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July 14, 2011

Courtyard Marriott Bids Adieu to the Waffle Iron

The new look of Courtyard Marriott's breakfast space (courtesy Courtyard Marriott)

Travelers staying at Courtyard Marriott are getting a healthy (and delicious) kick in the pants when it comes to the breakfast buffet. The old standards found in hotels and motels across the country (stale cereal, carb-loaded muffins, and yes, the ubiquitous waffle maker) are giving way to egg white sandwiches with havarti cheese and heart-healthy apple-cranberry oatmeal. The move is part of Courtyard's Bistro concept, which aims to give weary business travelers an excuse to stay in when on the road.

The project, being rolled out to Courtyard's 700+ hotels through 2012, brings comfortable, modern accents to once staid hotel lobbies. "Media pods" (small booths where groups of two to four can have a multimedia meeting) and communal tables allow solo travelers to chit-chat with others while checking email or having a glass of wine.

Courtyard-salad But the big change is the food menu. Open for breakfast, lunch, and light entrees, "The Bistro" has a menu crafted by chefs at the test kitchen in Marriott's D.C. headquarters, combining seasonal dishes with tried and true favorites. We recently got a sneak peak at the menu items, and though there were hits and misses, the food was a significant step above your typical chain hotel fare. A falafel sandwich surprised and impressed this reviewer, both for the fact that it was light and tasty and that Courtyard, whom I know from my days on the road to healthcare marketing conferences, would risk such niche item. The roast beef sandwich sources bread from California's well-known LaBrea bread company, and the Asian noodle salad would have made a perfect fill for that state of hunger that only six hours of airline travel can bring.

Now only if they could work on airline food.

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I believe that the concept of the upgraded Courtyards is flawed. I have stayed in the Courtyards for years. The primary attraction to staying at the Courtyard is that it offered a warm and inviting atmosphere both in the entrance/lobby and the breakfast in the mornings. The food was fresh and the smell of the waffles, bacon, etc. was inviting. This homelike atmosphere was the biggest draw for me. I have been to a number of upgraded Courtyards. The Lobby now looks and feels like kiosks and have a less inviting look. The Bistro reminds me of going to McDonalds. As a matter of fact, I now pass up the Bistro and go to restaurant. I now try find an old Courtyard during my travels.

As a frequent Marriott Courtyard guest (over 100 nights per year) you obviously have not eaten in the new Courtyard Cafe. As I have explained in several emails to Marriott the concept is great the implementation is flawed. The servers are not trained and should be sent to Starbucks for upgrade training. The pastries should be fresh not spend over night in the fridge and serving yogurt that is more than a week past it's expiration date is not "cool".

Marriott has a lot of work to do to sell this concept.
A Platinum Premier Marriott Guest

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