In an Era of On-Demand Food Delivery, Hotel Room Service Is Forced to Evolve

Hotels have been experimenting with partnerships to solve their food service dilemmas

Sliders prepared at Chicago's Public House restaurant are nearly ready for transport to the nearby Kinzie Hotel.

Hotel room service has always been a tough sell.

It's expensive both to order and to operate, looks extravagant on a business traveler's expense report, and for most people, goes against the very point of travel: to get out and explore new sights and cuisines. Room service revenue industrywide is down more than 25 percent since before the recession, according to CBRE, a commercial real estate firm.

Still, some members of the traveling public want the option of food delivered to their rooms, and hotels are eager to offer solutions that will differentiate them from competitors without breaking the bank.

For a few Chicago hotels, that has meant delivering meals to guest rooms through partnerships with a popular local gastropub, a cult-favorite burger chain and a hometown service that delivers organic, chef-made meals.

"The economics of running a food and beverage operation can be a strain, so (some hotel operators) are looking for more creative ways to serve guests," said Scott Berman, the U.S. hospitality and leisure practice leader at PwC.

While hotels and food providers generally don't reveal financial details of these partnerships, the benefits are clear. It gives the hotels a valuable marketing tool in offering food delivery without the high cost of producing it themselves, and provides added exposure and a broader customer base for the restaurant or food delivery company.

The Kinzie Hotel in Chicago's Near North neighborhood didn't have to stray far to find a room service provider. The hotel inked a deal with gastropub Public House, which sits next door. Public House is now the sole provider of room service meals to the hotel, for lunch, dinner or a pared down menu for late night.

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Continue reading the story in the Chicago Tribune to learn how different hotels are solving their food service dilemmas by establishing new partnerships.