13 June 2011

Room Service - Service for the Room

I once read that a hotel is only as good as its room service is - between menu selection, delivery time and attention to quality. Pricing is sometimes left out of this run, but oftentimes a reason to cough up at - EUR 8,00 for an expresso at The Park Hyatt in Paris?

The kitchen for in-room dining is either separate from the hotel's signature restaurant or at other times not. The jury is still out on which is more efficient for the hotel, but as a guest, one is hard pressed to turn down ordering from Nobu while staying at The Metropolitan Hotel in London.

What I find even more interesting is how a hotel manages the delivery and presentation of in-room dining orders. Is it on a tray, and what kind? On a wheeled table with expandable leaves, with or without a warming box? Are metal covers used to keep the food warm? How are dishes stacked? After all, these are extensions of a hotel's guest experience.

At The Four Seasons Hotel in Santa Barbara*, someone decided to include an in-room dining table in each guest room during the design process. There it was, folded and placed in its own cabinet in the closet. They were consciously enabling a smooth transition from delivery tray and wheeled table to a solid table of our own, as table linens were being laid out. It is clear that the interior design planning took a step further into considering in-room dining - and the overall function of activities and services offered.

Another someone, at Babbington House in England, decided to source copper covers that allowed the stacking of hot bowls and platters. Genius.

Breakfast at The Four Seasons Hotel in Florence* was wheeled in on its own table, replete with decorative Richard Ginori china, reflecting the frescoed ceiling of the room and for every item on the table: separate white and brown containers, a berry bowl with lid and heating candle in the warming box beneath the table for the frittata, also on china. A linen napkin was folded in fours and left to handle the hot plate. It was deliciously decadent. So decadent that it broke my camera.

At a hotel in the South of France, the cover for our soup at was made of porcelain, a match to its bowl. But where was the soup? In a separate carafe to be poured by the server or ourselves. All of the porcelain was white and accented with bright, aqua-colored napkins - refreshing and reflective of the Cote d'Azur just beyond the windows. There was no wheeled table in this case, but a full set of linens was laid out on our in-room table. A wheeled table could have worked here, but perhaps the elevator could not accommodate them? I felt for these servers.

And by the way, all of the food served in the aforementioned hotels was exceptional, as it's probably no surprise if they've gone the distance with presentation and function.

*The inclusion of two Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in this entry is purely based on their diligence in this area of service. There was no advertising support nor contact with the management company.

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