One major convenience for guests staying at a hotel is the ability to order room service.
It’s a highlight of many travelers’ experiences at a property.
And with 67% of travelers still taking advantage of in-room dining options, it can be an important determining factor in securing new guests and retaining loyal customers.
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Room Service is an important process to optimize within the larger goal of Hotel Operations Management.
In this post we’ll discuss what room service is, the types of room service hotels can offer, the advantages and disadvantages of offering room service, alternatives to the traditional experience, room service best practices and SOPs, and more.
Plus we include a free checklist template to help you solidify your room service procedures and offerings. For more insights and resources to improve your hotel, visit our Ultimate Hotel Operations Management Guide.
What is hotel room service?
Room service is a food and beverage amenity often provided by hotels which allows guests to order food directly to their individual rooms. It provides a private and convenient dining option for travelers, and it can be a unique selling proposition for your property. Hotels generally offer one of three types of room service: 24/7 Service, Full Dinner Service, and Snacks and Drinks.
Types of Room Service in Hotels
🛎️ Lobby Store Snacks and Drinks
Properties that offer snacks and drinks service as their main room service option provide a limited menu of ready-made or easy-to-prepare foods and beverages available for the guests to order to their room.
Hotels that offer snacks and drinks service don’t necessarily have to have a full kitchen or wait staff.
Some hotels utilize pantries or serving carts on various floors that allow hotel teams to quickly grab food and beverages orders and deliver them directly to guests staying on that floor. This allows the guests to have a convenient option for in-room dining while being cost-effective for most properties.
🛌🏽 Breakfast in Bed
Some hotel properties use their room service teams to provide breakfast service for guests who would like the luxury breakfast in bed experience.
These experiences can range from a simple tray of pastries and assorted fruits to full meal service with omelets, pancakes and other breakfast favorites.
With breakfast service, it is best to take orders the night before, along with the time that the guest is planning to wake up. This ensures that the timing of delivery is accurate and minimizes customer action in the morning.
Simple changes like this can turn a convenient option into a one of a kind experience!
🍽️ Full Dinner Service
When a hotel offers full dinner service as part of their room service offerings, this generally means guests are able to order full service dining to their rooms during dinner hours. Hotels that offer this service may include a dinner menu in guest rooms and list specific hours of operation.
When a guest orders this kind of room service, a member of the wait staff or kitchen team will deliver the food to their room and serve the guest before leaving. While full dinner service is generally less complex than 24/7 room service, it still requires a full kitchen staff and waiters or food delivery personnel.
🏪 24/7 Service
Hotels that offer 24/7 dining services make room service available to guests at any time during their stay, day or night. Typically 24/7 services are offered by large properties with a fully staffed kitchen and serving team.
24/7 room service may include specific menu options for different types of day, or hotels may offer a limited menu of items available at all times.
This service type is probably the most expensive and time consuming, as it requires your property to have enough staff to man the kitchen, take guest orders, cook the food, and make deliveries at all times. You’ll need to coordinate how the operation is switched over between shifts and plan ahead for when facilities are cleaned and appliances are serviced in the midst of ongoing orders. But this service type offers the most convenient option for many guests.
Benefits of Hotel Room Service
Offering room service at your property can be beneficial in many ways. While it’s not typically seen as a huge income generator for most hotels nowadays with only about 23.2% of hotels earning significant revenue from room service, it can still lead to increased revenue per guest.
Additionally, guests are likely to spend more time at the property when room service is offered as an amenity, and these guests often end up spending money elsewhere on your property because of this.
Offering hotel room service can also increase the likelihood of your property obtaining a favorable guest review.
With over 50% of travelers still utilizing in-room dining amenities, it’s safe to say it’s still a pretty big value prop for your property. When guests have convenience and luxury amenities, they’re more likely to have a relaxed and pleasant stay, often leading to more favorable reviews.
And since room service is generally seen as a luxury amenity, that’s where it really shines—in the unique selling proposition it can offer your property.
Depending on the type of room service your hotel offers and the in-room dining experience you provide your guest, you can easily position your in-room dining amenities as a selling point for advertising and marketing initiatives.
But even though there are many benefits to offering room service, it’s important to consider all the sides. After all, room service isn’t all that glamorous behind the scenes. Just like so many areas of hotel operations, it takes a lot of planning, people, and resources to make it work.
Disadvantages of Traditional Hotel Room Service
One of the major disadvantages of offering hotel room service tends to be the initial cost increase.
