Why Is Room Service So Expensive?

And how to keep the cost down
Additional charges and fees make dining in your hotel room costly.

After a long day of exploring a city or running to meetings during a business trip, having a hot meal brought up to your hotel room might be the dream for most hotel guests. But with the generally high room service prices, it might be worth thinking twice before placing that order for a club sandwich. After comparing the room service prices in different cities, we at The Daily Meal wanted to know more about what it really is that makes room service so expensive. Clearly, a delivery fee is understandable, as is the usual tipping policy, but what is it that makes the price of a simple club sandwich rise to more than $20?

According to Bill McGee, columnist for USA Today Travel, a major reason why room service gets so costly is because of all the separate additional fees included on the bill. The service charge and delivery fee, as well as taxes, might add up to a whole lot of extra dollars in addition to the item ordered. On top of this, most people would also tip the server, as they're not aware that the tip is actually included in the "service charge." And here it becomes tricky: a "service charge" includes tip, but a "delivery charge" or "room service charge" does not, McGee points out. He recommends to always double-check with the hotel or server in order to be clear on the pricing, and hopefully save a few dollars. "Industry analysts note that hotels are just like other travel suppliers, eager to increase revenues through add-on services," McGee writes. In other words, as long as hotel guests are continuing to order room service, the prices will stay high. And with tired tourists and people looking for a way to relax, the allure of ordering room service persists. Rebecca Kawano, spokesperson for Carlson Hotels, says that about 35 percent of their guests order room service, and representatives for InterContinental and Wyndham hotels also say that most of their guests order food to their rooms.

Chef Paul Lynch from the FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar at the Radisson Blu Mall of America, says that when it comes to room service, there’s no way to expand on the efficiency, as it simply takes longer for servers to get to a specific room with a one-meal order than to tend to multiple tables in a restaurant. "The cost of room service is, at the end of the day, the cost of convenience. It simply costs more to have food brought to your room than it would if you went to the food," he says.

The main tip that hotel staff has for guests looking to keep their costs down is to head downstairs to dine at the hotel's restaurant. For a cheaper meal, this is definitely the better option, but what if you really want to enjoy a meal in the room?

McGee advices guests to bring their own food to the room or even use a regular delivery service to have a restaurant bring food to the hotel. The only downside with this is that the delivery person most likely won’t have access to the hotel elevators, and you will have to go downstairs to pick up your food (hotel staff would probably happily bring the food up to you, but that would destroy the whole idea of saving costs…).

While there still is a desire for regular room service, reports show that the popularity of room service is declining. In an effort to keep customers satisfied and revenue coming in, several hotels have started to cut back on the room service offered, or come up with new, alternative ways to serve food to their guests. Some serve room service items in disposable containers to avoid extra fees for dish-washers, and others offer quick grab-and-go meals in the lobby as a room service replacement. Chicago’s Public even offers meals from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Pump Room delivered to your room without any service charge

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