Is This Room Service RIP?

By Robert McGarvey

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is rjmcgarvey01.jpg

I come not to praise room service but to bury it. And maybe gleefully dance on its grave.

The Phocuswire headline said it plainly: Will food delivery apps eliminate the need for hotel room service?

I can only hope.

I am no fan of room service. As I write this I remember a room service breakfast for two at an Upper Eastside hotel that involved egg platters – cold and maybe $35 each; with cold toast; cold bacon stippled with congealed fat; coffee – $14 apiece for lukewarm java; plus tax and a mandatory room service charge. Around $150 total.

Did I mention the 40 minute wait?  That of course probably explains the tepid temperatures of the food and drink.

But the staggering thing is that a self described ultra luxury hotel would deliver such dreck to a guest’s room. And have the nerve to charge exorbitant prices.

Yeah, I should have gone to Starbucks, maybe a block away but I was lazy and – obviously – I was dumb.

And now Phocuswire tells me that just maybe I can forget about calling room service ever again.

Phocuswright, along with iSeatz, did a consumer survey – involving 800 of us – along with f & b pros to explore the pros and cons of room service and also third party delivery services.  It concluded: “The study found that travelers perceive both traditional room service and third-party food delivery platforms as providing ease and convenience, and overall satisfaction is similar with both options.

“But for room service, a notable issue for travelers is the perceived value – or lack thereof – in relation to the product received.”

You got that right about value, or lack thereof.

Yes, I’ve talked with senior hotel execs who tell me I don’t get it, that I don’t recognize that with room service every tray is in effect delivered twice – to the room, then back to the kitchen.  That adds expense, they tell me, and it also explains why often the food arrives cold.

In that vein, the report noted that many hotel executives want to stop room service. “Most hotels claim that they would prefer to eliminate the provision of room service if given the choice. However, most are currently obliged to maintain it, either because of guest expectations (particularly in luxury and, to a lesser degree, upmarket-properties), or because of brand requirements.”

The other factor that is holding back many hotels from shutting down room service is that we like it. Color me surprised by how many of us still use room service. Per the report, “Traditional room service remains a popular option for in-room dining, and is used by over two thirds (67%) of travelers.”

Oh, by the way, look online for room service menus at the hotels that you’ll be staying at in the next month.  You probably won’t find any. If you do, they will have glorious photos but no prices. I can’t say I don’t understand why hotel execs hide the prices. I’d be ashamed too.

But there now is a way out, that should please hotel execs and guests alike.  Suddenly food delivery services are an Internet unicorn. And hungry guests can get the food they desire.

Some hotels are partnering with food delivery services but who cares? This is the Internet wild west. Buy the food you want, where you want it. Worst case you’ll be forced to go down to the lobby to pick it up.  Big whoop. How many morning have I been forced in Strip hotels to go to the lobby for morning coffee at Starbucks.

You’ll eat better with the delivery services.

Look at Doordash. I’m thinking about a couple of iHop breakfast samplers – eggs, bacon, ham,  sausage, hashbrowns, pancakes. Priced at $12.50 apiece.  Throw in coffees, a tip, tax, delivery fee ($5.99) and you are still under $45. Where I am in Phoenix, you’ll get your food in under 40 minutes probably.  

Don’t like iHop?  There are dozens – probably hundreds – more restaurants to choose from.

Don’t like Doordash? Use Uber Eats.

Or Amazon Restaurants.

There are still other delivery services.

Some hotels are in fact partnering with specific delivery services and some guests say they prefer that — “The study found that two out of five respondents would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ use a food delivery service directly from a hotel if it was available,” reported Phocuswire.

I have no preference in that regard. I’ve used services to deliver directly to my apartment and am comfortable using the apps.

But if you’re not, very probably the hotel front desk will help you out in interfacing with a delivery service.

Hotel room service probably is going away, sooner rather than later.  And nobody will play the bagpipes at its passing.  

1 thought on “Is This Room Service RIP?”

  1. In Manhattan so many restaurants deliver for free that using a paid service is not a good option unless you want food from one that doesn’t deliver. But I live on the UES and most places have free delivery.

Leave a Reply to Laura H Stern Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *