A continental breakfast is a light morning meal that is provided by many hotels and motels. It traditionally includes bread products, fruit juice and hot beverages. Some lodging facilities also include other types of food, such as cereal, fruit, meat and eggs. The meal typically is presented in a buffet, from which guests can help themselves, rather than being served to the guests like it would be in a restaurant. The quality and amount of food that is provided can vary widely and often depends on the quality of the establishment, with high-end hotels that attract business travelers typically providing better continental breakfast food than roadside motels that attract families who are vacationing on tight budgets.
Origin of the Term
The term "continental breakfast" refers to the continent of Europe and distinguishes this simple breakfast from an English breakfast, which typically consists of more food and often includes meats, cereals, fruits and even vegetables in addition to bread products, juice and hot beverages. Light breakfasts such as those often enjoyed by people in Europe, especially France, are considered easier, cheaper and quicker for hotels to provide to their guests. It also is convenient for travelers who might not have time for a sit-down meal in the morning before needing to continue on their journey.
A continental breakfast usually is provided in the hotel or motel lobby, or in a room near the lobby, for a specified period of time during the morning. The food typically is placed on a large table or counter, and amenities such as plates, bowls, forks, spoons and knives are made available. There might be tables and chairs where guests can sit and eat, or they could take their breakfast back to their rooms or elsewhere.
The bread products that are included in a continental breakfast might include toast, doughnuts, pastries, croissants and rolls. Pancakes or waffles are less likely to be included, although toaster waffles might be offered. Butter, assorted jams and jellies or other toppings, such as syrup for waffles, usually are available.
Juices and hot beverages are almost always included in a continental breakfast. Orange juice, apple juice and grapefruit juice are common. Various types of coffee and tea usually are provided. Hot chocolate might be available for children or for guests who do not drink coffee or tea. Milk also is available sometimes.
Fruits and Cereals
The other foods that are included in a continental breakfast can vary widely. Some hotels provide fruit such as bananas, apples, oranges and grapefruits. Cold breakfast cereal and milk are often provided. Hot cereal, such as instant oatmeal, is sometimes available as well.
It is more rare for cooked meats or eggs to be included in a continental breakfast, but it does happen. For example, large containers full of scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage links might be placed out for guests. Hash browns — fried shredded potatoes — are another cooked breakfast item that is sometimes available.
Tips for Guests
Most hotels that offer continental breakfasts will tell guests the time period when the food will be available. Many times, a limited amount of food will be provided each day. For this reason, guests who wait until near the end of the availability time period should expect that the supply of some items might be gone. Also, it is considered to be poor etiquette for a guest to take very large portions of the food that is provided. This type of breakfast is meant to be quick and light, not a full meal that will satiate a person's hunger for many hours.