Hilton, to-go breakfast, and a (mis?)interpretation of Natasha’s LawBack to Forum
I’d like to describe a recent experience at a UK Hilton property and get your thoughts…
I stayed at a Hilton Hotel in a UK city recently, conveniently located near to an office I frequent every month or so. It’s a full service property with an Executive Lounge, pool, spa, room service, etc. It’s convenient because I can leave the hotel with just a short 20 minute walk to the office, and have breakfast on the run. During my most recent stay, the F&B breakfast manager stopped me from taking coffee and breakfast away from the restaurant – the 4 coffee machines are stacked with paper to-go cups and lids and there is a display of pastries even before you reach the host station, I always assumed to enable guests to take a fast breakfast with them.
Once I’d confirmed my name and room number, I said I wanted to take a coffee, pastry, and piece of fruit with me and didn’t need a table. This led to a lengthy discussion about a new policy that meant guests are not allowed to take food or drinks away from the breakfast area. The manager couldn’t explain what was behind this, other than to say it was a new strict policy. I didn’t understand the issue with taking a coffee (in a paper cup!), a pastry and piece of fruit with me or what difference it would make if I took up a table to myself unnecessarily. Eventually, rather flustered, they agreed and said “I’ll turn a blind eye today”, and I left feeling confused with my 3 breakfast items.
The next day I didn’t want to cause a fuss and so had the same breakfast, this time seated in the restaurant, bemused by the queue of people waiting to be seating and a heated argument between a server and a father whose kids were getting fidgety and wanted to take their remaining items on a tray to their room – this escalated and the F&B manager attended and told the dad he was “not to remove anything at all” from the restaurant. I was seated next to him and he disclosed he was also a frequent guest at this property and didn’t understand the new policy.
Hilton sent me a request to complete a guest survey after my stay. I used this to describe the issue and received this response from the guest relations manager:
“I can completely understand the enforcement of not allowing food to be removed from the areas in which it is served must feel incredibly frustrating and petulant but sadly this is not a solely a Hilton rule. This came about due to a new UK law known as Natasha’s Law which is when a customer of the Pret A Manger chain consumed a product that was not correctly labelled with all allergens and ingredients and sadly that young lady died. A new law was passed that came into effect in October 2021 that prohibits the removal of food & drink items from the premises it was prepared on unless it can be packaged and clearly labelled with all the ingredients and allergens it contains. We do not have the equipment or resources on site to do this at present therefore we cannot allow these items to be removed, its not so much that we are refusing the choice of where to eat for our guests its a duty of care and UK law that restricts us from allowing this at this time I hope you can appreciate that and I do apologise if this was not more clearly communicated to you at the time.”
I’m aware of Natasha’s Law in the sense of the information presented in the media and that every catering establishment now asks about allergies before serving food. But…this seemed odd. The three items I wanted – coffee, pastry, fruit – were not individually packaged, processed, labelled items. The coffee machines did not have labels on them about potential allergens. The pastries were displayed in a basket and labelled with the calorie content but not allergens. The fruit was whole – bananas, apples, oranges etc. The staff at the host desk asked about allergens before they would even confirm your breakfast status, which would presumably address any concerns about eating foods that could be harmful.
I suspect the senior team at this hotel might have misinterpreted their responsibility about the law and I have asked for some more clarification about labelling etc – plus individual responsibility in that I’d given confirmation that I had no allergies (I assume the father I mention above had done the same).
I’m writing this from another Hilton, in the same brand category, where the staff helped me pack up a more substantial breakfast this morning. I mentioned the rules enforced by their colleagues elsewhere and they were amused, noting no concerns or preferences other than to let guests make their own decisions.
Thoughts, as always, appreciated.9 May 2023
Many times people who are in charge of making law, do not use the service or items on which they are making the law And do not get enough feedback from real users who will be affected by that law.
Having said that, I believe hotel has every right not to allow cooked/prepared food to be taken out from buffet to avoid any liabilities plus to control cost.
Coffee and whole fruits are okay, many people take that – in US it is almost norm and breakfast waiters actively pack coffee as go to.
On the other hand, I have seen some extremes in some 5-star establishments where some guests grab a lot of food to carry.10 May 2023
I would disagree with the above poster.
It looks to me that the Hiltons interpretation of the said law is incorrect – but I am not a lawyer and thus cannot be confident that I am correct.
Personally though I would arrange a meeting with the General Manager. Discuss the inconsistencies in Hiltons policy implication and how the hotel can assist you as a regular guest.
From experience once you have made pleasant contact with the GM he will forever know you and probably allow your needs to be met – perhaps you will be asked to sign something negating the hotel from any liability10 May 2023
My understanding of “Natasha’s Law” is that it concerns what is known as food PPDS (Prepacked for Direct Sale), the contents of which have to be clearly described on labeling which specifically highlights allergens.
I’m not sure how this can be applied to unpackaged items on the breakfast buffet of a Hilton Hotel.10 May 2023
I sympathise with you, I really do, but I understand the rule. If I was an F and B manager I would not like to see guests walk out with food. It is abused. I saw a young guy once load a backpack with food, clearly thinking to himself “Well that will keep me going all day”. And others with more than a snack and coffee.
It’s really too bad for you, and for the hotel.10 May 2023
[quote quote=1360087]Coffee and whole fruits are okay, many people take that – in US it is almost norm and breakfast waiters actively pack coffee as go to.
On the other hand, I have seen some extremes in some 5-star establishments where some guests grab a lot of food to carry.[/quote]
I have noticed a sign on the restaurant reception desk warning that “food and beverage must not be taken away” or something like that at most of the large hotels in the UK and abroad at which I have stayed for a number of years. This is nothing to do with “Natasha’s Law” (which only applies in the UK anyway) and Scott should challenge this reason with the GM, if they meet. The Hilton policy has other reasons.
In all those hotels I have taken away a piece of fresh fruit (when available) and occasionally a coffee, and have never been challenged about this.
1 user thanked author for this post.10 May 2023
I happened to be in a very will known up-market HK 5 star (They have a place near Hyde park corner in London also) yesterday evening where I have a nodding acquaintance with the F and B director.
It was early and not frantically busy and so I had a brief chat re Natashas Law’..
This groups view is to turn a blind eye unless obvious abuse is taking place (shopping bags of food being removed etc) . In fact in their guest club lounge guests are encouraged to take light food back to their rooms if they desire. (would this approach be workable in a holiday 3 star context ?)
This seems a very sensible approach for to take. His interpretation of said law was that they do not consider that it in any way applies.11 May 2023
I have so often seen guests make and pack sandwiches, almost emptying the buffet, to take away so they do not have to buy a lunch. Natasha’s law aside, it seems it’s the few that spoil it for everyone else.
I’ve only done this once, during a stay at the Crillon in Paris. Mrs. LP, always with an eye to the pennies 😉 wanted to do just that for our train journey back to Switzerland. I said no, but asked the head waiter if we could take two sandwiches with us (not relishing the TGV’s offering) and would happily pay for them. Off he went, and came back with 4 small baguettes, 2 ham and 2 cheese, perfectly wrapped and placed in a small box, compliments of the hotel. I was genuinely touched by this gesture.12 May 2023