When the New York Hilton Midtown—the city’s largest hotel, at nearly 2,000 rooms—announced in January that it was doing away with room service, people were shocked. The reality: Hilton saw that today’s traveler preferred a quick meal at a reasonable price, and room service was losing money. It was time for a change.
Enter Herb N’Kitchen, the hotel's new lobby dining outlet, open from 6 a.m. until 1 a.m. It’s like an upscale grab-and-go cafeteria, offering everything from made to order gluten-free corn arepas to Pat La Frieda cheeseburgers. Also for sale: bottles of wine and locally made snacks, such as Tumbador chocolate-covered animal crackers from Brooklyn. In the adjoining room (which feels more like a restaurant), guests can have a hot buffet breakfast, or just enjoy their takeaway treats. And food from Herb N’Kitchen can be delivered to the room—it just comes in a paper bag.
Other hotels have taken similar strides: The Public Chicago uses paper bags for their room service (though the menu itself was done by Jean Georges Vongerichten). Affinia Hotels, a company with five properties in New York, now has a partnership with Fresh Direct, so guests can order ready-to-make meals. Our prediction? Look for other hotel brands to tap into the casual, self-service dining trend in 2014.
Jacqueline Gifford is senior editor at Travel + Leisure.