You’re traveling to a new destination and you check in to your hotel. It’s late, and you’re exhausted and very hungry. Do you head down to the hotel restaurant or go search the local area for restaurants or food stalls nearby? The answer is really a subjective one, and it can vary as widely as the destination in question.
In many cases, a hotel restaurant is more expensive than a local restaurant, but sometimes there is a convenience factor that may make it worth it. If you arrived late and you’re exhausted, it may be smarter to order room service or grab a quick bite in the hotel so you can turn in early, beat jet lag, and go out exploring the following day.
Or, maybe you want a quick breakfast before heading out for a day of exploration. The offerings and prices vary widely, but some hotel breakfasts are excellent. Expansive buffet options with quality ingredients are often the norm, especially in European hotels. However, be wary of the price. If you have the option to book a room and it’s $5 more to add breakfast, don’t expect to get to the hotel and add it on the spot for the same price. In some cases, hotel breakfasts can run $30 per person or more!
Some of the biggest complaints about hotel restaurants when it comes to lunch and dinner surround the high prices, lack of quality food, mediocre service, and no local culture. This is certainly cause for concern at a number of hotels around the world, but don’t necessarily rule out a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant just because it’s in the hotel.
A number of hotels in various Asian and European countries are home to some highly-rated restaurants. Some U.S. hotels are also adding food and beverage programs that are designed to bring in local clientele and food travelers. Big luxury hotel brands often have the budget to attract world-renowned chefs who opt to open entirely new restaurants or expand their existing namesake restaurants. In other destinations that cater heavily to tourism, you may find a small island’s best chefs have jobs in the hotel restaurants. Visiting an independent, family-owned resort and restaurant in a relatively remote destination will likely increase your chances of finding a decent meal.
If you follow the Michelin Star Guides for parts of Europe and Asia, you’ll quickly see that some of the most decorated restaurants are located in the cities’ best hotels. If you’re narrowing down choices for a fine dining experience, definitely look at expert reviews for hotel restaurants in the area you’re visiting. Also, if it’s not fine dining that you’re looking for, many restaurants also offer additional dining venues, sometimes even those focusing more on casual dishes and local dishes.
In some situations, you might be staying at a resort where the only option for food is on the property. Or, you may be booking an all-inclusive where you feel obligated to eat all your meals on property. The all-inclusive resort is where you can sometimes run into issues with service and the quality of food. On the flip side, there are some all-inclusive properties that have really upped their game, garnering their own share of culinary awards. Again, it’s helpful to do your research ahead of time to see what options are available nearby if you’re in a remote area, or what the reviews are at the particular all-inclusive you’re considering.
The argument that no locals eat at hotel restaurants is definitely untrue in many cases. There are hotels in cities like Hong Kong and Taipei who primarily cater to local, repeat clientele. In countries like Belize where tourism is one of the key industries, hotel restaurants have to cater to local tastes, because that is what keeps them busy during the slow season. Reviewing posts and reviews from local food writers and bloggers can help narrow down some of the best options for the city you’re visiting.
So, while there may be a long-standing stereotype that hotel restaurants are establishments to avoid, you could find that you miss out on a great meal if you follow this too strictly. Take the time to do some research, and you could find that you’re sharing a roof with the best eats in town!
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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