Last spring, Hilton cemented a new trend among major hotel brands when it killed all room service at its 2,000-room New York Hilton Midtown, Manhattan's largest hotel, joining its Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. The belt-tightening move cut 55 jobs in New York.
Meet its replacement. It's called Herb n' Kitchen. As Hilton puts it, it gives guests "the choice of restaurant dining at their leisure."
In industry terms, it's a "concept," but in travelers' terms, it's more like an airport.
Air travelers know and accept the drill: Pick your lunch out of the refrigerated case or order a coffee, burger, or flatbread from someone behind a counter, pay at the register, and be on your way.
Room service, for which you can pay $25 for a club sandwich, is usually so across-the-board pricey that it's only used by people with expense accounts or splitting hangovers. But Herb n' Kitchen costs half that—good news for people who want to save a little money dining in their hotels, but still bad news in that a sandwich at Herb n' Kitchen costs $14.
Room service is expensive because it coddles the people who want to eat without having to get out of a bathrobe. But if you're going to get dressed to go down to the lobby to choose your meal, you might as well just walk a few more hundred feet out the front door and find something that's priced at market rates. That's why a concept such as Herb n' Kitchen might perform better at resort hotels or at hotels where it's not very easy to find alternatives nearby.
The hotel will deliver menu items to guest rooms with a $15 minimum and a 15% service charge, but only during two sets of hours a day around breakfast and dinner; nothing between 10:30am and 5:30pm, and nothing after 10:30pm.
You'll be a seeing a lot more of this: Hilton is exporting Herb n' Kitchen to any property that wants one.
This is the future of chain hotel dining. It's becoming simpler, quicker, markedly less gourmet, and less costly for the hotel to operate—there are many advantages to a system like this. But it's a machine-like solution. Just as with air travel, the glamour and luxury of staying at a large city hotel is becoming a lot more like being rung up at the mall.
Herb n' Kitchen, New York Hilton Midtown
The refrigerated case, Herb n' Kitchen, New York Hilton Midtown