The biggest news heard around the hotel world last week wasn't about renovations or new openings -- it was all about food service, or lack thereof at one New York City hotel.
The New York Hilton Midtown -- the biggest hotel in New York City -- announced it would no longer offer room service to guests, effective this summer.
"Like most full-service hotels, New York Hilton Midtown has continued to see a decline in traditional room service requests over the last several years as customer preferences and expectations continue to evolve," a New York Hilton Midtown representative said.
While we can't dispute the numbers that Hilton says it's seeing, this move to eliminate room service does give great pause. Is this the beginning of the end of a bigger trend? Have hotels lost their "hospitality" touch, or will this be just an isolated hotel experience? Does removing the room service take the experience out of the hotel stay, or does it just make things a bit more streamlined and efficient?
Mark Woodworth, president of the hotel consulting firm PKF Hospitality Research, told CNNTravel that this move falls in line with the evolving state of the industry.
"More and more consumers prefer to 'help themselves' to what they need, and the increased use of automated check-in/check-out kiosks and complementary buffets are common examples of this," Woodworth said.
"If management is providing a service that, at best, is only marginally valued by the guest, then there is a strong motivation to end such a practice."
The elimination of room service at the New York Hilton Midtown won't just eliminate breakfast in bed and late-night silver-tray service. It will also eliminate 55 jobs.
What it will do, however, is create a new dining concept. A simpler, yet more streamlined approach to guest services. The elimination of room service also eliminates exorbitant service fees and guest rants over cold food that's supposed to be hot, overpriced items and late deliveries.
The New York Hilton Midtown will open up a new cafeteria-style restaurant called Herb n'Kitchen. This self-service model will offer everything from flatbreads to coffee and croissants. Details of the establishment, like operating hours and staff on duty, haven't been disclosed. My only suggestion to Hilton would be to consider a 24-hour concept.
Without room service, the late-night travelers and weary jet-lagged bunch are going to lose interest -- quickly -- when they arrive at the hotel at odd hours of the night and aren't met with something to quench their cravings. Therein lied the beauty of room service.
Whether or not this is an industry trend has yet to be seen. The New York Hilton Midtown said it has no current plans to roll out this room service elimination across other hotels. Meanwhile, other brands are offering similar concepts, like including a self-service 24-hour marketplace for guests when room service ends, or special discounts with nearby restaurants with delivery, so guests can enjoy food anytime of day or night in the comfort of their guest room.
What remains to be seen, however, is how guests will respond. Will the elimination of room service negatively impact the guest experience? Or, will this be something that just fades into the backlight when price and location are the core deciding factors?What do you think of the New York Hilton Midtown's decision to remove room service?This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.
Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.
Melanie writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com