Is There A Decrease In Room Service In The USA?


In August 2010, the US Publication ‘Foodservice Director’ announced that they had completed there Food Service Director Census for 2009 and that while the total foodservice revenues in hospitals rose on average by 6% compared to 2008, there was a noticable decline in the use of ‘on-demand room service’ style meal delivery. In addition, the census indicated that just over 30% of hospitals in East and Central USA offer Room Service while about 8% of the hospitals in the East offer this service. And when compared to the 2008 survey, we see a 50% decrease in hospitals offering room service in 2009. Why oh why has this all happened? Before we postulate, please remember that US Hospitals are not public funded so they focus on revenues as the patients pay for their meal service.

The information certainly indicates a decline in Room Service which is due to the realization of labor costs being high combined with the pressures of the poor economy. Having said that there may be some ambiguity caused but the terminology used in the survey – “on-demand room service” and last year’s survey asking “simply” if they offered room service. There may be more detail in the full census report, along with other useful information but it is not yet available online so clarification is difficult at the moment. It should be on-line at foodservicedirector.com soon.

In regard to the East Coast / West Coast differential – hard to say exactly but we believes it relates to a number of things that primarily relate to the California and New York markets as opposed to the full geography of the markets.

New York operators tend to want to be at the forefront of trends (big egos) and facilities are in close proximity which creates a great deal of competition. Higher patient census means greater revenue, so they perpetually look for ways to attract patients via any discipline within the facility. In California, although the State is known for forward thinking they are also somewhat more pragmatic bearing in mind the economy in general and that the State overall is in a poor financial condition. California is probably one of the few States that has a reasonable degree of use of outsourced convenience meal service and a continually developing use of large scale cook-chill production facilities.

Hmmm…I guess the Room Service button on the phone will soon be a thing of the past and a new trend will fall in place – rumour has it that it is the Spoken Menu…more to come I am sure.