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It’s the Beginning of the End for Room Service

Image via Flickr by Will Merydith

Room service was once a staple of the hotel industry. In recent decades, though, something unsettling has happened: hotel guests feel ripped off by extravagant prices and yet hotels rarely make money by offering the service.

The New York Hilton, the city’s largest hotel, has come to terms with this. By August, it will cease room service in its 1,980-room hotel.

Guests might wonder why a hotel chain such as Hilton loses money on something that costs as much as room service. After the tip, delivery charge, and service fees are added, a single person can easily spend $40 on a modest dinner that might cost $10 elsewhere.

It seems that even those prices can’t offset the cost of labor. Hotels usually find a high number of orders during the morning, when travelers don’t want to spend time hunting for a breakfast option while they’re busy prepping for a meeting or conference. By early afternoon, though, those orders fall rapidly. That leaves a kitchen and delivery staff with little to do (i.e., little money to make for the hotel).

Instead of offering the high-priced, high-cost room service, Hilton will open a self-service cafeteria with pre-made meals that guests can grab on the go.

That might not sound like the most luxurious option, but other hotels will pay close attention to how Hilton’s guests respond to this choice. On one hand, guests will likely enjoy paying lower prices. On the other hand, a self-serve cafeteria doesn’t exactly fill the need of business travelers looking to eat while getting ready for the day. It also doesn’t fill the need of couples who find it romantic to order room service during vacation.

Overall, killing room service seems like a good idea because the high prices irk guests and hotel managers. Hilton has sounded the bell for the beginning of the end for room service. Now let’s hope someone finds a better alternative.

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