Room service still has fans among business, leisure travelers

Sara K. Clarke / Orlando Sentinel /

Published Jun 27, 2013 at 05:00AM

ORLANDO, Fla. — Might U.S. hotels be showing room service the door?

The New York Hilton Midtown sent tremors through the industry earlier this month when it announced it was dropping the pricey amenity later this summer in favor of a grab-and-go cafe in the lobby.

But just as obituaries were being prepared for in-room dining, travel columnist Joe Sharkey of The New York Times told the world about a large, freshly made chicken Caesar salad delivered to his room in the Peabody Orlando hotel — at 2 a.m., no less.

Room service, Sharkey declared in his June 10 Times column, is here to stay, at least in high-end hotels.

In Orlando, the nation’s second-largest hotel market, folks in the industry tend to share Sharkey’s view of room service’s possible demise.

“I don’t think we’re there yet. The Hilton in midtown Manhattan, they’re first, and I think others will watch,” said Hugh Anderson, regional director of operations for InterContinental Hotels Group. Anderson has no plans to eliminate in-room dining at any of the Florida hotels that he oversees.

Keeping meals hot while delivering them across sprawling resorts is a challenge — and labor-intensive. Some operators say it’s a money-losing operation. Others suggest that the white-cloth generation that cherished in-room dining has passed on.

In an era of flight delays and less-than-generous airline food, and for business travelers who want to get a little work done in private before an important meeting, room service matters, said Leslie Menichini, vice president of sales and marketing for Orlando’s Rosen Hotels.

“It’s incredibly important to the comfort of our guests, which is incredibly important to us,” she said.