Room With a View
by Larry Mundy
August 2006

Room Service


 
We have made our guestrooms so comfortable and luxurious guests don’t want to leave them, and so well-equipped they don’t have to.  But sooner or later, everyone needs a bite to eat, so many of us offer room service.  Most hotel operators pronounce these words with the same inflection otherwise reserved for phrases like “root canal” or “colonoscopy.”

Of course, the guest could just pop down to the hotel restaurant.  We’ve taken great pains to make it attractive and comfortable, with smiling wait staff and tent-card photos of luscious desserts.  But guests have their own reasons for wanting food brought to their room.  Some are working through the night and want to be able to drip mayonnaise on their presentations.  Some are in the middle of a movie they paid $10 to see, and would rather chew on the soap than miss the ending.  Some want to re-live the meals their doting Mom brought them on TV trays when they were sick.  What all these guests have in common, is that none of them realizes what a royal pain it is to offer room service. 

First of all, it’s rare for a hotel to have a separate room service staff, or kitchen, because room-service volume is so low.   Employees of the regular restaurant kitchen have to answer the phone, take the order, prepare the food, arrange it all on a little tray and then leave their regular posts to run a cheeseburger up to 206.  Rarely is your restaurant so overstaffed that this process is pleasurable and smooth.

For one thing, it’s rare for the host/hostess, fry cook or part-time night auditor who answers the call to have a telemarketing background.  The room-service menu is generally a subset of the regular restaurant menu, simplified a bit so that the restaurant’s flaming desserts don’t set off the smoke detector in a guestroom.  You place a copy of this menu in every guestroom, but the caller hasn’t read it.   He calls down to your Italian bistro and wants a beef taco, tuna sandwich on toast, and peach-flavored tea.  With the salsa on the side, some zwieback toast and a twist of kiwi.  Sitting in the restaurant, he would know that his options are limited to the menu itself.  Over the phone, he is free to fantasize, and it is an exercise in statesmanship to negotiate him into accepting something the kitchen can actually prepare.

Then when he’s told it will be delivered to his room in about 40 minutes, we hear his deflated sigh, as if by the time 40 minutes have ticked off, the bellperson will open the door to find a starved and decomposing corpse.   In the restaurant, the guest could be nursing his drink, chatting with the wait staff, observing other diners, and the time would fly by.  Instead he’s sitting in his room, staring at the back of the guestroom door with the cheery little picture-chart that shows him how to escape a fire.

In the restaurant, when an order is ready, it’s put on a plate and walked a few steps to the guest’s table.  A room-service order requires that a tray be lined with fine linen, that the plate receive a warming cover, and that a small container of every condiment, spice, sweetener, flavoring or garnish the guest could possibly want, be arranged around the periphery of the tray.  Otherwise there will be a second call: “Yeah, I just got my room service club sandwich delivered, and there’s no gooseberry marmalade to dip it in.”  The trip to the guest’s room is fraught with other dangers -- inebriated wedding-goers, crowded elevators, little kids practicing their shin-kicking – so all beverages must be in sealed containers, next to glasses of ice with cute little paper lids.  A single ham sandwich, with all the festoonery, requires a room-service tray roughly three feet square.  Add a bag of chips, and suddenly you need a delivery cart.

About the time the guest figures the room-service delivery is imminent, he takes a shower.  Your employee stands outside the door balancing a small condiment farm while the guest shouts “just a minute” in an irritated voice, and five minutes later, opens the door soaking wet and wearing a towel.  Few guests are really attractive dressed this way.  The employee must obtain a signature on the room-service folio.  This requires the use of the guest’s hand holding the towel.  Room-service delivery duty is not for the squeamish.

When the guest has finished his meal, spilled a soft drink on the tray and stubbed out a couple cigarettes in the cole slaw, the remains look like garbage, which is in fact what they are.  The guest doesn’t want garbage in his clean guestroom, of course.  So with the only bit of physical effort he has expended since checking in on Wednesday, he places the tray of garbage outside his room door where all your other guests can enjoy the sight.  If your employees don’t constantly patrol the halls for trays of garbage, your other guests will think you have the hygiene standards of a third-world landfill.

The incredible part is that the guest then complains mightily about any room-service surcharge, or the suggestion that a generous tip is in order for sparing him the exertion and bother of eating like a normal person.  The next time he calls, you have to suppress the urge to deliver him a tray of garbage, with a side of gooseberry marmalade.  Two hours later.  Wearing a towel.



Larry Mundy works for a hotel company in Dallas.  His views are his own, and may differ considerably from those of a sane person."
 
Contact:

Larry Mundy
LJM2804@yahoo.com

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Also See: Redecorate Your Elevator Cabs, Every Fall / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / August 2006
The Basic Hotel Shower-Tub Combination, a Relic? / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / August 2006
Different Views of Customer Service - The Airline “Passenger Experience” vs the Hotel Guest Experience/ Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / August 2006
The Hotel Guest With Half a Brain / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
The Latest Thing - Fractional Ownership Of Things or FOOT Financing for Hotels / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
Hotel Floor Surfaces - Hard or Soft? / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
Hotel Bathroom Origami - That Tiny Detail of Carefully Triangulated Toilet Paper / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
A Chain, a System, a Franchise, a Collection, a Group, a Brand... / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
The Forensic Hotel Housekeeper / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
The Exercise Room in Your Hotel - Sweating the Details / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Remembering the old-time Hotel Engineering Department / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Curse of the Hotel Lobby-Dwellers / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
What Do You Do With an Old Hotel? / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Hotel Smokers: A Dying Breed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May  2006
The New Food & Beverage – Food “Just Like Home”  / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Guest Privacy – It’s Not Just a Door Tag Anymore / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
The Future of Hotel Reservations / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Soon Every Town in America Will Have an Unused Convention Center / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Hotel Pool Safety 101 / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Where Not To Build a Hotel / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
“Exterior Corridors” – Disappearing, Because They Never Existed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy
My Top Ten Worst Hotel Inventions / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
Bed Tech / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
A Sense of Arrival / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006



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