Will Room Service Be Eliminated at Full Service Hotels?

An article about the New York Hilton Hotel eliminating room service has been everywhere these last few days.  Originally appearing on Crain’s New York Business site, we’ve seen similar articles everywhere from the Yahoo front page to the New York Times.  From the Crain’s New York Business Article:

The New York Hilton Midtown is the largest hotel in the city, with nearly 2,000 rooms. In August, it will earn another distinction: It will discontinue room service.   The move will eliminate 55 jobs. It could also ignite an industrywide trend. Other hotels, such as the Hudson in New York and the Public in Chicago, are already nibbling at the concept, offering meals delivered in brown paper bags.

The hotel will be adding cafeteria-style dining instead.  From the article:

The Hilton property on Sixth Avenue, between West 53rd and West 54th streets, will open a downmarket grab-and-go restaurant this summer called Herb n’ Kitchen, a cafeteria-style eatery that will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. The plan was announced in October as part of a larger initiative at the hotel chain, which is simplifying its food offerings at Double Tree by Hilton and Embassy Suites as well.   What it didn’t mention then, however, is that Herb n’ Kitchen will replace the room-service operation at the midtown hotel.   “Like most full-service hotels, New York Hilton Midtown has continued to see a decline in traditional room-service requests over the last several years,” said a spokesman in a statement. The Hilton Hawaiian Village was the first Hilton to eliminate room service. In October, it put away the china and linen in favor of takeout.

From the New York Times Article:

John Fox, a consultant for the hotel industry, said nearly all hotels lost money on room service, which requires maintaining a staff of waiters and kitchen workers throughout the day, even though orders typically dwindle after breakfast and come in sporadically afterward. “Everybody’s doing what they can to engineer their properties to make more profit while still supplying the services their guests demand,” he said.

Still, he said he did not expect room service to soon disappear from top-notch hotels. The guests at the Waldorf, for instance, will not be losing room service, and a Hilton spokesman said the company was evaluating its other hotels on a case-by-case basis.

Our take:  First, we have been loving the new ‘cafeteria-style’ hotel lobbies have been adding over the last few years.  They are convenient, offer great selections, and really turn the lobby space into a great place for hanging out.  With that said, removing any service from a full-service hotel is always a dangerous game.  The Hilton New York is not a budget hotel.  They charge a premium rate and $51 a night for parking.  Removing a service that guests want will invite guests to start looking at other nearby hotels.  Guest may realize that if they are losing room service, maybe a limited-service hotel will be a better option.  A guest quoted in the New York Times article sums it up nicely:

Maria-Chiara Della Valle, 29, an engineer visiting from London with her husband, Aldo, said she counted on room service when she arrived late at night and was jet-lagged.

She said she would not be returning to the Hilton if it discontinued room service.

“There are so many hotels to choose from,” Ms. Della Valle said. “If everyone is offering room service, I don’t know why I would pay the same rate with no service.”

Mr. Della Valle, a financial trader, said he might come back — if the Hilton offered a 10 percent discount off its room rate.

Source:  New York Times Article

Source:  Crain’s New York Business Article