BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS

I have written about my adjustment to the Dutch way of life, and one of my challenges has been going out to eat. It is unusual to find any place serving breakfast. It was also a big surprise to find out that there are no free coffee refills in the Netherlands. I might add that going out to eat is also very expensive. Going out to lunch for two people will cost about 24 euros and that is being conservative.

So the big news is that the other day I had breakfast  for one euro (that is $1.37). AND I had free refills for my coffee. What kind of place is serving breakfast at 9am in this country? How can they possibly charge just one euro for a breakfast and then not charge for extra cups of coffee?!! I have one word for you: Ikea.

If you have had breakfast at your local Ikea, then you know what I am talking about. For one euro, I got: a croissant, a small hard roll, one slice of cheese, a hard boiled egg and coffee or tea. Oh, I also got a small container of jam and butter. And I could fill my coffee cup as much as I wanted to. There was no free cookie, but who cares? There was an abundance of coffee. And on this day, everyone could get a free slice of apple pie.

The restaurant was almost packed at 9:15am with a diverse crowd of hungry people. There were lots of young families and seniors too. As soon as a table was empty, new people sat down. All eating the same one euro breakfast. Some people had orange juice or milk, but all of our plates looked the same. There is a picture of this breakfast near the entrance of the restaurant, and I promise you, that my plate and hundreds of other plates, looked exactly the same as that picture.

In America, when you go out for breakfast, the plates don’t match. Diners have such a variety of choices and they are all over the map with their selections. On the menu, you have about 8 types of omellettes, pancakes and waffles, scrambled eggs and fried eggs, bagels, poached eggs, eggs benedict, egg sandwiches, bacon, sausages, ham and toast. Lots and lots of toast. And there is unlimited coffee and tea. BUT none of these meals are equal to one euro.

So if you don’t mind having a choice. If you don’t mind creating your own plate. If you don’t mind getting your own food and having a flashback of your school cafeteria, then Ikea is the place to go. By the way, once I went into the store it was pretty obvious that most people were in the building for the food, as the rest of the store was pretty quiet. The quality of the food was absolutely fine and I began studying how people approached their plate. Were they going to peel the egg first? Did they cut open the roll or eat it like a pirate? What in the world did they do with that slice of cheese? How many people used their butter and jam and how many just put them in their pocket or purse? Did I actually see people smiling when they went back for second cups of coffee? Oh yeah, you know I did. I don’t know about the rest ofUtrechton this Saturday morning, but I can tell you that there were a few hundred Dutch people who were very happy. They got a breakfast for one euro and free refills. Make that hundreds of Dutch people and one American.

I wondered if Ikea served the same breakfast in every country and this is what I found out:

  • Perth, Australia—you can get a hot breakfast of beans, sausage, bacon, hot tomato, scrambled eggs and hash browns for $3.95. But on Wednesdays, the cost is $1.95
  • United States—on Mondays you can get a free breakfast until 11am. But the rest of the week, you can get scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns for 99 cents
  • Stockholm, Sweden—it looks like the Swedish breakfast is just like the Dutch breakfast

It seems to be that the international breakfast menus are reflective of its host country. The Swedish and Dutch have the most simple fare and that is consistent with what I have learned living here. The only things missing are Nutella and chocolate sprinkles.

No matter what, whether the price is one euro or four euros, it is another brilliant move by this company. Imagine going to Ikea for breakfast and spending a few euros in the restaurant and then going into the store and spending 80 euros on candles, towels, a wok and a bookshelf. You have to walk through the store and pass by all of its eye candy as you enter and leave the restaurant. You are a captive customer with an empty or full stomach and you will likely spend money. And I am assuming (please correct me if I am wrong) that in all Ikea stores, there are free refills of coffee and tea. I know I am an sentimental optimist, but I dream of free coffee refills all around the globe. I should ask Hillary Clinton if she gets free refills in all the countries she visits. No matter what, I say thank you, Ikea.

Here are some books I desperately want to read, all published in 2011:

 The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

NIghtwoods by Charles Frazier

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatie

To my friends-notice that they are all male writers!

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Comments

  • Sandra  On December 28, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Thanks to you, we enjoyed the 99 cent breakfast at IKEA for 3 mornings in a row when we were visitors in Bollingbrook, IL. We raved about it so, that others in our wedding party joined us on our last day there. We’d never have thought of it unless we’d read your posting. Thank you.

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