A while ago, I saw an article on Conde Nast Traveler’s website that drew my attention: How Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Other Meal-Delivery Apps are Killing Hotel Room Service. This made me think of the all times I’ve ordered room service at a hotel. We usually had spent a long day traveling or sightseeing and the last thing we wanted to do was wander around a strange city to find a place to eat. So being comfortable in our room and getting food delivery sounded great.
When I was younger, room service entailed pulling out the phone book and looking for a local Chinese restaurant or pizza place. Dinner often looked like this:
Eventually, we started staying in nicer places, thanks to the Entertainment Book. Getting room service was a special treat, even if it meant paying $15 for a hamburger, club sandwich or a chicken breast salad, a 15 – 20% service charge on top of that, plus a tip. That was if anyone even picked the phone when you called and they actually managed to get your order right. It would still be 30-45 minutes before your food arrived, and hopefully wouldn’t include a cold hamburger and melted ice cream.
This what you imagined you’d receive:
but it usually looked more like this:
Enter post-coronavirus-lockdown 2020. Almost everyone has created accounts for DoorDash, UberEats, Postmates, Seamless and Grubhub. Now that people have a familiarity with using these services at home, why wouldn’t we expect people use them more when they start traveling again?
Even before the coronavirus almost stopped all travel worldwide, guests were ordering room service less and less. As a result, hotels cut the service from their offered amenities. This quote from the Conde Nast Traveler article sums it up:
But there’s evidence that many travelers really do want to dine in—they just don’t want what hotels have traditionally served, says Heather Geisler, VP of Global Brands and Field Marketing at Hyatt. “What we’ve heard most from our guests is that they simply want more options,” she says, “and the freedom to choose.”
I found another quote from an interview with one of our favorite new hotel brands, Moxy Hotels:
“Our research shows that next-generation travelers prefer self-service over full-service options,” explains Vicki Poulos, global brand director for Moxy Hotels. “They want to feel welcomed but don’t want fussy service during their stay. Those traits have really informed our strategy in building this brand.”
The Moxy Café also takes a cue from another successful chain. “Think of it like Pret a Manger, where you walk around to refrigeration cases with vertical displays, help yourself, and check out at the end,” says Wolfgang Lindlbauer, chief discipline leader, global operations, Marriott International. “It’s cool and contemporary.”
Hey, if all hotels are gonna make hotel food like Pret a Manger, Sharon and I are in. Not all hotels want to do this, but many are starting to embrace modern trends to make their guests happy.
Sharon and I usually don’t have food delivered to the house or even eat take out very often. We’ve only started using Uber Eats because we needed to use the $15 Uber credit from the American Express Platinum Card.
Due to the change in dining habits, more restaurants have started to offer delivery and take out services. They’re even allowed to offer alcohol to-go with your order, which might end up being a permanent fixture. Now that they’ve been forced to develop these services, I don’t expect them to disappear.
I’ve been happy with my experiences with deliveries from Uber Eats and DoorDash to my work and home. I like that I can follow the delivery and know (approximately) how long it will take for my order to arrive. Drivers have been nice and all payments and tips can be handled directly through the apps. So if we were at a hotel and didn’t want to go out to find somewhere to eat, I’d definitely pull out my phone and look for a delivery option before I’d pick up the phone to order room service. When it comes to 24-hour room service, I can never think of the time I wanted food delivered at 4AM, but Your Mileage May Vary and if so, your life is much more interesting than Sharon’s and mine.
This seems like the room service business model of offering an overpriced, mediocre product to a captive market has fallen prey to a system that connects customers to businesses that are able to provide a better product to customers in less time and often at a lower price than before. The coronavirus lockdown has only sped up the adoption of these services by the masses to the detriment of the hotel room service monopoly.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary