Food and BeverageFood and Beverage TrendsHotels Reinvent Room Service to Stay Relevant

Hotels Reinvent Room Service to Stay Relevant

The New York Hilton Midtown now offers in-room delivery from its new self-service restaurant and market, Herb N’ Kitchen. The menu includes seasonal salads, artisanal sandwiches, and brick-oven pizzas, as well as regional New York favorites.

Meals arrive in an environmentally friendly retail bag rather than on a fancy silver tray, and there is no delivery charge attached. Instead of 24-7 access, however, delivery is restricted to 6:30-10:30 a.m. and 5:30-10:30 p.m. Guests with mid-day hunger pangs or late-night munchies can still order delivery from outside restaurants, but they must come to the lobby to retrieve it for security and safety reasons.

“Traditional room service has become less relevant in certain types of hotels and markets,” Scott explains. “In large urban environments where there are many options for destination restaurants within the city, guests are often more likely to go out and explore the dining scenes as they aim to experience local culture.”

Yes, in a culinary mecca like New York City, the odds are less likely that travelers would choose to stay in their rooms to dine. But there are definitely circumstances where a hotel should or has to have room service, Mandelbaum says, such as in isolated markets with limited dining options nearby or airport locations where travelers come and go at odd hours. At five-star hotels, where guests expect to be pampered, high-end, 24-hour room service is part and parcel of the luxury experience. “The Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, or Mandarin traveler has the budget to afford it, and they’ll pay $50 to have a hamburger delivered to their room so they don’t have to go downstairs,” Mandelbaum says. “That’s why those hotels will probably retain it, because they can get the premium pricing that justifies keeping the service.”

In an age where free WiFi tops travelers’ must-have amenity list, true opulence is less sought after, says Jacob Tomsky, a veteran front desk agent and author of Heads in Beds. Even so, there will always be a home for room service at luxury hotels, he agrees. “The affluent will always want to experience fine cuisine in the privacy of a suite, wearing a robe, delivered on a rolling, sheeted table on wheels,” Tomsky says. “But as alternatives continue to present themselves, hotels will continue to drop the yolk of room service and focus on what a hotelier is truly great at providing: lodging.”

Scott declined to go into financial details regarding how Herb N’ Kitchen may generate a healthier return on investment for the hotel, but says that with casual dining on the rise, the restaurant better meets guest desire for reasonably-priced, high-quality meals on the go. “Herb N’ Kitchen also provides the opportunity to offer more options to guests so they don’t have to leave the hotel to buy what they want, and at the same time we increase our business, so it’s a win-win,” she says. “It also attracts new local clientele and provides an alternative for meeting attendees, who may not have time for a full-service experience.”