The Hilton New York made waves when it announced the elimination of room service.
I’m not talking about the old-line Northeastern practice of ending a feature in order to lay off workers, only to hire back the same workers at a lower price (because it’s impossible just to renegotiate the union contracts).
I’m talking about an ostensibly full service hotel disappearing the concept of room service. They decided to replace it with a “grab ‘n go” offering, which made it possible to lay off 55 staff.
- Room service is costly to service (high staffing costs, not to mention the trays and hot boxes and dishware that is out for long periods of time and sometimes doesn’t come back).
- Room service is especially costly in high wage cities and with a unionized workforce.
- Use of room service is apparently on the decline as well.
That’s why we’re starting to see new directions for room service.
There are already some scaled-down room service approaches. Here’s what I got at the Hyatt Regency Fair Lakes.. disposable containers in a brown paper bag.
I’m sure this isn’t news to most, but I saw the disposable model in action in a new way recently at the Hyatt Place Chicago River North.
They offer an outsourced room service, presumably the company serves several hotels in the area.
You dial an extension on the phone in your room, and it forwards you to the third party provider outside the hotel. Given caller ID they know which hotel you are ringing them from.
You place an order, they bring it up to your room and you sign for it — as though it was being delivered by the hotel’s own room service. No cash or credit card required, the bill is simply added to your hotel folio for settlement at checkout.
Here were the menus (click to enlarge):
They’re not going to provide a full in-room dining experience complete with table and metal cutlery. But for a paper napkin and cardboard or plastic alternative, this allows a hotel to offer room service without the cost to them. And it’s an entrepreneurial opportunity for the third party who can sell their delivery food across a range of hotel properties.