Guests take ‘comfort’ in Choice Hotels’ breakfast ambassadors

ROCKVILLE, MD—It’s been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And while some have questioned the validity of this common saying, Comfort has heeded the advice by developing new training programs for breakfast ambassadors and GMs at its North American locations.

“Breakfast is not just the most important meal of the day and, in many cases, a final impression for guests, it’s a business unit within a hotel’s operation,” said John Seabreeze, director of Comfort brands for Choice Hotels. “It’s an operation that not only impacts revenue through guests’ satisfaction with the menu and service experience, but also costs through the team’s ability to order, prepare and serve that menu efficiently.”

Comfort’s breakfast ambassadors are on the front lines of the brand’s morning meal efforts. These team members set up the buffet according to brand standards; maintain the cleanliness of the buffet and clear and clean tables when necessary; empty trash containers; maintain adequate supplies of food for the buffet; prepare food according to standards; plan and prepare food product for the following day according to occupancy forecast; breakdown and cleanup; and take inventory of supply.

To show guests it’s taking the first meal of the day seriously, Comfort has rolled out new training for its breakfast ambassadors. These employees are trained to serve breakfast “The Comfort Way,” designed to demonstrate an “‘I’ll Take Care of You’ spirit to guests in the preparation, presentation and service of breakfast,” Seabreeze said. “We feel confident this approach will help to leave guests feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.”

There are between 3,500-4,000 breakfast ambassadors at approximately 1,800 Comfort properties across the United States and Canada. The average Comfort-branded property has two breakfast ambassadors on staff, with additional team members on standby—ready to assist if needed.

“Comfort launched this training curriculum to enhance the skills and knowledge of our breakfast ambassadors,” he said. “They and the work they do often serve as the ‘final and lasting impression’ a guest has of the Comfort brand, and we want that impression to be a positive one. Ensuring that our teams are trained and well prepared to serve it is paramount to the success of the guest experience.”

Training for the Comfort Breakfast Ambassador program can be accessed online through Choice University, the hospitality group’s franchise education program. The duration of training ranges from 30-60 minutes. All breakfast ambassadors will need to complete new training by early 2018.

“The training was developed to be comprehensive for the new-to-breakfast-service individual, but also condensed enough for the more experienced professional,” Seabreeze said. “Pre-training quizzes in each section determine what content is delivered to the learner, customizing the lesson based on the needs of that individual.”

John Seabreeze
Choice Hotels
Photo: Choice Hotels

For breakfast ambassadors, preparation starts the day before and continues throughout the course of breakfast. The Comfort brand tasks them with “focusing on the best ways to ensure tasty, appealing and attractive food is served to guests,” he said. New preparation training covers planning, using forecasts and checklists, and developing routines for the opening and closing of breakfast. “More detailed training goes into best practices for preparing hot, cold, and dry foods, and basic food safety,” Seabreeze explained.

With regard to presentation, breakfast ambassadors are taught to meet standards in the menu, presentation and service of breakfast. The brand also “educates them in the understanding that guests eat with their eyes first.” More detailed training in this aspect includes stocking and restocking, managing slow and peak times, and preparing for both opening and closing.

Service training is designed to assist breakfast ambassadors with finding balance during the busy breakfast hours—how to best balance preparation and presentation, while also taking care of guests “The Comfort Way,” he said. Additional training for breakfast ambassadors within this module entails proactive services qualities and the ‘“goodbye experience for the guest, since breakfast is often among the last impressions left on travelers,” he said.

The Comfort brand also developed a number of downloadable resources for breakfast ambassadors. These materials include forecasting sheets; food ordering guidelines; inventory and waste tracking; roles and responsibilities descriptions; breakfast operations checklists; guidelines for the preparation of hot, cold and dry foods; best practices; and brand standards.

“The Comfort brand’s breakfast ambassadors bring our complimentary, hearty and healthy breakfast to life for our guests,” Seabreeze said. “They are essential in helping to ensure the wide variety of hot and cold options currently offered at breakfast are presented and replenished in the most appetizing as well as warm and welcoming way.”

Comfort GMs will also undergo training; they, too, will need to complete new training by early 2018. It’s necessary for GMs to participate in additional training because they’re the ones planning and supporting breakfast ambassadors ahead of time. “We want to ensure our GMs are forecasting for ordering and preparation, so that the breakfast ambassador has the right and correct amount of menu items and supplies on hand to serve guests, as well as be ready for peaks and valleys in daily and weekly demand. We want to ensure our GMs know the role they play in supporting the breakfast experience, much of which happens when they are not in the hotel,” said Seabreeze.

The training for GMs, however, will focus on two key focus areas—forecasting and staff planning. “A proper forecast ensures the right inventory of foods and beverages are in stock and assists the breakfast ambassador to prepare and serve the right amounts of food to meet guest demand while minimizing served waste,” he said. Comfort’s staff planning will assist GMs with selecting and training the right persons to serve as breakfast ambassadors. It will also aid in “determining how other team members can be trained to assist when demand peaks during breakfast hours,” Seabreeze said. GMs can also access the same downloadable resources that the brand designed for its breakfast ambassadors.

“GMs should be looking for people to prepare, present and serve breakfast who are able to balance all three aspects of the job well,” he said. “These are business-minded, quality-focused, caring individuals. It may be the hardest job to fill in the hotel, simply because the job duties are so diverse—you’re the kitchen manager, cook, waiter, host and busboy—all in one job.” HB

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