Say Goodbye to Room Service

To be or not to be in the room service

Other services have been disappearing throughout history. Or reserved for super luxury hotels such as butler service or white-glove service. So it should surprise no one that room service should disappear when this luxury is barely used by a few business travelers and guests affected by jet lag at airport hotels. 

Why wasn’t a service consisting of sending a tray with a sandwich and a soft drink to the room going to disappear? It’s expensive and no one pays for it because of the cost. In New York, you can now see some self-service windows in hallways, like the pioneering one proposed a few years ago at Hotel Casa Camper in Barcelona. The latest, parallel to the trend of pop-ups and food trucks (trucks that prepare food and serve meals in the street) is room service delivery partnering with a nearby restaurant. Its business is not reduced to the scant rooms in a hotel that may order this service at certain times.

Contrary to what people might believe, this mode of room service is not being established by lesser hotels or cutting edge or low cost niche ones. We are seeing it at

establishments of the renown of the Hilton New York Midtown, the city’s largest, with nearly 2,000 rooms. If someone wants to have a snack, he or she has to go down to the new multi-purpose hall where a cafeteria-type restaurant operates. Its name is Hierba n’Kitchen and it is where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. And I say “cafeteria style” because the space has a bar to cut out the wait for table service. A bartender greets the guest and offers him or her a special house brand coffee if it’s breakfast time. If they are successful, the Hilton Midtown’s managers would be quite willing to take anything up to rooms, but only if the initiative is a hit on the ground floor.

Some time ago, the luxury Grand Hyatt in New York had already reduced room service to 11 p.m. although it had set up one of these windows as a completely nighttime venue. Self-service fever—it’s true that it’s quite a New Yorker thing—can soon be extended to a minibar, as became equally evident in the exchange of tweets last week. With the high cost and low profit this service affords the hotel, why insist on placing it in the room and not relegating it to the hallway? Antonio Catalán was a pioneer in Spain in setting it up as a repository of water and essential soft drinks.

A study by STR Analytics corroborates this tendency to decrease superfluous services in the hotel room. Room service has experienced a constant decrease in revenue since 2007 with a shuffling cumulative figure of 25.1%. And not because it corresponds to the crisis years, but rather due to a change perceived in consumer habits. Which is what we have been stating for this and other world tourism trends, even the one that has not suffered the effects of the financial crisis.

Without known studies, though based on personal observation, my impression is that new guests prefer more technological stays with little human interaction. Basic needs should be covered thanks to technology. Thanks to the optimization of processes. And increasingly so, to robotics. Only those services that require sensitive orientation that manifest complexity that cannot be simplified or that add value within a certain category will deserve to be left in the hands of real live people in the future. Naturally, they will be well trained, creative and with an extraordinary welcoming attitude toward guests.

The statistics support it. Before good room service, a garage with an attendant, an A1 breakfast; before an infinity swimming pool, a paddle tennis court or a brilliant discotheque; even before a good design, a hotel’s technological offering is a sine qua non requirement of the new Millennium generation. It is therefore surprising that the vast majority of hotels continue anchored in the practice of room service while they neglect the theory of free Wi-Fi.

Because beyond revenue management, cost savings and channels to reach customers better, what now distinguishes a hotel with a future from one without one is managing the customer experience and overcoming all of customers’ initial expectations. With or without room service, with or without a minibar, the question you should ask yourself is: What is the value proposal, at all times, that deserves to be paid at the price that deserves to be charged? What is being offered today and how we will have to offer it tomorrow?

Fernando Gallardo |

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