No More Room Service? Five Reasons Why I Still Say Good Riddance
“S o I’m staying at this hotel for the first time in over 10 years. Wow, how far this place has fallen. I remember it being a decent place in the early 2000s. Now after checking in, I find out they don’t have room service??? WTH?? Instead of room service, they have ‘food delivery,’ which is just delivery of a few deli items from downstairs. I like having a full breakfast in my room, but all I can get are things like bagels and breakfast burritos!
“And here’s the other thing that floored me: they have no proper restaurant on-site! All they have is a deli, a lobby lounge, and a couple of bars!
“So no room service and no restaurants. How is this in any way acceptable for a property branded as a Hilton? How does Hilton corporate let this happen at their premier NY property? This makes me want to book away from Hilton generally if there’s a risk of other properties in their chain not offering the basic amenities of a full service hotel.”
When posting that comment recently, FlyerTalk member Unimatrix One apparently did not know about the elimination of room service from the New York Hilton Midtown, which revealed a few years ago that room service was being discontinued in order to cut costs and improve profits, replacing it with Herb n’ Kitchen — an on-site cafeteria-style “grab-and-go” sort of restaurant which will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner.
No More Room Service? Four Reasons Why I Say Good Riddance
When I first wrote this article back on Friday, June 7, 2013 and an updated version of it on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, I took the potentially unpopular stance of saying good riddance to room service — a position which I still hold today — and here are my reasons why:
1. Room Service is Expensive.
Rarely do I order room service when I am a guest at a hotel property — but when I do, it usually puts a large dent in my wallet. It is not bad enough that the hotel property is charging $18.00 for a nine-dollar hamburger — but by the time you factor in the tax, delivery fee, tray charge and 18 percent service charge, that hamburger now costs approximately $27.00. The funny thing about that is that — depending on the hotel property — the exact same food on the room service is less expensive if you simply went downstairs to the restaurant on the premises.
For example, room service for four people cost $28.00 at the New York Hilton Midtown hotel property — yes, the same hotel property which is eliminating room service — which actually sounds like a deal…
…until you find out that food was not included.
Do you only want a spoon and a bowl for your own cereal and soy milk which you brought with you? That will be $11.00, please. Want a pot of coffee? Do not percolate when you find out that you will have to shell out $14.50. How about having to pay an extra charge for having complimentary items such as extra pillows and towels delivered to your room?
If you are saying those are not fair examples, consider when FlyerTalk member Tummy — what an appropriate name for this discussion — paid approximately $59.00 in 2000 for what seemed to be a minimal amount of pan-roasted salmon and braised short ribs with a baked potato, a small dinner roll and some butter.
Imagine being charged with a mandatory gratuity as high as 22 percent to a person whom you will most likely never see again after your food is delivered — unlike in a restaurant, where a waitperson is there to supposedly take care of you from when you are seated until after you finish your meal. A good question was raised by FlyerTalk member BadJelly, which is another appropriate name for this discussion: “In the in-room dining situation, the meal is dropped off and that is the end of the server. Why is the expectation that the percentage is going to be as high?” In other words, how much would you tip a waiter or waitress if they simply delivered your meal to your table and then you never saw them again — especially if you place your items from room service out in the hallway when you are finished or call to have those items removed from your room?
I always suspected that that extra line at the bottom of the bill which you sign for room service for an additional tip was a scam of sorts — even if it was not. After all, you have already paid all of the aforementioned charges — and why would you pay an additional tip on top of the expensive mandatory gratuity? Should you be expected to include that extra tip? I certainly do not believe so — unless everything pertaining to the food, presentation and service was so incredibly outstanding, which it usually never is for me.
To me, charging a gratuity of 19 percent on the delivery charge is just plain wrong. The gratuity should be on the food only — not any fees or taxes.
What if the service charge was supposedly not disclosed on the room service menu? Should you be expected to pay it when it appears on your bill? Refreshingly, at least one hotel property apparently does not impose a mandatory service charge — but this was back in 2006.
I was being quite conservative with the cost of a hamburger ordered through room service. How much are you willing to spend for a hamburger ordered through room service at a luxury hotel? Would you be willing to pay as much as $75.00 for a basic hamburger? How much extra would you be willing to pay for room service?
Of course, some of the sting of the expense of room service is mitigated somewhat if you can earn frequent guest loyalty program points on as much of the cost of the room service as possible. It is not much — but any little thing helps.
One reason some adults order from the room service menu meant for children is to save money, as meals for children are usually less expensive — but also come in smaller portions. Another reason could be that there is a food item on the menu for children which is not available on the adult menu. I never quite understood that one…
2. The Food is Not Great.
When was the last time you had a choice of restaurants and decided on one located inside of a hotel? Of course there are exceptions, but more often than not, the quality of the food served by restaurants located on the premises of a hotel property is usually not as good — and typically more expensive — than at competing restaurants not located within hotels. Of course, tastes vary — so I expect disagreement here.
