The end of an era: Why I won’t be sorry to see room service go

Jun 7, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Room service has been dying for the past few years. Even since the largest hotel in New York City, the Hilton Midtown, announced that it was replacing room service with grab and go options, we’ve seen more and more hotels decide to start abandoning it too.

Though room service is having a renaissance at some top-tier luxury hotels and resorts, it’s on its way out at most other properties. In fact, the coronavirus could be the nail in the coffin for breakfast in bed or those late-night munchies. As hotels look to cut costs and promote safety, room service might be gone forever.

And personally, I won’t miss it — and here’s why.

For more travel tips and news, sign up for our daily newsletter.

In This Post

Room service is overpriced

Aside from the fact that the room service prices are typically exorbitant (who wants a club sandwich for $40?), there’s often a delivery fee, in addition to a service charge. Sometimes, there’s even a minimum amount of food that you need to order as well. And lastly, there’s the confusing question of whether you should tip in addition to the service fee.

All in, this makes most room service extremely expensive. But even with all the surcharges, the hotel likely isn’t making much money, if at all, from your in-room breakfast or dinner.

$27 breakfast at the Andaz Wall Street (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)

The cost to operate room service dining is sky-high. You need to have a delivery staffer available round-the-clock, which can get quite costly in major cities. Additionally, hotels need to keep trays and delivery carts clean and available. In some cases, the kitchen staff needs to cover longer shifts or the hotel needs to keep the in-house restaurant open longer.

In my mind, offering room service is lose-lose for the guest and the hotel. It’s overpriced for guests and costs the hotel a ton to offer.

Related: 9 hotels with room service worth staying in bed for

It takes longer than expected

Sometimes I need to order room service. Perhaps I landed late and want something to eat or I’m doing a crazy 36-hour round-the-world trip and want to maximize my sleep. Either way, my orders always seem like they take longer than the estimates.

I’ll admit it — I can get hangry, so it’s possible that it’s my body eagerly awaiting its nourishment. But the truth is, there’s no worse feeling waiting around for a room service order. Plus, unless you’re staying at a hotel equipped with bedside-iPads, there’s likely no way for you to check the status of your order.

Though some hotels, notably the Four Seasons chain, offer a 15- or 20-minute delivery guarantee, the options are mostly limited to cold foods and snacks.

Food quality suffers

This one’s simple. The quality of your food delivered 15 (or more) minutes after it’s prepared isn’t going to taste the same as if you just had it delivered to your table at a restaurant. Likewise, things shift and spill during transport, so the presentation suffers as well.

Overcooked salmon at the Grand Hyatt SFO (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

To me, room service often fails to deliver on my expectations, especially for the price. If I’m paying $30 for a hamburger, I’d hope that it’s quite tasty. When it’s delivered and it’s overcooked or the bun tastes soggy, I always think to myself that I should’ve just gone to the hotel restaurant. (That’s why I do that most of the time.)

The alternatives are much, much better

Just as the coronavirus was coming stateside, I was starting to experiment with a new type of room service: ordering food from local restaurants through apps like GrubHub and Uber Eats directly to my hotel. And now that I’ve been having food delivered to my NYC apartment while quarantining at home, I’m getting more and more comfortable with doing the same for upcoming hotel stays.

Sometimes I don’t like to leave my room, like at the Park Hyatt St. Kitts (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

For one, the food selection is typically much more expansive on the delivery apps. You can choose the cuisine from an assortment of local restaurants that deliver. The prices are not only much lower, but they’re also better disclosed. Additionally, I can track where my food is and when it’s coming, and I can place the order on my way to the hotel or while I’m out exploring the city.

True, food delivery suffers from the same quality constraints as room service, but at least I’m not paying an arm and a leg for my meal. Plus, I make sure to use a credit card that offers food delivery savings as well.

This strategy isn’t perfect though. If I’m at a secluded resort or traveling internationally, it’s harder to find restaurants that’ll deliver or offer English menus. In those cases, room service will have to suffice.

Related: 8 easy strategies to save money on food delivery and takeout

Bottom line

The coronavirus could spell the end of room service. And I won’t miss it.

It’s often overpriced and takes forever. Furthermore, the food quality isn’t great. As travel begins to restart, I’m going to be ordering much more food through delivery apps as opposed to room service.

After all, GrubHub or Uber Eats might just become the only option.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.