The end of an era: Why I won’t be sorry to see room service go
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Room service has been dying for the past few years. Even since the largest hotel in New York City, the Hilton Midtown, announced that it was replacing room service with grab and go options, we’ve seen more and more hotels decide to start abandoning it too.
Though room service is having a renaissance at some top-tier luxury hotels and resorts, it’s on its way out at most other properties. In fact, the coronavirus could be the nail in the coffin for breakfast in bed or those late-night munchies. As hotels look to cut costs and promote safety, room service might be gone forever.
And personally, I won’t miss it — and here’s why.
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Room service is overpriced
Aside from the fact that the room service prices are typically exorbitant (who wants a club sandwich for £30?), there’s often a delivery fee, in addition to a service charge. Sometimes, there’s even a minimum amount of food that you need to order as well. And lastly, there’s the confusing question of whether you should tip in addition to the service fee.
All in, this makes most room service extremely expensive. But even with all the surcharges, the hotel likely isn’t making much money, if at all, from your in-room breakfast or dinner.
The cost to operate room service dining is sky-high. You need to have a delivery staffer available round-the-clock, which can get quite costly in major cities. Additionally, hotels need to keep trays and delivery carts clean and available. In some cases, the kitchen staff needs to cover longer shifts or the hotel needs to keep the in-house restaurant open longer.
In my mind, offering room service is lose-lose for the guest and the hotel. It’s overpriced for guests and costs the hotel a ton to offer.
It takes longer than expected
Sometimes I need to order room service. Perhaps I landed late and want something to eat or I’m doing a crazy 36-hour round-the-world trip and want to maximise my sleep. Either way, my orders always seem like they take longer than the estimates.
I’ll admit it — I can get hangry, so it’s possible that it’s my body eagerly awaiting its nourishment. But the truth is, there’s no worse feeling waiting around for a room service order. Plus, unless you’re staying at a hotel equipped with bedside-iPads, there’s likely no way for you to check the status of your order.
Though some hotels, notably the Four Seasons chain, offer a 15- or 20-minute delivery guarantee, the options are mostly limited to cold foods and snacks.
Food quality suffers
This one’s simple. The quality of your food delivered 15 (or more) minutes after it’s prepared isn’t going to taste the same as if you just had it delivered to your table at a restaurant. Likewise, things shift and spill during transport, so the presentation suffers as well.
To me, room service often fails to deliver on my expectations, especially for the price. If I’m paying £25 for a hamburger, I’d hope that it’s quite tasty. When it’s delivered and it’s overcooked or the bun tastes soggy, I always think to myself that I should’ve just gone to the hotel restaurant. (That’s why I do that most of the time.)
The alternatives are much, much better
Just as the coronavirus was coming to the U.S., I was starting to experiment with a new type of room service: ordering food from local restaurants through apps like GrubHub and Uber Eats directly to my hotel. And now that I’ve been having food delivered to my NYC apartment while quarantining at home, I’m getting more and more comfortable with doing the same for upcoming hotel stays.
For one, the food selection is typically much more expansive on the delivery apps. You can choose the cuisine from an assortment of local restaurants that deliver. The prices are not only much lower, but they’re also better disclosed. Additionally, I can track where my food is and when it’s coming, and I can place the order on my way to the hotel or while I’m out exploring the city.
True, food delivery suffers from the same quality constraints as room service, but at least I’m not paying an arm and a leg for my meal.
This strategy isn’t perfect though. If I’m at a secluded resort or travelling internationally, it’s harder to find restaurants that’ll deliver or offer English menus. In those cases, room service will have to suffice.
The coronavirus could spell the end of room service. And I won’t miss it.
It’s often overpriced and takes forever. Furthermore, the food quality isn’t great. As travel begins to restart, I’m going to be ordering much more food through delivery apps as opposed to room service.
After all, GrubHub or Uber Eats might just become the only option.
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