New Trends in Hotel Room Service
One of the perks of staying in a hotel—in addition to having someone wake you up in the morning and make your bed—is being able to pick up a phone and have food delivered right to your door. Room service appeals to guests for many reasons: After a long day of meetings, you can unwind with your meal without having to get dressed for dinner; if you’re traveling solo, you don’t have to deal with a table for one in the dining room (next to a gregarious party of six, naturally). Room service is quick and easy, and who doesn’t get just a little thrill when the waiter lifts that silver dome with a flourish? Executive Travel has been wondering about the latest developments in the world of room service, so we decided to track in-room dining trends in hotels around the country. Here’s what we found.
Trend 1: Synergy between the in-house restaurant and in-room dining
Many top chefs who have opened restaurants within hotels are now tinkering with the room-service menu or even handling all the food and beverage operations at the property—from the restaurant to the lounges to in-room dining. Chefs are also adding their own gourmet spin to traditional room-service items like burgers and salads, as well as expanding in-room menus with dishes from the onsite restaurant. As a result, guests will find that room service is no longer an afterthought but an integral component of the overall food-and-beverage picture.
At the W Atlanta—Downtown, all the food and beverage outlets are handled by the in-house restaurant, BLT Steak, which is owned by celebrity chef Laurent Tourondel—it’s the first outlet of the BLT brand to make this change. Guests can expect similar dishes to the restaurant’s, with plenty of high-quality beef options like Kobe sliders and hanger steak frites with béarnaise sauce. At the Park Hyatt in Washington, D.C., Executive Chef Brian McBride oversees all food and beverage concerns, including the celebrated Blue Duck Tavern, where dishes like house-smoked mackerel rillettes and braised beef rib are also available on the room-service menu. Executive Chef Dominique Crenn, of Luce Wine Restaurant at the InterContinental San Francisco, has also created a sophisticated in-room dining menu with dishes including grilled chicken with apple-and-mint couscous, and grilled ahi tuna with a truffle–white bean purée. And although the Water Club in Atlantic City doesn’t have an in-house restaurant, the food and beverage services are overseen by Geoffrey Zakarian (of the Town and Country restaurants in New York), who added gourmet items like smoked-salmon pizza and escargot risotto with black truffles to the menu.
Trend 2: Organic and locally grown foods on in-room dining menus
Food and beverage directors are noticing that guests, in their quest for healthier eating, are asking more detailed questions about the cuisine: Where does it come from? How is it prepared? What’s the portion size? What’s the calorie count?
Loews Hotels recently launched its brand-wide Adopt-a-Farmer program, which supports area farmers, anglers and independent purveyors. For example, Loews Miami Beach uses produce from Paradise Farms in Homestead, while Loews Regency in New York buys cheese from the Hudson Valley’s Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. Starwood’s Westin Hotels has teamed up with Dr. Steven Pratt, who founded the SuperFoods movement, which emphasizes fruit, vegetables, grains and proteins and how they interact with each other for maximum health benefits. Some of the signature SuperFoods dishes include sesame soy–glazed ahi tuna salad and broiled green tea–infused salmon. At Element Hotels, each room comes with a kitchen that guests can stock with organic items like Amy’s California Veggie Burgers and Rising Moon Organics pasta sauce—available for purchase in the lobby store—to cook themselves.
Trend 3: The return of comfort food
Despite the fact that healthy dishes are on the rise, another clear emerging trend is renewed enthusiasm for comfort food. One of the obvious reasons why: Comfort food reminds weary road warriors of home and family. These dishes also tend to be filling, quick to prepare and on the less expensive side—a definite advantage nowadays. Since everyone is being extra careful with their finances, it’s nice to be a little indulgent—even if it’s just via an order of mac ’n’ cheese.
At the Liberty in Boston, you’ll find breakfast treats like New England crab cakes benedict and all-day offerings like clam chowder, Cuban pork sandwiches with sweet-potato fries, and Maine lobster pot pie with a flaky crust. At the James Hotel in Chicago, BBQ short ribs and lobster fill the surf-and-turf dumplings, while the InterContinental Mark Hopkins in San Francisco serves up shepherd’s pie and meat loaf. Back on the East Coast, the Bowery Burger at New York’s Bowery Hotel is made with black Angus sirloin and comes with roasted tomatoes, grilled onions and a side of fries; and the JW Marriott in D.C. offers three-cheese panini and Italian sausage pizzas.
Trend 4: Desserts are on the rise
Desserts—another member of the comfort food family—have traditionally been low sellers on in-room dining menus, but lately orders have spiked. Drown your sorrows in a sundae, anyone?
The Liberty offers milk and cookies, the ultimate throwback to childhood; while the Ritz-Carlton Central Park South offers New York–style cheesecake and half pints of homemade ice cream (caramel is one of the top sellers). But the Affinia Chicago has taken the dessert theme one step further with its Sweet Treats, an in-room dessert menu dreamed up by Toni Roberts, the pastry chef at C-House, Marcus Samuelsson’s in-house restaurant. The Candy Bar section is full of treats like chocolates, nut brittle, berry roll-ups and cupcakes, but the Daily Dessert Special is pure nostalgia: cherry-vanilla floats, ice cream sandwiches and hand-dipped caramel apples. Sure, times are tough, but they seem just a little sweeter when there’s a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of strawberry sitting under a silver dome—delivered right to your door.
JILL FERGUS writes about dining from New York.