Depending on the type of dining service offered, you have to ensure you have enough staff, equipment, and inventory to ensure proper food prep, timely delivery, and a menu guests will love. All of these things cost time and money up front. Beyond cost, there’s also a need for additional procedures and education around processes, and with new processes come more room for miscommunication and lack of coordination.
Hotels that offer in-room dining have to ensure that there are policies in place and adequate coordination between kitchen and hotel staff. And unfortunately if things don’t align properly it can lead to another potential downside of this service: negative guest reviews. That’s why it’s so important to go in with a plan.
Alternatives to Traditional Hotel Room Service
Because of the potential downsides, many modern hotels have looked into alternatives they can offer to satisfy guest needs. For example, your property can partner with local restaurants to offer nearby dining options delivered straight to guest rooms. Employing a service fee for these partnerships can help offset the cost of additional delivery personnel or restaurant fees.
Your property could also offer easy grab-and-go meals on site so guests can quickly stop by and get some food to take back to their room. This could be as simple as ready-made sandwiches and snacks or a little more complex like a hot-food bar.
Hotels can also work with food delivery apps like Postmates or UberEats to offer guests discounts and perks for ordering. This helps support local restaurants while providing guests with a convenient alternative to traditional room service.
Roles and Responsibilities of In-House Hotel Room Service
Properties that choose to offer in-house room service will need to be appropriately staffed to handle the additional responsibilities of food and beverage operations. You’ll need a full kitchen staff, including a chef, cooks, wait staff, etc. Your chef will likely help you to formulate your hotel menu and head the kitchen operations.
Your wait staff will take guest orders and communicate them to the kitchen. Waiters may also be responsible for delivering food, but if your food and beverage amenities include restaurant dining in addition to room service you’ll need other wait staff, delivery people, or hotel employees to handle bringing food to rooms.
You may also need additional cleaning staff to handle the collection of dishes and trays and/or kitchen cleaning duties. Finally, you’ll need to either train your maintenance technicians on how to service kitchen appliances or hire a specialized technician to handle that responsibility.
Hotel Room Service Management Best Practices
Due to the complex nature of hotel room service, it is important to have best practices in place. These practices will not only help you to standardize your service, they will help to increase the revenue per guest.
📋 Implement Standardized Operating Procedures
Once a hotel understands the role and responsibility for room service, they should put the process in writing. This step may seem rudimentary, but is critical to help with new employee onboarding, short staff, or inconsistent work output issues. Ensure easy accessibility via a physical posting board or digital checklist that your team can use to ensure they follow all the proper steps. It’s also a best practice to properly educate your team on taking orders to make sure they ask the right questions when necessary and clarify any important service information to guests.
🤑 Incentivize Guest Room Service Orders
Hotels who do not market their room service, do not get quality results. Hotels that focus on their offer, succeed. Try adding signs and menus to the front desk that convey the room service experience. This can vary from printed menu cards to TV displays. If using a TV display, a hotel can use information like weather and local attractions to grab a guests attention before showing them the specials.
Try to create daily or monthly special offers to drive orders to certain items. Teaser appetizer promotions can lead to large dinner orders that greatly increase revenue per guest. Try eliminating barriers to ordering such as service fees. One hotel study found this simple change can increase room service revenue by up to 7x!
📱 Use a Digital Operations Tool
To keep everyone on track, you can employ a digital operations tool at your property to manage and track all your room service procedures in one place. This creates a single source of truth for operations and helps minimize miscommunication between staff. This is crucial for handling night before breakfast orders where the team receiving the request differs from the team executing the service.
Digital hotel operations solutions like Xenia allow you to create digital checklists for SOPs at your property so everyone on your team has access to this documentation any time directly from their own mobile devices. It also allows for a clear audit trail of how tasks have been completed for easy review. To top it off, it lets you track the time it takes for guests to be served so you can improve delivery times.
👍🏽 Choose Menu Quality over Quantity
Complex menus are the source of most poor room service reviews. Increased items leads to increased prep time, risk of error, as well as higher food waste and input costs. Room service best practice is to focus on a smaller set of items, and prepare them in a way that creates a special room service experience!
🙌 Go Above and Beyond
It’s critical to provide the most professional room service experience you can. Do your best to ensure fast, reliable service and listen to guest feedback to make changes when needed. To really go the extra mile, you can include complementary items such as sweets or chocolates with orders to delight and surprise your guests.
