Could room service be going the way of the full service gas station?
The New York Hilton Midtown, the city's largest hotel, fired the first salvo in a possible trend with plans to end room service to its nearly 2,000 rooms by August, eliminating 55 jobs
. A self-service Herb n’ Kitchen stocked with grab-and-go items will replace the service.
"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 hotel spokesman in a statement. The Hilton Hawaiian Village was the first Hilton to eliminate room service in October.
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"I don't think anyone makes a profit on room service because of its labor costs," said John Fox, senior vice president of PKF Consulting. "I'm sure all the big hotels will be looking at what Hilton is doing."
Some see this possible trend as something that could be beneficial to the hotel and customer.
"Rather than offering this as an expensive-but-money-losing service to guests, it would make a lot more sense to train desk staff to offer helpful and unbiased recommendations about locally available food offerings
," said Matthew Yglesias of Slate.
"That would be a win-win for everyone, as the basic structure of room service is just amazingly unpromising for a good culinary experience. ... There are doubtless specific locations out there where the hotel really can't do anything better for guests who are looking for a hot meal at a weird time."
The Hilton Midtown's Herb n' Kitchen will be 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 DoubleTree by Hilton and Embassy Suites.
The hotel industry is clearly testing the waters. A couple of years ago, the Grand Hyatt on East 42nd Street in New York scaled back its room-service hours when it opened a 24-hour grab-and-go market. The Hyatt's room service shuts down at 11 p.m.
According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the Westin was the first hotel chain to implement 24-hour room service in 1969
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