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Is Room Service Doomed?

A major hotel’s decision to eliminate room service could portend an industry-wide end to the silver tray.

New York’s largest hotel, the Hilton Midtown, is getting rid of room service. In August, the 2,000-room property will stop all meal and drink service to guest rooms. Instead of ordering a brick-oven flat bread or a plate of sliders to be consumed in bed, hungry guests will have to hoof it to the Herb n’ Kitchen, a new grab-‘n’-go gourmet food store that will open this summer within the hotel. Or they can just go outside and avail themselves of the many (often very affordable) late-night dining options in Midtown.

Whether or not you enjoy paying extreme prices for meals available whenever you want, you still have to bemoan the fact that dozens of people will lose their livelihood. Fifty-five hotel employees will lose jobs due to the eradication of the hotel’s in-room dining service, reports Crain’s New York Business.

A spokesperson from Hilton told Crain’s that the decision was made because of shrinking demand for in-room meals. In a statement, the spokesperson said, “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.” There’s a reason that burger costs $30 (plus service charge and taxes): Hotels must maintain full kitchen staffs around the clock in order to provide 24-hour room service. Ridiculous menu prices belie the service’s apparently slim profit margins.

Are diners done with silver trays of overpriced food? Many travel experts are calling Midtown’s move a harbinger of the death of room service. The New York Times reports that “The decision … comes as other large hotels have cut back menus or reduced hours in recent years, and many newer boutique hotels have opened without offering it at all. Some hotels have even made arrangements with nearby restaurants to act as surrogate kitchens and deliver food to their hotel rooms.” If it works for Hilton, stopping room service could prove a relatively easy cost-cutting measure for other large hotels.

Job losses aside, the dearth of room service in a Manhattan property isn’t so bad. New York is, after all, the city that never sleeps. You’ll just have to put on something other than a bath robe when you want your late-night fourth meal.

Do you use room service? Would you be sad to see it go?

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