Hotels with room service are synonymous with a luxurious experience. A phrase as simple as 'Let's order room service!' seems fun, indulgent, and evokes memories of Home Alone star Macauley Culkin living wild and fancy-free courtesy of his father's credit card. But is room service on the way out?
Last week, the New York Hilton decided to cease offering room service. The decision, if followed by other hotel chains, may soon reduce room service to an antiquated concept limited to accommodation offering 'old world charm'.
For many, the Hilton's decision will come as a blow. Not only will abandoned card-carrying small boys, extravagant honeymooners, and the downright lazy suffer as a result of the decision, but the 55 staff currently servicing the Hilton's 1,980 rooms will lose their jobs. From August this year, they will be replaced by a self-serve cafeteria in the hotel lobby. Caviar and champagne will be replaced by a plastic-wrapped bagel in a brown paper bag.
While room service may be on its way into a bygone era, few could express surprise at its passing. The fact is, room service is frequently under-utilized by guests in large hotels, and provides businesses with scant revenue. With the cost of ordering room service also rivaling that of a small country's national debt, it's easy to see why the New York Hilton made this decision.
But despite its inefficiencies, room service is an undisputed exemplar of luxury. It's also a valuable, high-quality meal option for guests arriving at odd hours of the night, who prefer to avoid vending machine produce to satisfy their hunger. The Hilton's alternative of a budget-friendly 24-hour marketplace in its lobby will be warmly welcomed by many travelers, especially families with fussy eaters who can get what they like at a fraction of the cost. However, while the new model compensates for the loss of a quick-food fix afforded by room service, it cannot replace the iconic part of a luxury hotel experience.
Hoteliers should be prepared for a subtle shift in image that the end of room service may bring–a friendly, budget conscious image that brings new terrain for the New York Hilton. And those with romantic notions of freshly cooked dinner on silver trays will simply have to adjust.
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