breakfast earlier or make it available later.
In most cases, the breakfast ends about an hour before checkout time.
This allows guests to enjoy breakfast and still have time to get packed up and check out promptly.
Are Continental Breakfasts Hygienic?
Some people don’t like the idea of a continental breakfast because it is set out for long periods, and even pre-packaged items can be touched and picked through by others.
Hotels that serve continental breakfast follow the same guidelines as restaurants and handle food carefully.
Cooked or heated food is checked often and rotated as needed to ensure there are only fresh items available on the buffet for guests.
Most hotels serve so many people that the food is rarely available for very long, and it is constantly being prepared and re-stocked.
If you are worried about getting fresh food, show up to breakfast when it starts.
What Are The Benefits Of Eating A Continental Breakfast?
Most travelers appreciate having a continental breakfast as an option, but it may not be the right choice for everyone.
It is meant to be a fast and convenient option for those who don’t have the time or money to visit a restaurant for breakfast.
It can be beneficial for those who need a quick bite and just want something simple.
Many people choose to eat a continental breakfast on the go.
If they are headed out to a destination, meeting, or need to get back on the road to travel, they can grab a few packaged foods and even eat them in the car.
Most continental breakfasts have a large selection of different foods, so another benefit of eating this type of breakfast is the ability to choose from many options.
Restaurant selections and room service options can be limited, but with a continental breakfast, you can find a variety of different things that you may enjoy.
Families with children will also appreciate that many continental breakfast items are things that kids enjoy.
Muffins, cookies, toast, cereal, and fruit juices are usually available and are easy for kids to eat.
Anyone on a budget who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on food or take a chance of going to a restaurant and ordering foods they may not like will appreciate being able to walk down to a hotel lobby or restaurant and have a selection of foods available at no extra cost.
The best thing about a continental breakfast is that there is no pressure to order.
Continental breakfasts can also be a great time to try something different or new.
If you have never had certain things that are available, you can try them as part of the continental breakfast without having to pay extra for them.