When Less Is More: Do You Need to Get Rid of Your “Room Service”?

By Janessa Lantz | Small Business

The big news in hospitality is that the New York Hilton Midtown is discontinuing room service. Room service started in the 1930’s at the Waldorf Astoria and it seems that, nearly 100 years later, it may be losing its appeal.

“According to PKF Hospitality Research, room service accounts for only about 1 percent of the revenue at hotels that still offer the amenity. And room service revenue is plunging.” Writes travel columnist, Joe Brancatelli in an article titled It’s the End of Hotel Room Service As We Know It, and I Feel Fine, “It fell to an average of $866 per room in 2012 compared to more than $1150 in 2007.” Faced with the dwindling interest in room service, it’s not surprising then that some hotels are looking to get rid of or modify the practice.

This trend presents an interesting case study for customer experience leaders. How do you know when it’s time to get rid of a standard practice?

It’s bad for the customer and the company

Room service is painfully expensive for guests, and they complain about it liberally. Problem is, it’s not exactly profitable for companies either. The fancy presentation, the little condiments, and most of all the large staff required to run room service all make it an often unprofitable service offering.

Someone else can do it much, much better

The problem is compounded in urban areas where hotels are surrounded by, and must compete with, exceptional food options. The rise of food-delivery services like and make it easy for guests to get food delivered via channels that they are already familiar with and at price points they are comfortable with.

Your customers care about other things more

There was a time when guests enjoyed the luxury of food delivered to their rooms. Increasingly, however, food isn’t what guests want most from hotels – it’s fitness. Some hotels are responding by beginning to offer in-room fitness options including dumbbells, exercise balls, and DVDs.

Room service has long been considered a standard part of the hotel experience, but longevity alone isn’t reason enough to continue doing what has always been done. It’s important to always be evaluating your customer experiencing and keeping an eye out for the services that are no longer creating value for customers.

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