What Is A Continental Breakfast?

‘Continental’ – for some, this word has purely geographical connotations, particularly in mainland Europe. For others, continental evokes a full sensory memory of a particularly delicious breakfast…

What Is A Continental Breakfast?

If you’ve never had a continental breakfast, or you want to know more about what makes this iconic dish, we’re here to make your mouth water.

Keep reading to learn more about the continental breakfast, what makes it, where it comes from, and more.

What Is A Continental Breakfast?

If we take a look back at the history books, the first record use of the term ‘continental breakfast’ dates back to 1896.

However, there’s evidence to suggest that the continental breakfast existed decades before, when American hotels made an effort to incorporate it into their menus and appeal to the tastes of European travelers.

The continental breakfast is considered ‘light’ compared to other dishes. But what makes it?

Well, here’s a list of all the things you can expect to find at a continental breakfast buffet:

Bread Based Products

Bread-based products can include anything from toast and pastries (such as croissants and pain au chocolat) to muffins, bagels, cereal, and donuts.

Some hotels may also offer french toast, pancakes, and waffles with a selection of toppings… delicious!

Fresh Fruit

You can also expect to find a generous helping of fresh fruit at a continental breakfast.

The most popular fresh fruits include bananas, apples, and strawberries, but some places also offer grapes, pears, blueberries, and melons.

Fruit Juice

Every continental breakfast will also offer fruit juice, no matter the venue.

You’ll usually have a choice between orange and apple juice, but you may find other options like grapefruit juice and cranberry juice at the table.

Coffee And Tea

Coffee and tea (Find out the Best Milk Tea Flavors here) is another continental staple. Your coffee is usually fresh-brewed (Find out Does Cold Brew Have More Caffeine here), and you’ll be able to pour as much or as little as you want.

The same goes for tea, which may already be brewed in a teapot (depending on the size of the venue), or you can help yourself to a tea bag and some hot water.

You’ll usually find sugar, cream, and sweetener on offer to give your hot drink that extra kick.

Other extras can include:

  • Oats
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Eggs

Where Does Continental Breakfast Come From?

The phrase ‘continental breakfast’ seems to originate from 19th century Britain. In Britain, the word ‘continent’ refers exclusively to the countries that create mainland Europe.

What Is A Continental Breakfast?

So, the continental breakfast is a collection of the types of breakfast foods you’d find in these countries and places, such as France and the Mediterranean.

In Britain, continental breakfast is offered at most hotels alongside the ‘full English,’ which is a much heartier, filling dish.

The full English consists of plenty of bacon, eggs, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, sausage, toast, and black pudding.

This is similar to what you’d expect from a traditional American breakfast; however, in Europe, it was considered too heavy and greasy for some time – hence why the continental breakfast was born as an option to appeal to lighter, more delicate palettes (and stomachs!).

Why Do Hotels Offer Continental Breakfast?

If you’ve ever stayed at a hotel in Europe, you’ve probably seen the continental on the breakfast menu. There are a few reasons for this.

Firstly, the continental is a cost-effective option.

Because this breakfast is served in a buffet-style layout, few staff are needed to provide it, it requires less cooking time (if any, depending on the menu), and it’s great for guests.

The food is considered great value, and because you usually only pay one set rate for your continental and can choose as much as you like, it’s almost considered ‘free’.

Why Is The Continental Free?

Depending on where you go, the continental breakfast may be a free option. In most hotels, your breakfast is included in the price of your room – so technically, it’s free!

The American payment model used to be the standard payment option for most places.

With the model, guests would eat all of their meals in the hotel restaurant, and the price for each meal would be added to the cost of their room at the end of the stay.

However, hotels saw higher demand for more flexible and cheaper dining arrangements, which is one of the biggest reasons why most hotels started adapting their payment options to the European-style plan.

With this method, guests would only pay for their room, and all meals essentially became ‘free.’ This is now the standard for most hotels, especially in Europe.

Another new standard is the ‘hybrid’ plan. This was also dubbed the continental model, and it sits apart from other options in terms of pricing structure.

With a continental model, breakfast is included in the price of the room, but guests can make whatever arrangements they wish for their lunch and their dinner.

This is the model you’ll now see in most hotels across the world.

Continental Tips

A word of advice: continental breakfast is usually free, so don’t expect to pig out on a five-star dining experience.

If you’re someone who only enjoys the fanciest of meals, the continental may not be for you.

This isn’t to say the continental doesn’t taste great, though (trust us, it REALLY does), but the ‘help yourself’ model may not be appealing to exclusively fancy diners.

Also, if you’re at a hotel, put LESS on your plate than you think you’ll eat.

It’s easy to overdo it at continental breakfast, and you don’t want to feel guilty for putting more on your plate than you can handle.

So, take your time and avoid the bloat – you can always go back for seconds if you need them!

Final Thoughts

If you’re not a fan of heavy, greasy breakfasts, the continental is the perfect breakfast option.

You’ll be presented with every delicious pastry, fresh fruit, and juice your heart desires, and you’ll have the freedom to make your breakfast whatever you want it to be!

Plus it’s free and all-you-can-eat; what more could you ask for?

Jeff Pratt
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