Merriam-Webster provides the clearest definition of a continental breakfast, defining it as "a light meal in a hotel, restaurant, etc., that typically includes baked goods, jam, fruit, and coffee."But why those particular items? Well, if you've noticed, the majority of the foods supplied in a continental breakfast are shelf-stable foods that restaurants or hotels can buy in large quantities of to feed as many customers as possible. Many multi-day corporate conferences choose the Continental Breakfast option since it is also affordable. The monthly medico-legal publication "The Sanitarian" published the first instance of the term "Continental Breakfast" in 1896. The term "Continental Breakfast" was used to describe the type of breakfast American tourists had in hotels at the Old Country in that particular issue, which was "a polished meal consisting of a roll and a coffee."
Although the phrase "Continental Breakfast" dates back to 1896, the concept actually originated in Britain in the middle of the 19th century. Like us, our British cousins enjoy a hearty breakfast to start the day, which is why they created the stomach-busting English Breakfast, which includes a plateful of eggs, bacon, beans, blood sausage, mushrooms, toast, and tomatoes.
However, the English did not begin referring to it as such until the middle of the 19th century, when middle-class travel began to flourish as a business and they began to receive tourists from "the continent," or mainland Europe. It was an excellent strategy for differentiating cafés from their rivals and offering English and European tourists a unique dining experience.
The full English breakfast was absurd to the continentals because breakfast often consisted of fresh fruit, a baked good, and coffee in nations like France, Germany, and the Mediterranean. The entire kitchen sink was included for the English. However, they realized that they needed to adapt, so they began providing these healthy breakfast options for folks who couldn't handle meat and eggs in the morning. The continental breakfast quickly became popular with tourists and a specialty breakfast for locals, proving that their marketing strategy had, surprisingly, been successful.
Americans picked up the British appetite for a Full English, substituting more American foods like waffles, sausages, cereal, and pancakes for some of the more traditional ingredients. Of course, travelers from Europe would object to the oily, heavy, and fatty breakfasts that the British and the Americans served, so hotels began to provide them simpler, lighter dishes under the name of the Continental Breakfast.
Continental Breakfast: A Mainstay for Hotels and Conferences
Another factor contributed to the widespread use of continental breakfasts in hotels. Early on, it provided Americans a taste of "European elegance," which was a successful marketing tactic in the days of yore. Nowadays, affordability and cost-effectiveness are more important. You may purchase fruits and pastries in quantity for a low cost, and you don't need a lot of people to take care of the fruit juice pitchers and pastry trays. In comparison to cooked dishes like omelets or flapjacks, it is also simpler to produce. Given that the majority of continental breakfasts are complimentary, it is also highly handy for most clients.
When visitors would stay at 5-star hotels in the early years of the American hotel industry, they paid for both room and board: meals and beverages were included in the hotel bill at the conclusion of their stay. It was practical and allowed visitors to try to enjoy their lunch or their holiday without worrying about money. However, as time went on, visitors preferred to save money, so their eating plans needed to be adaptable. Hotels in America started adopting a European model of payment as a way to respond to this without drastically losing revenue. Meals were no longer included in the final bill, so customers just had to pay for their room.
The word "Continental" would conjure up images of Europe, after all, so American hotels gradually began to offer a "Continental" style pricing plan to distinguish it from other "traditional" hotels and to make them sound much fancier, which in turn allowed them to charge a small premium for their offerings. Although customers in these "Continental" hotels simply had to pay for their accommodation, a "free" breakfast was provided (the price of which was folded into the overall cost of the room). This eventually became the norm for hotels all throughout the world, not just American hotels.
Traditionally, hotel guests in the United States paid for all of their meals through the establishment's restaurant. At the end of their stay, a single bill (room and board) was presented that included the cost of the meals. And for this reason, conferences for business are nearly always conducted at 3-star hotels: they are less expensive, more cost-effective, and the continental breakfast is simple enough to keep expenses down yet enticing enough to draw attendees. Even though everyone loves bacon, I have yet to meet someone who won't turn down a complimentary Danish for breakfast. And if all else fails, there's always the free coffee.