Not long ago breakfast was an always-standard feature included in a hotel stay. Over the last few years it’s begun to disappear, particularly with rooms found and booked online. This practice varies from region to region, but more often than not, one needs to read the fine print carefully when booking to ensure it’s included, or pony-up extra to enjoy the often cited ‘most important meal of the day’.

Meg Evans, Regional Director of Sales and Marketing – Southeast Asia, with the Minor Hotel Group has worked in the region for eight years and says while most hotels in SE Asia do include breakfast, some don’t to reduce costs. “If a hotel chooses to do a room-only rate it could be because they want to show a lower rate, however it can be perceived as having less value.” “Guests feel having breakfast included is added value, giving them more value for their money.”

It’s providing value that’s of utmost importance to Christian de Boer, General Manager of Shinta Mani Club and Resort, in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where they’ve always included breakfast in their rates and view it as one of their most important amenities. “As a small independent hotel we have to work harder than others to ensure a word-of-mouth reaction and thus future guests. Breakfast is generally the last meal experience at our property so we ensure it’s indeed perfect and included.” “I believe it’s the difference between a place which has a bed and shower, and a hotel that always puts the guest’s experience first. It underscores the real reason of a venue.”

Alexis de Suriname, owner of The Plantation a stylish hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, like de Boer, considers breakfast an essential part of his property’s style and can’t imagine not including it. “Guests expect breakfast as part of their stay just like they expect bed sheets.” He goes on to say that some high-end hotels view breakfast as another way to add on more money to your stay, “If you can afford an expensive hotel they often figure they can charge you another US$20-30 for breakfast.” “If you are going to charge extra for breakfast, twelve percent of the double room rate per person would be a guideline that’s fair without entirely gouging people.” “But personally I can’t imagine not including breakfast with a room stay.”

While Evans points out that Anantara properties always include breakfast in their rates, she says the additional cost can vary greatly depending on region and style of hotel. “It depends on the market and country. I have worked in countries where breakfast costs US$10 and other countries where breakfast is 30 Euros.”

De Boer has taken a unique approach at Shinta Mani, actually putting more time, money and focus on breakfast, something he feels is a key component and feature of the property. “Our goal is to ‘wow’ guests from start to finish, and a complete hotel experience should include a fantastic, freshly made breakfast that’s included.” “We’re always thinking about how to impress our guests. Providing 100% freshly squeezed orange juice, home-baked bread, homemade yoghurt, along with a buffet-style and a-la-carte breakfast to ensure everything’s always fresh and delicious.”

While most hoteliers interviewed for this story all view breakfast as an integral part of the guest experience and include it, straying outside of a hotel’s own booking website seems to be the main reason guests end up with a room-rate that doesn’t include that ever important first meal of the day. While online booking tools and engines are in many ways empowering travelers, they can also create breakfast battles that guests need to be aware of. The verdict: when booking, use hotel’s websites and read the fine print..