Travel Tips: There’s an art to ordering room service

  • Shivani Vora
  • The New York Times
6:00 a.m. Monday, Feb. 5, 2018 Travel

Room service is often the last refuge of business travelers, and an overpriced, under-seasoned option for travelers without many options. 

According to Martyn Nail, the executive chef of Claridge’s hotel in London and author of the recently released “Claridge’s: The Cookbook,” “the food you get isn’t necessarily a reflection of who prepared it,” he said. “There’s an art to ordering room service.”  

He has a few tried and tested ways to make sure every room service meal is a good one.  

— Order Course by Course  

If Nail isn’t in a rush, he requests that his meal is delivered in courses because the food tastes fresher and the dining experience feels more special and leisurely.  

Surprisingly, most hotel kitchens have no problem fulfilling this request.  

“I don’t like the idea of my entree getting cold while I have my starter, and if I’m having ice cream for dessert, it’s going to be melted by the time I get to it,” he said.  

— How Well a Dish Will Travel?  

Many hotel kitchens are in the basement while your room might be on a high floor, which means that your meal could take up to 10 minutes to reach you after it leaves the kitchen, and that’s not including any other room service deliveries along the way.  

While hot items are usually delivered in a hot box, they can still arrive lukewarm. Soups are the exception and tend to stay hot.  

Also, if you see a soufflé on the menu, don’t bother ordering it. Nail said that it will be a pancake by the time it reaches you.  

Club sandwiches and Caesar salads, on the other hand, travel especially well.  

If there’s a regional dish or specialty on the menu, however, go for it. Nail said that these local specialties have been some of his best meals on the road.  

— Go Off the Menu  

“Hotel kitchens tend to have a wide variety of ingredients on hand, and if the chefs have time, they are happy to make you what you want,” Nail said. Just be reasonable and ask politely, and you’ll have great results.  

Give advance notice, preferably 12 hours, if you want a labor-intensive dish or something particularly special.  

— Order Through a Live Person  

Pick up the phone and speak to someone to place your order, even if you have the option to do it electronically through a tablet, app or your in-room television.  

Nail said that your order taker is your guide through the menu and can share suggestions such as side dishes. And talking to a real person is the only way to hear the daily specials or ask about options that may not be included in the menu.  

— Speak With the Hotel’s Sommelier  

Most luxury hotels have one, and they’re not there just to help in the restaurant or at the bar.  

“If you want a good glass of wine, a creative cocktail or another spirit to go along with your meal, ask for the sommelier to give you a call to discuss your options,” Nail said.