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“We wanted to be clear that this is not your grandfather’s room service,” Bowen said. “It just came down to getting guests a better product at a better price while avoiding the association people have with high prices for room service.”
Yet, Piezelli’s offers room service convenience that customers still seem to want, such as delivery to the rooms and the ability to charge the cost to the final bill. The project has been enough of a success to eye expansion to submarine sandwiches, lasagna and cheese bread, Bowen said.
Industry observers say room service still has its niche: breakfast for business travelers and, say, late in-room dining after the clubs have closed. But short of that, the culture seems to be drifting away from the idea of eating alone in a hotel room.
Able to work wirelessly, business travelers are more interested in life outside their hotel rooms. Local-food movements have bred a new generation of food tourism that runs counter to eating a hotel hamburger in Miami that tastes like a hotel hamburger in Seattle.
Though luxury hotels are likely to maintain room service, much as they still hang cushy robes in the bathroom and deliver a newspaper to your door every morning, the Hilton Midtown’s move could reverberate through the industry.
“It’s like the airline baggage fee; once one airline showed it could be done, everybody followed suit,” Carvell said. “If Hilton is able to maintain occupancy, and I would expect that they will, you’ll see other hotels willing to take that leap.”