Soggy toast? Cold butter? Dried out chicken? No, thank you.
oom service is one of the ultimate luxuries that accompanies a stay in a fancy hotel. A perfectly done omelet with crispy hash browns after a restful sleep or a juicy cheeseburger ordered just before the kitchen closes after a long flight can be a welcome indulgence to perk up just about any hotel stay.
But not all foods are created equal when they must be packed and carted up several stories and down a long corridor to arrive at a hotel room. Hot toast goes cold and refuses to melt a spread of butter. Souffles collapse, chicken dries out, and steaks continue cooking beyond their desired temperature.
Sometimes, room service meals can be resurrected with specific instructions to the kitchen. Like toast with melted butter? Ask for it to be buttered before delivery, or request a side of melted butter. Salad croutons can be served on the side to keep them crunchy. A few well-placed questions to the kitchen can also help diners make good decisions.
I once ordered toast at The Four Seasons San Francisco at Embarcadero and was told not to worry—the hotel’s room service trolleys are equipped with warmers, so toast is kept warm en route and can be kept hot until it’s ready to be consumed. The warmer also proved to be handy for keeping my omelet warm while I enjoyed my fruit plate.
Scott Gentile, Director of Sales & Marketing at Marriott Marquis Houston, suggests ordering foods that travel well, “My suggestion is to refrain from any foods that will wilt or soften from the kitchen to your room. For instance, French fries will likely get soggy in transport unless you request them extra crispy. I always go for a salad with a cold protein versus a cold salad with a hot chicken breast. Try to order cold food that is all cold or hot food that is all hot.”
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He also cautions that the way hotels deliver room service orders has changed, so guests should manage expectations: “Room Service is now almost all served in disposable containers versus the old-time cart with table linens and a flower.”
Some Hyatt hotels have done away with room service in favor of a 24-hour grab-and-go station in or near the lobby. Those properties will deliver to rooms for a service charge, but it’s important to bear in mind the food is from the same quick-service kitchen—it may be worth saving on the delivery charge to phone in an order and pick it up downstairs.
Another solution is to request hot and cold foods be separated. A cold salad with a hot protein like chicken or shrimp can be requested with the protein on the side to keep the salad from wilting and the protein warm. Sandwiches should be served with condiments on the side, and some hotels even serve lettuce and tomato on the side to preserve the bread.
Ice cream also doesn’t travel particularly well and doesn’t keep well if it sits on the tray waiting for a main course to be finished. Some hotels will arrange to deliver ice cream separately, but inquire if there’s a separate delivery charge for another trip.
Another room service feature worth skipping is the breakfast door hanger card—for several reasons. The first is one of security—putting a card outside your door with your name, room number, and the time you’ll be expecting breakfast isn’t terribly secure. The second is quality—orders fulfilled in this manner are often dropped off with several other trays from a tall cart, begging the question of how many stops your breakfast sat through, not to mention how long it took to load the trays into the cart in the kitchen. For breakfast, be sure to order room service cooked—well—to order.
Other troublesome items include foods that slop or spill, like soups. However, a growing trend in soup presentation has translated particularly well to room service. Often an order of soup will come on a tray with a bowl of garnishes and proteins, with a clear broth or cream soup poured over upon delivery—the soup arrives piping hot and not sloshed over the tray or the rim of the bowl.
Foods that are too hot to eat when fresh are also ideal for room service. Pizza is a good example—what food is more delivered than pizza? Also good are certain fried foods (fried chicken travels well—which is why it’s a staple picnic food and was also common onboard airlines in the early days before onboard ovens).
However guests choose to indulge in room service, all it takes is a bit of forethought (will this travel well) and a few questions when calling in the order to avoid unpleasant surprises and thoroughly enjoy that most decadent of hotel-stay treats.