These 5 Words Should Be On Every Room Service Menu

I have 5 simple rules for tipping that I think cover you anywhere, but I’m the first to admit that tipping can be confusing and even induce fear in travelers.

That’s why I think it’s so strange that hotels, where are supposed to take care of their guests, are often ground zero in the tipping confusion. Shouldn’t hotels tell you what is expected? Or better yet, just make it easier at least include tipping in the resort fee or the venue fee on top of the resort fee.

Here’s one of the simplest things a hotel can do. If you order room service, food is brought to your room, that’s a service. Room service generally has a service charge. Great problem solved! Or is it? You’re asked to sign for the meal, and there’s usually a line to add a tip. Does the service charge have you covered, or is the hotel pocketing that and you’re expected to tip again?

The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando near Disney World had this on their room service menu when I visited: the service charge includes gratuity.

The simple solution, for hotels that don’t do this, is to ask the person delivering your meal whether or not they’re taken care of by the service charge? That should solve for any ambiguity.

However hotels should proactively address the points of pain, confusion, and anxiety of their guests – which they know are there, and repeated in interactions every day, the way that the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress does: by telling guests exactly what to expect, and what is expected.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Well, my Hyatt Regency DFW menu didn’t say the 5 magic words. So as you suggest, I asked the person who delivered my food. He said “we get ‘some’ of it”. So then I’m still confused. What does ‘some’ mean? Or did he say that just hoping I would tip extra? So my philosophy is, if the hotel is charging me a $3.50 delivery fee, plus a 22% service fee, sorry, no, I’m not adding a ‘tip’. If you’re a server and the hotel is charging a guest 22% service fee and pocketing some or all of it, then figure it out with the hotel. That should be your money. It’s not on me to get price gouged twice for it.

  2. @Jason But SorDash also adds delivery fee+service charge+tip.. And you pay everything before you even get your order, so the tip does not reflect the quality of the service. Therefore you can’t penalize bad service with a lower tip. This tip culture got out of control in some places.

  3. @Michael, if a hotel lists both a delivery fee and a service charge, then one of those, the one calculated by %, goes to the server. If the server says he only gets part of it, then this is a restaurant where the servers pool tips. In Las Vegas there was a lawsuit over who is included in the tip pool.

    The instance of having a service charge and also still having a blank tip line on the bill is really offensive. I would never again order from such a place.

    As for me, no matter what it says, I am always going to tip the server a few bucks anyway, _in cash_, so that my tip goes to the server and not the taxman.

  4. I love that hotel. The other awesome thing is that in their restaurant, there is no kids’ menu. Rather, you can order anything from the menu; half-price for a kid’s portion. As a parent of kids who eat real food rather than chicken fingers and cheese pizza, this is fantastic.

  5. @Joseph N

    Just so I understand you correctly: An additional tip line on a check is offensive, but you will always hand the staff cold hard cash? That seems contradictory.

    I don’t do much cash anymore within the US, so if money left on the tip line doesn’t go directly to the server, that’s 1) Not my problem and 2) TBH I really don’t care.

  6. This is refreshing. Given that the charge is mandatory, however, it hardly “includes” a gratuity.

    I challenge them to price the 22% in and tell guests that extraordinary service, including gratuity, is included in the price. Some would dispute whether the service is extraordinary, but I, for example one, would be impressed that their notion of hospitality does not involve shaking me down pay employee wages.

  7. How utterly pathetic it is that the major hotel chains are unable to come up with a system that has clarity and fairness, instead shifting the problem onto consumers …often resulting in unnecessary double payments. The room service delivery guy handing back proffered tip and saying “ thanks, but it’s included already” ? One in a million….
    This tipping ‘culture’ is toxic…

  8. The tipping culture is indeed toxic. It should be illegal under labor law for employers to pay staff under minimum wage and shift the burden on to their customers. But welcome to America, we are special.

  9. Note that in most states (and under federal law), a service charge is paid to the restaurant, whereas a gratuity is paid to the server (more likely pooled across front-of-house employees, but in any event not the property of the restaurant). Most restaurants pass the service charge through to their employees, but there is no legal requirement to do so. So there is no guarantee the service charge is going to your server just because the menu says that a service charge includes gratuity.

  10. @Paolo

    Tipped professions like waitering/waitressing are akin to commission based jobs. The more you produce the more successful you are. In the case of waiters and waitresses producing means providing great service and being friendly. Even if the meal is so so you always remember if a waiter or waitress made you feel welcomed. Yes employers pay below minimum wage because they know tipping will make up for it. With no tipping restaurants have to raise food prices so really the whole ruckus over tipping is trivial as in the end we end up paying the same amount. Being a waiter or waitress can be very lucrative as tipping can provide a higher income than comparable work with a higher salary. Those with a nice personality can do well.

    If a hotel is not clear about whether the service charge is the tip either in the menu or receipt, I ask the room service waiter/waitress if the service charge includes the tip. If it does I still always give an extra tip preferably in cash if I have the currency because I don’t know who the service charge is split with (kitchen staff, managers, etc). I always err on the side of caution and give more than less. A few dollars a day extra I spend tipping generously isn’t going to hurt me in any way when it is a choice and not forced on me.

  11. You Americans create so much anguish out of nothing. A Service Charge by definition is all that is required to pay for the Service. Stop the Guilt Tripping, and expect that businesses are smart enough to make sure their best staff want to stay. And its not your business to help them with that.

