Hilton kills room service: Is India ready to stop ordering in?

If room service can't make it in New York, it can't make it anywhere.

On Monday, the Hilton Worldwide CEO Christopher Nassetta confirmed the rumours flying thick and fast through the hospitality world - the Hilton Midtown Hotel on Sixth Avenue in New York will soon shut down its room service. "There will be a total reinvention of how room service will be delivered," the CEO told a conference in the city. "We think the world is going in this direction."

And it probably will. In a world where the once-ubiquitous plane meals are slowly going extinct (in favour of a stack of sandwiches hastily made at home), room service seems like the inevitable collateral damage of an economic recession and the resultant growth in common sense. You can just envision Indian hotels jumping on the bandwagon under the guise of maintaining "international standards". Indian tendencies to laze and snooze on holiday might fight against this development, but a Dominos menu will surely be placed on the bedside table.

Representational image

Representational image

But still, hotel romanticists immediately began howling all over the internet. A plethora of blogs are bemoaning all the hypothetical Eggs Benedict and orange juice they won't be able to pay fifty dollars for anymore. What's the point really, they ask, of checking into a luxury hotel if they're not bled dry by the time they check out?

Admittedly, the whole point of a luxury hotel is to live up to a romanticised version of itself. The towels should be cloud-like in their fluffiness and the bellboys should trot behind you at all times with a mimosa and a beseeching smile. Everything in a hotel is geared towards making you feel like you are the most wonderful person in the world. A good hotel, like the Hilton is known for being, is the pitch-perfect blend of comfort and sleek exteriors.

And for some people, there's nothing that screams luxury more than overpaying for something. We have so much money, these people think happily while chomping through an 800 rupee cheeseburger. But what they don't seem to realise that they are massively overpaying for an experience with limited returns. Just how comfortable are you in that quicksand of a bed, anyway?

The tax and 'in-room service charge' at places like the Hilton (15 percent and 5.65 dollars respectively) is so high, that at the end of the day, you're basically buying tax and getting a free cheeseburger. And what's the point of eating in your hotel room anyway? The room is so climate-controlled that with no ventilation, you'll smell Pad Thai in your sleep for the rest of your stay.

The mark-up in hotel room service has always been notoriously high, and while it never made sense for us, now the hotels are catching up. In 2012, room service revenue represented 1.2% of total hotel revenue, down from 1.3% the year before, according to an industry survey by PKF Hospitality Research.

And there are always options. The Hilton is opening something called the Herb n' Kitchen. Guests can choose their paninis, flat breads and low-cal dressings at the stop-and-go till one am, after which they're on their own. In India, of course, there will be other options. Wouldn't you love to see a chaat-walla with plastic-wrapped hands beaming in the hotel lobby? Just as enticing would be a vada-pav guy in the alcove (with multigrain bun options, of course). The possibilities are endless. As long as they make bathrobes acceptable hotel lobby attire.

Updated Date: Jun 06, 2013 13:27 PM

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