Unless you’re a seasoned traveler, you may think twice when the urge for a late-night snack or breakfast in bed strikes while you’re overnighting at a hotel. We’re here to debunk a few myths about this perk.
Room service prices are identical to the price of the same entree in the hotel’s restaurant. I’m not sure if anyone who has really ordered from a room service menu would believe this, but it’s true. The big difference in prices are those service charges. Essentially, that means you’re paying for personal delivery. According to Paris-based food critic Alexander Lobrano, service charges and other fine print fees are “ways of making you pay for the pleasure of private dining, something that most hotels have pretty much fallen out of love with because it’s logistically complicated.”
Room service is just as fresh as the food in the hotel restaurant because it’s made-to-order. Yes and no. Lobrano said in a January 2017 USA Today article, “most room service items are at least partially pre-prepared, since the room service kitchen or area of a larger kitchen dedicated to room service needs to work ahead . . . And if you really want to see what’s pre-prepared . . . study the night owl room service menu, since those items are designed so that anyone can prepare the dishes easily.” Although the food may be made-to-order, the transportation time to your room will inevitably affect the temperature, and instead of being served courses, your entire meal comes at once.
Tipping is necessary when ordering room service. Feel free to call down to the front desk to inquire about which, if any, of the additional fees actually ends up in the pocket of the staff member delivering it to your door. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, scrutinize the bill when it arrives. Usually there are two charges — a room service fee and a built-in gratuity — and a blank line for you to add a tip. You’re not required to tip, but if you choose to, find the line that states what the price of the meal is, and tip on that amount, not the delivered amount.
Outside food delivery is discouraged so that guests are forced to order room service. A smaller hotel may not have a restaurant, so ordering food delivered by a local restaurant may be your only option. If you stay at a larger hotel with its own restaurant and still want to order from a chain establishment, Lobrano suggests this tactic: “I find the best way to sway an undecided front desk [wary of the security concern of having outside delivery personnel roaming the halls of their hotel] is to say I’ll eat my ordered-in meal in the bar with a glass of their wine—no one’s ever refused this request.” Of course you can always meet the delivery person in the lobby. That’s normal in most big cities.
In the end, if you’re looking for a convenient meal that you can eat in the privacy of your own room, room service is the way to go. Just keep in mind that you’re paying for that convenience and solitude, so you might be better off just trying the hotel restaurant or a nearby restaurant if you need to watch your budget.
Photo credit: Unnamed (Pxhere, Creative Commons, Public Domain)