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Is it time to beef up breaky?

Two experts weigh in on adding healthier options to continental breakfasts without affecting the bottom line

While the standard continental breakfast is inexpensive and super easy to implement, it's chock full of fat and caked with carbs. Is it time to beef up breaky? We turned to two experts to tell us their opinions.

Opinion 1
James Piggott is executive chef with the Toronto Airport Marriott. For breakfast he enjoyed granola, cottage cheese, banana and green Jasmine tea.

The overall principal followed in our kitchen and at the Toronto Airport Marriott is simple: do whatever it takes to ensure our guests are happy and that their meeting objectives are met. With continental breakfasts, it’s no different. We want to provide guests the best possible breakfast at the best possible price.

In today’s banquet breakfast market, meeting planners are often working with limited budgets while at the same time endeavouring to maximize the number of items offered to their groups. Many are also looking for healthier options complying with low-fat, no-carb and low-sugar diets.

The most basic continental breakfast at the lowest price point includes pastries, juice, sliced fruits and coffee. To include additional items, to increase variety, or to meet dietary desires or restrictions may, translate into additional costs.

At our hotel, we bake pastries and slice fruits for our restaurant each morning. To include these items into a catered continental breakfast is seamless.

We receive frequent requests to replace items like pastries with a protein, while maintaining the same cost. Protein items incur higher product costs and additional labour, especially when considering higher volume programs. We are often asked to include eggs (hard-boiled or scrambled), smoked salmon, cream cheese and bagels to the continental breakfast. Smoked salmon is not equal to pastries in terms of cost. If the item is hot, there are hidden costs like the chafing dish fuel or the extra time needed to set up a hot banquet.

And, some attendees want sweet pastries in the morning. While adding a protein item makes some guests happy, removing muffins and Danishes makes other guests unhappy.

We remain dedicated to doing whatever it takes to make our guests happy while at the same time maximizing and sustaining a profit. If meeting planners want healthier options for their continental breakfasts or hot protein items, we will strive to accommodate their needs and desires while striving to preserve our margins.

Opinion 2
Heidi Wilker, CMP, has 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry, and has owned and operated Blessed Events for over 12 years. For breakfast this morning she had zero-fat Greek yogurt, a banana, muesli bread with a touch of butter and, of course, a hard-boiled egg!

The standard continental breakfast menu in Canada needs a healthy makeover. My suggestion: Add a protein! Eliminate the high-sugar, high-carb, high-fat Danish pastries in favour of hard-boiled eggs—and do it without a changing the menu price.

The current standard of juice, muffins, pastries and croissants results in blood sugar rising quickly then dropping by mid-morning. Studies have shown that quick rise and fall of blood sugar levels both increases appetite for more food consumption, and decreases alertness. Clearly, this is not a good thing for delegates who sit for hours, trying to absorb messages or learning principles. Nutritionists and dieticians confirm that healthy dietary plans include at least one item containing protein at every meal.

Hard-boiled eggs contain high-quality protein and are a very cost-effective breakfast item with low food and labour costs; they are an easy substitute for Danish pastries, which often come from outside suppliers.

So chefs across Canada, I respectfully challenge you to unite in this healthy cause: to change the continental breakfast menu for the better—and to do it without affecting our bottom-line costs.

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