Why Is Room Service So Ridiculously Expensive?

Mar 26, 2017

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Quora.com is a question-and-answer site where content is written and edited by its community of users. Occasionally we syndicate content from the site if we think it will interest TPG readers. This article originally appeared on Quora.com in response to the question, Why Is Room Service So Ridiculously Expensive? and was written by David Trustrum, who has more than 20 years of experience in hotels, restaurants, bars and banqueting.

In my experience, which is in mid-market hotels in the UK, room service is so expensive for several reasons, the most important of which, as far as I am concerned, is to discourage people from having it.

Why do we wish to discourage room service? Because providing room service is a monumental pain in the backside.

  • Management hates room service. If a guest wishes for room service outside normal restaurant hours, that is immediately two extra members of staff we have to pay for, one to cook it and one to serve it. Plus, these staff need to be on standby, and therefore paid, whether there are any orders or not, just in case one should come in. With staff costs what they are, (often 70% of hotel costs) and the fact that room service is nowhere near as common in the UK as it is in the US, this is an expense most hotels here just can’t afford. Room service therefore is often only available during the normal opening hours of the restaurant.
  • Restaurant managers hate room service. Each room service order takes a member of staff off the restaurant floor for at least 15 minutes. As most people tend to eat within the same short time-frame (usually between 6:00pm and 8:00pm) you can often get several room service orders at a time. And each one takes a member of staff away from the restaurant. If the order is for more than one course, it can tie a waiter up for an hour. If it is for more than one person, it can tie up two or three waiters. This can drastically affect the restaurant service. The restaurant is normally short staffed to start with, and you only dare send your most reliable staff off on the trek, as anyone else will grab the opportunity for a break and be gone for hours.
  • Staff hate room service. As this is the UK, they rarely receive a tip for delivering it — gratuity is almost non-existent in the UK, and the room service charge does not go to the member of staff — and when they do it, is only a couple of pounds. This is not worth the long and awkward trek down corridors, with a precariously laden tray, up stairs and through fire doors. And even if you are lucky enough to have a recently built hotel corridor that is nice and level, have you tried to get a trolley through a fire door? It is also inevitable that someone ordering room service will be in the room farthest from the kitchen.
  • Chefs hate room service, as they know that by the time the staff member has transported their meticulously presented creation down said corridors, it will be all over the plate — and probably the tray — and if not stone cold, then certainly not as hot as it should be. Plus, the food hygiene considerations are worrying, at least.
  • Housekeeping hate room service. Left over food smells. Trays block up trolleys and corridors, and what a red wine jus can do to a nice white bedspread is best not considered.

All in all, room service is expensive because we do not want you to have it. And why the hell would you want to eat a cold meal in your little hotel bedroom anyway?

Image courtesy of Alija via Getty Images. 

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