Some FlyerTalk members claim that it is difficult to maintain a healthy diet when ordering that food via room service. Do you agree?
Other FlyerTalk members who keep Kosher wonder how the hotel property ensures that the food and the items remain Kosher once the food is delivered to your hotel room — especially at Passover, which is currently underway this week.
3. The Portions are Usually Small.
I am rarely full after eating a room service meal. Unless I order a lot of food — thereby increasing the cost — I usually find myself either still hungry, or I get hungry shortly afterwards.
You could try this trick to receive more food at breakfast time if you happen to be at the right hotel and the verbiage on the menu works in your favor — but I personally would advice against that.
4. The Order is Not Completed in a Timely Manner.
Whether it is because the telephone line is busy, the restaurant is slammed with orders or the elevators are slow, the food is usually not delivered expediently — and sometimes these factors can contribute to the food being cold by the time you are ready to eat it.
Even worse, I never liked when I had a flight whose time of departure was too early for me to at least enjoy a quick breakfast. Why do many hotel properties located near airports not offer an early breakfast via room service — or by any other means, for that matter?
I equally do not like arriving late at a hotel property where there are no other options for a meal other than room service — only to find out that the kitchen is closed. This usually happens after I experience a full day of long delays, crowds and mishaps while traveling. It is a good thing that I always carry emergency provisions with me to tide me over until I can eat a decent meal.
One reason why I personally do not particularly care for ordering room service is that I have to be ready for that knock on the door — and the delivery time is rarely accurate. Does the cable guy moonlight by delivering room service? Why do they always seem to know when I am in the bathroom or on the telephone?
Would a guarantee on the delivery of when your room service order will be delivered help?
5. The Order is Not Correct.
An incorrect order certainly does not happen all of the time; but when the order was incorrect, that opened up a whole new set of issues — including not wanting to wait for the order to be corrected at 12:45 in the morning when I had a meeting which I was required to attend early the next day.
Will Other Hotel Properties Follow Suit?
Peter Gunn — of the now-defunct The Lobby over at FlyerTalk — wrote a rebuttal criticizing my opinion and defending room service, declaring that it is “essential” and saying that “eating a burger while watching SportsCenter in a bathrobe after taking a hot shower is one of life’s great pleasures.”
Well, gee, Peter — I can do that in the dumpiest of motels if I pick up said burger at a fast food joint and pack a bathrobe in my luggage. I do not need room service at a luxury hotel property to experience that “great pleasure” of life.
To put my thoughts in a different way: room service is not essential; and it never was essential to me — and apparently it is not essential to some hotel properties.
In the event that room service eventually does become extinct — or, at least, becomes extremely rare — there are alternatives to room service if you are tired of eating out while traveling. For example, there is a service in Hawai’i where you can have food delivered to your room from your choice of greater than 75 participating restaurants for a fee ranging anywhere between $5.99 to 11.99 with a minimum order of $15.00 after 12:30 in the afternoon and a minimum order of $30.00 before 12:30 in the afternoon — and that does not include a gratuity for the person delivering your food.
What do you think are the chances that the proposed Herb n’ Kitchen at the New York Hilton Midtown could charge for a “to-go” order which was picked up similar to what a Hilton Garden Inn charged FlyerTalk member lsumegan?
Although some FlyerTalk members believe that room service will be in danger in the luxury hotel segment of the lodging industry, there is also a belief that highly-flexible 24-hour room service is essential for a high-end hotel.
I find it quite surprising that offering room service is not profitable to a hotel property and that it can even lose money — but it does makes sense that it is due to the costs of labor. The New York Hilton Midtown hotel property was expected to have 55 fewer employees once room service was eliminated. If room service is such a drain on the finances of both the hotel property and the guest — and if the results are not exactly stellar — then why continue to offer it?
Personally, I do not miss room service as there are alternatives — at least, for me, as I have not ordered it in years. I need nothing more than a continental breakfast in the morning. I can get my own juice and bread or breakfast pastry at the corner store — and for significantly less expense. Even better is the complimentary breakfasts offered at many hotel chains which do not offer full service.
Better still is when there is an executive lounge at a hotel or resort property and I have earned the privilege to use it, as that is always a good option for a quick breakfast which will satisfy me.
I am usually not in a hotel room at lunch time, and I can always bring in my own dinner from a restaurant, fast-food or take-out place, as I do not enjoy dining alone in public. If the room is equipped with a refrigerator and a microwave oven, even better, as more options are available to me.
I can tell you that the proposed Herb n’ Kitchen will most likely not be an option for me. I predict that its offerings will be moderately expensive — at least, when compared to the options I just outlined immediately above.
While the convenience can be nice, I certainly do not enjoy room service. Do you actually enjoy room service? How often do you use room service when dining while traveling for business? Whether you have had a terrific or lousy experience with room service, please share it in the Comments section below.
By the way — if you are reading this article in the comfort of your hotel room a your leisure, do not be surprised if at the time you check out of the hotel, you are assessed a delivery fee and a service charge for having this article brought to you…
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.