Hotel Room Service Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
Generally the standard operating procedure for hotel room service will go something like this:
- Wait staff takes the guest order and communicates it to the kitchen staff
- The kitchen team prepares the food in a timely manner and notifies wait staff
- Wait staff either takes the food or communicates to food delivery personnel that it’s ready to be transported to the guest
- The food is then transported to the appropriate guest room in a timely manner
- The staff member who is delivering the food should knock on the guest’s door and let them know that their room service order is there
- From there, the food should be brought into the guest room and the staff member who delivered the food can then check if there’s anything else they need before leaving
- After two hours or internal notification, a staff member should go retrieve the tray from the guest room
- Kitchen staff washes the tray, plates and utensils for future use
For guidance on building and maintaining SOPs, check out our Hotel Standard Operating Procedure Guide.
Hotel Room Service Menu Ideas
When creating a room service menu, it’s important to think through how complex or simple you want it to be. The more complex it is, the more work that will likely be required from your kitchen staff, and the more ingredients you’ll have to keep on hand. But it’s ideal to ensure there are enough options for a variety of guest tastes and potential dietary restrictions.
Some modern hotels still opt for physical or paper menus in guest rooms—but as technology has evolved, so have the types of menus you’ll find in hotel rooms. One of the simplest digital menu options is to include a QR code in guest rooms that guests can scan with their mobile device to access an online version of the menu.
However, many hotels have begun utilizing apps or in-room tablets for food delivery. And with 47% of people more likely to order room service through an app, it makes sense why so many properties are going that route. Moving food ordering to an app or tablet also helps minimize the potential of miscommunication when orders are taken, since guests can simply input their selections directly themselves.
Finally, you’ll want to decide whether your full menu is available during specific times of day or all day or whether you have specific menu options for certain meals. For example, your property may have different menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or your hotel might have one limited menu at all times. It just depends on your property and your guests’ needs.
Hotel Room Service Tray Set Up
When your team delivers room service trays to guest rooms it’s important that each tray has a professional presentation. Food should arrive on the tray covered so that guests know it’s been transported safely with proper food handling in mind. Trays should be clean, well organized, and not over-cluttered. You should include any silverware the guest may need to eat their food, a napkin or cloth, and any condiments that the guest has requested. Here is an example for inspiration:
Again, you can go above and beyond by including complimentary items such as chocolates or a small dessert item to accompany their meal. You could also add aesthetic items to the tray to make the presentation a little more specialized such as flowers or decorative place mats.
How to handle hotel room service complaints and bad reviews
Even the most professional hotel room service operations end up with complaints or negative reviews sometimes—and how these concerns are handled can make all the difference. Most importantly, take the time to review or listen to what the guest has to say so you can adequately respond. Address their complaint, concern, or review with compassion and empathy.
From there, you can try to make it right. You can offer to reimburse the guest for their meal, offer a complimentary meal, service, or item, or provide them with a voucher or coupon for a future stay. Whatever you do, it’s crucial to ensure that the guest feels heard and that you take their feedback into account for future improvements if appropriate.
Free Hotel Room Service Checklists
To help you get started with your room service operations or streamline your existing procedures, we’ve included a free hotel room service checklist below. Just download the template via the link and edit the checklist however you need to suit your properties goals.
Xenia: One App to Manage your Facilities and your Frontline
Xenia goes beyond room service operations with a full suite of tools to help simplify, track, and manage every area of hotel operations. The software contains individual and group messaging, built-in analytics, checklists and inspection tools, maintenance features, and more. Check out the list below:
- Guest Request Management
- Housekeeping Management
- Team Accountability
- Quality and Safety Inspections
- Team Communication
- Custom Checklist Builder
- SOP Template Library
- Preventive Maintenance Management
- Inspections and Audits
- Asset Tracking
- Work Order Management
- Lost and Found
Xenia checklists make it easy to create and enforce standard operating procedures and inspection protocols, simplifying quality assurance and brand standard adherence across individual properties and entire portfolios. The system’s PM and work order tools ensure your maintenance team has everything they need to track fixes on the go and log asset information for a clear understanding of asset health. Plus the software features all the internal communication features you could need to encourage collaboration, increase autonomy, and decrease miscommunication. Managers are able to message team members one on one, create chat groups for departments and teams, and even announce organization-wide news and updates via a public feed, anywhere, anytime.
With Xenia, you and your team will be able to track and manage property assets and analyze detailed analytics reports on everything from inspections and maintenance to room cleanings and task assignments, allowing you to spot patterns quickly and make long-term improvements. And to top it all off, Xenia is fully flexible and customizable, so you can tailor your digital experience to fit the way you work.
To learn more about how Xenia can help streamline operations at your hotel, check out our website and schedule a free demo. Our solutions can help you set up and maintain clear SOPs, improve accountability and team management, increase visibility into day-to-day work, and more. We’re here to make your hotel the best, most optimized property it can be!