Hotel Room Service: Dying Out or Being Reinvented?
By Jennifer Collins ~ Weekly Exclusive - Views On The Latest Trends
Tuesday, 20th May 2014
Exclusive Feature: Most of us have dreamed of calling the hotel reception, ordering copious amounts of ice-cream, sweets, burgers and fries that would then be served on fine china by a dapper waiter just like the young Macaulay Culkin's character, Kevin McCallister, gleefully running up huge bills on his parents' credit card doing the same in Home Alone 2.

But it seems the dream may remain just that as more hotels cut traditional in-room service and offer other options instead.

In June 2013, the New York's Hilton Midtown Hotel announced it was eliminating room service, resulting in the loss of 55 jobs, citing a "slow-down" in demand. It wasn't the first hotel to do so, but much was made of the announcement because the Hilton Midtown is the Big Apple's biggest hotel.

"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," said a statement from the Hilton Midtown.

For many in the hotel industry it wasn't as surprise room-service is not much of a money-maker because it's so labor intensive. Hotels lose money keeping kitchen and waiting staff on standby.

"I don't think anyone makes a profit on room service because of its labour costs," John Fox, senior vice president of PKF Consulting, told Crain's New York Business publication at the time.

Many new hotels don't offer the service at all, preferring to promote the atmosphere of their hotel restaurant instead, although other hotels are just reinventing the idea of room service with some going for non-food options.

For instance, the Langham in London has taken advantage of its literary reputation Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde, among other famous author have stayed there with a "book butler".

The book butler selects a book especially for guests, hand-delivering it and placing it on the bedside table as a gift with a leather bookmark and a note explaining the book choice, according to the website.

The Conrad Chicago offers a "sleep menu" for guests who have trouble getting 40 winks. The menu includes herbal elixirs, custom pillows, night caps and sleep sound machines to help guests drift off.

Meanwhile, other hotels arrange for guests to get food deliveries from outside restaurants and vendors as an alternative to room service, reports U.S. paper USA Today.

Guests staying at one of Affinia Hotel's boutique accommodations can order fresh, ready-to-make meals with items such as fruit, vegetables and fish through the online concierge service, while GoBites.com, a healthy snack delivery service is increasingly delivering to hotels, CEO Jim Gutt told USA Today.

Then there are those hotels offering a more luxurious and tailored form of in-room dining. Twin Farms in Vermont, USA, accommodates every food request from Kosher to vegan and most of the food is grown there or delivered by local organic farms straight to your room (with a pit-stop in the kitchen beforehand, of course).

Guests of Chicago's the Waldorf Astoria eating in-room have a proper dining table, where staff arrange flowers and serve food on fine china.

So while in some ways it may seem that room service is dying out, it could be that we are just reaching another stage in the evolution of services being offered by hotels and the options being offered are actually growing. And perhaps this means that we won't have to give up our Home Alone 2 dream after all.

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.

Jennifer Collins is a reporter based in Berlin, Germany. She previously worked as a local journalist and arts and culture editor in her home town of Dublin, Ireland and now works with journalists around the world as part of the international journalism organisation, Associated Reporters Abroad. Jennifer enjoys travelling slowly, mainly by train, sampling local street food and people-watching from cafes in far-flung lands.
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