Four appetizing (and less expensive) alternatives to room service

Written by admin on April 21, 2009 – 6:00 pm -

For some travelers, hotel room service is the-be-all to end-all. It is considered the height of indulgence. Guests staying in a swanky hotel with a very special lover may not want to leave the room after dark, or for that matter, during the day. It may be a sybarite’s dream when the waiter appears with an iced bottle of champagne and silver trays of assorted delectable nibbles.

But many business travelers find room service a nightmare.

They dislike how the room smells after the meal. Some develop a sense of claustrophobia from eating and sleeping in the same place, especially if the quarters are small. Travelers often resent the cost of in-room meals and few know the precise tipping etiquette. (Do they give the waiter one when a service charge is included?  FYI, the answer is yes.)

Here are some alternatives to room service for intrepid travelers either looking for a way to save a few dollars or searching for a local experience.

Buy take-in meals at a local store. Skip room service by picking up something to eat at a local grocery store and eat in the room. Remember to beg, borrow or steal some utensils, a plate and a napkin (OK, use a towel).

• Get local take-out. Ask at the front desk, the staff frequently has a list of restaurants that deliver in case you’re craving a deep-dish pizza with all of the trimmings or chicken and cashews from a nearby Chinese restaurant. The meal may or may not be good but it probably will be accompanied by a fortune cookie that might give you an indication as to how successful the trip will be.

• Get out and try the local cuisine. You may score a great meal or one you wouldn’t want to foist off on an enemy. But it might be interesting. Never eat at chain restaurants is a rule some people hold near and dear. The food tends be mediocre to good; but why should you eat at someplace you can find at home?

During nice weather, diners often prefer to go to restaurants, especially ones with outdoor sitting, where they can park themselves and people watch. When traveling on business, few people have enough time for sightseeing. This is a good way to observe people in their daily lives. Sitting at a sidewalk cafe is certainly one of my favorite things to do.

• Try a meal at a local bar. They may or may not be on the hotel’s premises but usually one makes for good people watching and who knows, you might strike up a conversation. Whether or not you want to be chatty is up to you. Most bartenders are very good at picking up your signals and may let you veg out watching the bar’s TV or expedite a conversation or two.

Left to your own devices, which do you prefer? Do you eat in the room, hit the town (more or less) or isolate yourself in cyberspace even though you’re surrounded by people?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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