Whine Wednesdays: Used Room Service Trays Sitting In The Hallway For Hours – Entire Floors Reeking Of Leftover Food

by -

Our weekly series of Whine Wednesday this time around is about used room service trays, often loaded with leftover food that sits around in front of guest rooms after they are done with their meal.

More often than not these trays sit around for hour on end because the hotel isn’t following up on picking the leftovers up and often guests don’t bother to quickly call to advise room service of the tray.

This particular issue is something I’d fault the guest one third and the hotel two third for failing to pay proper attention to rooms that they know have ordered room service in the past hours.

Dishes ordered from room service are often items that don’t smell very nice when sitting around for an extended period of time. Such things include leftover burgers, fried items, fish, pasta etc.

How does all this become an issue when it’s actually something that could be avoided so easily?

Guests order the room service items and they have them delivered to the room. At the time of delivery many if not most hotels already make a critical mistake in not mentioning anything to the guest about picking up the tray/table again.

A simple question of “Would you like to call when we should pick the tray up or do you want to leave it outside your door?” would be sufficient to indeed have the customer give the room service a quick ring that the dishes are ready to be picked up (either inside the room or outside).

Given the fact that dirty dishes are exhibiting the awful smell I’d say in 90% of all cases the trays/dishes are being dumped outside the room sometime after consumption.

Even if the guest doesn’t call the service hotline, the hotel knows exactly which room ordered food items in the last few hours. It should be routine to sweep the floors 1-2 hours later to see if there are dirty dishes and to pick them up. However: This is rarely the case!

While staying at the Westin Grand Vancouver last week I experienced again that 3 room service trays were sitting in the hall on separate occasions. The worst: In the morning housekeeping was busy making up other rooms and must have definitely seen the items on the floor. Even if it’s not their responsibility to pick them up, at least call the respective department to deal with it.


Coming back to a hotel that reeks like a fast food joint with old food in the hallways is just revolting and should never ever happen at a hotel such as the Westin Grand and others that claim to be 4-5 star properties with corresponding rates of sometimes $400 a night like last week.

I made it a habit of calling room service hotline every time I’m done with my meal in order to pick up the old tray to avoid having dirty dishes sitting around. Or to call them when I notice other rooms dishes on the floor for that matter even though it should be the hotels responsibility to monitor things like this.

If you enjoyed this article, get our blog updates for free!


  • Thorsten

    Fully agree that it’s annoying. But I would switch the 1/3 vs 2/3 the other way round. Most of the hotels I stay in notify me on delivery that I could either call them for pick up or move the table/tray out which I consider an improvement compared to a few years ago.
    Of course the hotel could dedicate a resource for regularly sweeping the aisles or have security monitor it on the CCTV, but this comes at a cost and most guests (myself included) wouldn’t be willing to pay a premium for it. But I have to say that in most upper upscale or luxury properties, I haven’t found this issue. Sure, they charge more, but they (mostly) get the service right. In upscale properties and below, I guess we just can’t expect the hotels to compete with lower and lower rates in the market and at the same time keep the service levels at the same standard. And I’d always see this in relation to regular rates, not elevated fair rates or similar, and IMHO the star rating says little to nothing about service quality. (don’t get me wrong – if they charge somewhere in the $300-400 area as a standard rate and don’t get this right, then clearly they don’t deliver on expected service quality!)
    Re HSK, I’m not surprised that they don’t do anything about it. Nowadays, most HSK is outsourced and they just have zero incentive of doing any additional work and couldn’t care less about trays in the aisles (“not my responsibility”). A solution would be to include this task or the objective of cleared aisles in the service level agreement. But from a practical ops POV they won’t be doing it anyways and just insist that the trays weren’t there during their shift. Difficult and high-effort to follow-up/prove.

    • UserName

      Unionized housekeepers are probably not even allowed to collect room service trays because it takes work away from unionized stewards. It sounds kooky but it’s true, and unimixee hotel workers are quite common.

      • Traveler

        Wow, you managed to turn this into an anti-union rant. Well done!

        • UserName

          Not at all. I’m not ranting against unions. I’m actually quite in favor of unions. I think if you’re bitching about housekeepers not removing room service trays, you actually take a minute to try to understand why that might be, rather than just going directly to “they are lazy.”

          • Enough already

            Username is right

  • UserName

    How much compensation did you get for your troubles?

  • ian smith

    I do agree that some hotels are worse than others. I find the Hilton Millennium in Bangkok particularly bad, especially when you have to personally phone reception asking them to dispose of the tray. Once I picked up a smelly tray at the Hilton and placed it near the lifts, unfortunately it was still there one hour later.

  • Gaijinsan

    I have to say, this seems to be the norm at every Hilton, Conrad, Doubletree, Marriott, Renaissance, Sheraton, Westin, etc., that I have ever stayed in. And having it picked up in an hour or two, what a joke. Try 6+ hours, trays sitting outside the rooms of those who ordered room service.

    I don’t use room service all that often, but when I do, I think the one and only time I’ve been informed to call again to have the tray picked up was at the Mercure in Nelspruit. Everywhere else there was no info, I’ve just tossed the tray outside and waited for the gods to inform the staff to come collect it. Sometimes it’s still there in the morning, sometimes it’s not. In fairness though, that Mercure in South Africa was designed villa style so if food were tossed outside I’m sure it’d attract animals. Hotels with internal hallways don’t seem to care much.

  • Alan

    Once I finished my room service and I want to go out for a walk afterwards. I called them to pick up the tray from the room and waited 30 minutes and I called again and the hotel apologizes for a busy night and that housekeeping will come collect the tray once they are available. Doesn’t sound unreasonable to me. Decided to leave the tray at the door and out for a walk, and 30 minutes wasted. When I return from the walk the tray is still there outside the room. Again they already apologized for a busy night so it’s understandable.

    Room service is not exactly cheap so how far do I need to go as a customer? I guess Sebastian when you see the tray you would think another hotel guest who didn’t care to be reasonable and you have to suffer from the smelly leftovers… btw, there’s not any food left in the tray to omit any smell in my case 🙂

  • Brock Marshal


    It’s not the hotel not coming to get them, it’s guests sticking them out there and not calling them for pickup.

    If you see stuff in the hallway just call them to get it, they are not aware.

    • Joseph Merrick

      Exactly. Housekeeping/room service shouldn’t have to patrol the hallways 24hrs just in case someone is to lazy/stupid/ignorant to simply dial “0” after they have finished their meal.

  • Peter Preferred

    Some of you guys need to ask for that job at the hotel. Sometimes hotels are short of help. Or one could stack up some plates and help out.

  • Malcolm

    Want the tray cleared away? That will be a $5 convenience fee thank you. Coming soon to a four star hotel near you.

    • Ry Wong

      then can we talk to the front desk or the Duty Manager, hoping to get back some sort of compensation? 😛

  • Enough aleady

    Hey Seb newsflash – did it ever occur to you that there’s not usually someone on staff who is hired solely to deliver room service and wait around patrons to finish eating so they can come and pick up the trays? If guests don’t call it in, staff can’t expect to know when to come around again, not to mention not everyone leaves the tray outside.