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No More Room Service in This Room -- photo from Hilton

No More Room Service in This Room — photo from Hilton

The news that New York City’s largest hotel — the New York Hilton Midtown, with 2,000 rooms occupying a prime piece of real estate on 6th Avenue between W. 53rd and 54th streets — will soon drop room service has created a bit of a stir in the hospitality industry.

No longer will guests be able to call down for meals to be brought to their rooms; instead, if they wish to eat in the hotel at all, they’ll be forced to grab something at the Hilton’s casual Herb n’ Kitchen restaurant, which opens this month in the lobby. Or, of course, they could head to the nearest diner or Starbucks. Either way, they’ll have to get dressed before gobbling their breakfasts.

Hilton says it made the move after surveying thousands of its guests.  “We decided to reinvent the hotel dining model to better serve the needs, wants and lifestyle of our customers,” a company vice president said.

Translation: Room service wasn’t bringing in enough cash, so let’s try something else. It seems that demand for room service at the hotel has been falling, and hovers just above one percent of its revenue at present. The move may cost dozens of employees their jobs.

Now, I’ve never much been one for room service myself — I’d rather go to a restaurant (whether in the hotel or nearby) or just pick up some takeout to bring up to my room if I’m traveling alone and tired. I’ve found that room service can be annoyingly slow when I’m in a hurry or annoyingly fast when I’m just stepping out of the shower. I don’t like the uncertainty, I don’t like the often more-limited options on room service menus, and I don’t like the sometimes cold eggs that finally show up.

But can a four-star hotel maintain that rating when it doesn’t offer the room service option at all?

Will my fellow baby boomer travelers — many of whom have grown up ordering room service and may still consider it the height of glamour and decadence  — rebel?

Will other hotel chains follow suit?

These are questions that remain to be answered. It’s clear that Hilton is hoping that room service will enter the trash bin of hospitality history, as just one more casualty of lifestyle changes.

While I won’t miss room service myself, I’m guessing that more than a few future guests will not be happy, customer surveys or no.

2 Responses to Is Hotel Room Service On the Way Out?

  • Room service one in a blue moon is a delight, but is usually such a rip off–I’d rather have free wi-fi. Which reminds me, I loathe it when there is a charge for wi-fi. It’s like a charge for electricity. Or parking, when the hotel owns the parking lot. Grrr.

  • James, you’ve hit on a number of hot-button issues. Charging for wi-fi is indeed like charging for electricity, and it seems like the more expensive the hotel, the more likely they are to charge for it. Same for parking. And the expensive places are also less likely to have a coffee machine in the room. Go figure.

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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