room service a thing of the pastOne of the traditional luxuries of a full-service hotel could soon be extinct. Room service, as travelers have come to know it, is likely to join full-service gas stations as a nostalgic topic of conversation in the next few years.

New York’s Hilton Midtown, the city’s largest hotel, is the latest to discontinue its room service completely. The hotel fired 55 employees and is transitioning to a more buffet-style, self-service set-up.

No Longer Profitable

The Hilton blames low demand for the change, according to the New York Times. Travel industry analyst John Fox took it a step further, telling the Times that almost all hotels lose money on room service.

Paying a staff of waiters and cooks for the person who may order a club sandwich at 1:00 a.m. has become a bad business model. Room service makes up just 1.2 percent of the average hotel’s revenue and that number has decreased during the last several years, according to figures by PKF Hospitality Research.

The New York Hilton isn’t the only hotel to opt out of the room service business. The Hilton Hawaii Village in Honolulu stopped offering room service earlier in the year, according to Fox News. In addition, Hyatt Hotels around the United States have reduced their room service hours and have contracted their menus.

Hotels are simply following the example set by other players in the travel and hospitality business. Most airlines have stripped all of the extras from the in-flight experience with no noticeable decrease in passengers. Amtrak, too, has opted for food vending machines on all but their longest runs to replace the elegant, full-service dining cars of the past.

Hotels that drop room service could confuse travelers and change guidebook rankings, however. Most ranking services, such as AAA and the Mobil Guide, require that a hotel offer room service in order to qualify for their highest ratings. For instance, an otherwise four-star hotel with Mobil that didn’t offer room service would be rated as a three-star property.

Overall Outlook For Room Service

Room service is one of those things people either love or hate. Few travelers are ambivalent on the subject. Proponents cite the convenience, luxury and sheer novelty of having a meal delivered to your room, often complete with silver, fine china and even a rose. Top hotels generally accept the best business credit cards for room service, making it easy for business travelers to expense such purchases.

Opponents cite the high cost, which generally exceeds even the most expensive restaurant pricing. Room service costs vary greatly depending on where you travel, according to a recent survey by TripAdvisor. Denver came in as one of the lowest priced cities; Honolulu and Las Vegas were two of the highest.

Impact of Social Media

Like most businesses, Hotel’s are adapting to the digital times and embracing social media as an essential tool for success.  How these hotels are utilizing Social Media may be contributing to the endangerment of room service.  Hotels are open to experimenting with various tools to connect with customers and improve services, eliminated outdated techniques were applicable.

For example, you’ll notice an extension of concierge services, giving guests access hotel-specific Siri at the tip of their thumbs.  Rather than push out promotional spam, hotels like the Hyatt have launched Twitter Concierge services to facilitate conversation among guests and provide information ranging from tourist attractions, live music at dive bars, and activities for children.

Focusing heavily on customer service, this tool allows for hotels to swap a full in-house concierge for a few tech-savvy employees to cater to guests’ questions and needs.

The bottom line

Room service in most big city, luxury hotels probably will remain for the foreseeable future. Wealthy travelers still expect it from a metropolitan hotel. But many said the same thing about full-service gas stations in the 1980s.

What do you think of this trend? Would you mind if room service evaporated?

This post was contributed by Andrea Taylor. Andrea is a Michigan State grad who loves the freedom of freelance writing.