  12. Of course one assumes that and gratuity that you add on top of the “service charge” actually ends up in the hands of the person providing the service.
    I always make a point of asking the person presenting me with a bill where I intend to add a tip if they will actually get that tip. Usually the answer is either yes or “kind of” where the tips are all shared amongst the staff on that shift (fair enough) but sometimes I am told no. They don’t actually see it in which case, I don’t leave one.
    So I can’t help but wonder if the 10% tip I leave on top of the 12.5% service charge is just the hotel nickel and diming more cash out of me at every opportunity with nothing going to the server

  13. If you fill out the tip line on an invoice, and also pay a mandatory delivery and service charge, is it necessary to further hand over cash as an additional tip?

    From what I understand, the delivery and service charges go to the restaurant, the tip on the invoice is pooled and only the cash actually makes it into the wallet of the delivery person.

  14. I personally can’t understand people that tip. Why on earth would you pay an employee that is not your own? If anyone wants to, they can pay my plumbers, painters, etc.that work for me.

    This is the dumbest thing I’ve heard.

  15. @Roger Thomas if you’re going to tip either way to err on the side of caution what’s the point of asking the employee to begin with? Just tip and move on. For my case, there was no UberEats delivery to HR DFW, and I was on a cancelled flight arriving at the hotel at 8pm and had to be up at 3am to catch a replacement flight at 5am. I did not have the luxury of sitting for an hour at the restaurant, so I had to order room service while I tended to other things before going to bed. Yes, my Citi Prestige was paying for the meal. But sorry, if the hotel is charging me 22% for the food, sorry, no, I’m not tipping an additional amount.

  16. I just stayed at the Hyatt Regency in the Pittsburgh airport. The room service card in the room had the same language.

  17. We were at the Intercontinental in Tokyo. Room service added a 11% gratuity and 8% tax. What we did not like is that in Japan it is unacceptable to tip for service.

  18. @tomri and why would you be upset that Japan doesn’t have a tipping culture? When in Rome, that’s what traveling is about.

  19. This tipping thing for room service is driving me crazy. Each hotel charges differently (facility fee, delivery fee, service charge, etc). Let’s all do this: ask the server, does he/she get part of the service charge? If they do, then don’t tip more. If they don’t, then tip as you see fit. While they don’t cook the food, they prepare everything on the tray, like a server in a restaurant.

  20. The extortionate pricing on room service menus is a strong message of disrespect to towards the guests. I read those menus with horror and move on. Alternatives to room service now abound.

    Tipping culture in the tourism industry is a symptom of a series of big social problems.

    Happily, this been solved elsewhere. Well paid hotel staff, excellent at their jobs and secure in them, do exist.

  21. This is no different for other types of restaurants like pizza delivery. If hotels and restaurants really want to clarify all this they would drop all the BS charges and let you tip the server what they deserve not a small percentage of an extra cash grab by the hotel. I’d rather they include the BS fees in the $9 bottles of beer or $39 pizza than charge me another 18% on top of that and confuse us with the working all so the poor server can get $2.

  22. All you non-Americans bashing tips and claiming it’s stupid and you won’t tip, etc.: Don’t expect us Americans to confirm to your norms and standards when we’re visiting your country. And don’t complain about when we don’t.

  23. @V, not wanting to answer for tomri, but the objection is that because of the fact Japan indeed does not have a tipping culture the fact that the hotel added an 11% gratuity is inherently a ripoff. Japan is the only place in the world where I have (ignorantly at the time) left a tip, and been chased out into the street to have it returned to me.

  24. I truly loathe tipping! Frankly, I almost never carry cash and to expect me to carry dollar bills everywhere I go like i’m hitting the strip club is ridiculous. If the service it TRULY exceptional, I am fine with leaving a tip (via CC or mobile pay) but, otherwise, if the service is average or bad, I am certainly not leaving anything. It is not my personal problem that a) your employer is too cheap to pay a living wage and b) you put up with it instead of moving onto another job. Fortunately, most of my age group and younger feel the same – I truly hope we can put this idiotic tipping culture to rest within this generation. It is time for everyone to have a living wage and to kill an archaic custom encouraging sycophancy and ingratiation to those with money.

  25. Who orders room service any more? Frankly, I thought that went the way of paying for movies in your room. I rarely find a place without something open to eat at practically any reasonable hour and am not so lazy I have to have food delivered to my room.

    Anyone that is dumb (or lazy) enough to order room service deserves the price mark ups, delivery fees and added gratuities you get.

  26. @AC With the unlimited options from Uber etc, it’s just too easy to order out. However, room service provides an escape where you don’t even go down to the lobby to pick up the food, plate the food, and worry about quality. As you’d pay more for a plate of pasta in a restaurant compared to making it yourself, you’re paying for convenience and assurance.

    Wife and I had a short stay at a hotel in LA last year, ordered room service and four movies. The stay provided an escape. Some people don’t think it’s worth it. That said, I think hotels need to rethink how they provide these services and how to price them.

  27. A woman who waited tables in college to earn travel money, said one time (I think it was New Years Eve) the total bill was $500 the tip left was $5.00. Some people tip well and some don’t tip at all. We tip at least 20%.

  28. @Sen

    Guests will pay for it either way. No tipping means higher prices. Tipping means lower prices. It generally comes to the same thing in the end. It’s just like the resort fee argument. Hotels will just raise their room rates. Customers/guests don’t save money.

    I don’t mind tipping culture. It gives the guest/customer more control. We always give a standard customary tip but can tip more for good service or extra friendliness. We can tip more if the specific job is harder than others. Workers who are pleasant like a waitress or room service waiter can earn more money than they could with a higher salary and no tips. Those who provide the best service and are friendly do well. It encourages workers to go the extra mile.

  29. Its 2022 why do we still have dumb people ordering room service and even dumber people tipping.

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