Will hotel room service check out?

Room service delivery at the Allegria hotel in Room service delivery at the Allegria hotel in Long Beach. For "a lot of your big-box hotels, it's just not profitable," said Mike Johnston, president of the nonprofit Long Island Hospitality and Leisure Association. (June 18, 2013) Photo Credit: Uli Seit

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Room service, a splurge delivered under stainless-steel plate covers, may not stay on travelers' menus forever.

Last week, Manhattan's New York Hilton Midtown announced plans to discontinue traditional room service at the end of August, setting the media and the hotel industry abuzz with forecasts of the perk's demise.

Long Island hospitality experts say they understand the case against room service.

For "a lot of your big-box hotels, it's just not profitable," said Mike Johnston, president of the nonprofit Long Island Hospitality and Leisure Association. According to Johnston, service charges on room-service items can't make up for labor costs: Most hotels lose money maintaining wait and kitchen staffs throughout the day and -- in the case of 24-hour service -- night to satisfy sporadic requests.

And business travelers aren't charging as many in-room dining orders to their corporate expense accounts as they did five years ago, said Moke McGowan, president of the Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Nationally, room service made up a mere 1.2 percent of total hotel revenue last year. That's down from 1.3 percent in 2011, USA Today reported, citing PFK Hospitality Research data.

Although Manhattan's largest hotel isn't the first Hilton property to replace room service with a takeout option, most hotels are more likely to streamline their in-room dining menus than scrap the service entirely, said Jayne Griswold, executive vice president of Forbes Travel Guide's consulting division.

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Hotels can also limit service hours to reduce expenses, Johnston said.

Executives at upscale Long Island hotels acknowledge that the amenity isn't lucrative, but they say they won't be cutting it any time soon. Most local hotels have always offered limited hours.

Room service that ends at 1 a.m. is vital to business at the Garden City Hotel, according to Jerry Rizzo, director of catering. "At a luxury hotel it's an expectation of our guests," he said. In-room dining is particularly in demand when hot TV shows and bad weather keep guests indoors, Rizzo said.

Nasser Samman, general manager at the Allegria in Long Beach, has never expected his hotel's 24-hour room service to turn a profit. It's "customer service -- it's not a revenue-generating department," he said.

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