The Gross Reason You Should Avoid This Free Hotel Perk, According To An Ex-Hotel Worker

When choosing a hotel for your vacation, you don't just want a place to sleep — you want an experience. Added perks such as an on-site gym or a pool with a view can be why you would book one accommodation over a no-frills runner-up. However, not all hotel perks, even free options, are worth taking advantage of. Brandi Augustus, a TikToker and former hotel worker, urged followers in a viral video to never eat the complimentary breakfast at some lower-tier hotels. According to Augustus, who clocked nearly 15 years in the hotel industry, staff and management often neglect basic hygiene when preparing continental breakfast foods.

One gross example the content creator gave was a hotel staff trainer who suggested using a single paper towel to clean dishes and tables throughout an entire night shift. Augustus also warned that all hotels don't clean waffle makers and other appliances. But even worse, she said, "is the fact that that waffle batter [doesn't] get made every day. That waffle batter gets reused until it starts to smell like beer."

Experts agree that hotel breakfasts can be risky

Even if behind-the-scenes cleaning and food prep are up to par, hotel breakfasts can put you in danger of food poisoning and other illnesses. As a spokesperson for the World Health Organization shared with Express, "Hotel buffets are always sensitive settings from a food safety point of view. Different foods with different food safety risks are sometimes mixed or served together. The food [is] left out for a long time and a large number of customers may eat the same food. So if there is a problem, there is a risk for a large scale outbreak."

Note that breakfast isn't the only buffet to look out for — all-inclusive resorts that offer round-the-clock buffets are also thought to put guests at risk. "Certain resorts, due to a lack of hygiene, are making scores of people unwell every year," Richard Conroy, founder of Sick Holiday, told MailOnline. A survey commissioned by Sick Holiday found that one in six travelers who stayed at an all-inclusive accommodation within the last three years got sick during their stay. According to Conroy, the majority of food poisoning cases are linked to buffets where food is left out too long and eventually reheated and served again.

How to protect yourself

A complimentary breakfast can be a quick and convenient option when you have a jam-packed sightseeing schedule, or you're running late for check-out. If you must rely on the hotel's food, do so cautiously. In her TikTok video, Brandi Augustus noted that her observations don't apply to luxury hotels and accommodations where a chef prepares food based on guests' orders. While these hotels can be more of a splurge, they could help you avoid vacation-ruining food poisoning.

When grabbing items from a buffet, pay close attention to the temperature of the food. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eggs, sausage, and other warm foods should be heated thoroughly and kept separate from cold and uncooked ingredients. If served lukewarm, they might breed harmful germs that could make you sick. Look for a thermometer in serving dishes with a temperature reading of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Also, notice how the hotel staff handles buffet foods. If they're disengaged and unattentive, they're likely even more careless when guests aren't looking. Martin Bucknavage, a senior food safety educator at Penn State, told Business Insider that hotel employees should be "removing food before it looks less-than-fresh, making sure patrons are following the rules, cleaning spills and removing food debris, and checking temperatures." If they're paying little attention, eat somewhere else or stick to packaged foods (such as instant oatmeal cups) to err on the side of caution.