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24 April 2010

Fed up with rip off hotels

A rant at the hotel industry and their standards.

I am fed up being ripped off with crap food, especially crap food that is overpriced and you take all evening to serve me.

Where do I start? Cereal loaded with sugar. Muesli is supposed to be healthy. So why only serve varieties with sugar in? This makes as much sense as automatically putting sugar in everyone's tea or coffee and makes no sense for anyone trying to eat healthily or on a low sugar diet. In 1997 I suggested this to Benedict's of Belfast and they got in muesli with no sugar. I stayed in that hotel in a contract for 7 months and when I returned for a random visit last year they were still serving it. Must have made sense I guess and maybe more people than me liked the sugar free muesli, you can even leave a bowl of sugar beside it for the sugarholics (add to taste).

Bacon. It's supposed to be reasonably crispy. A pile of bacon drowning in its own fat that looks like it has been steamed and has more fat on it than bacon just doesn't do it for me. This isn't just me, the other guests were complaining about it too. Why do you think it's acceptable to put out such inedible crap? Shall I call Gordon Ramsey up to tell it to you straight?

Coffee. It's supposed to be fresh and tasty to wake up guests in the morning. Usually however you have instant chemical coffeesoup in your room with a barely adequate amount of milk unless you are sad enough to be staying by yourself. Alternatively you could venture to the breakfast area where I'm sure it's been stewing since 6am. Why don't you do a deal with one of the semi-reasonable high street coffee chains who I am sure would welcome the expansion opportunity or at least have a cafetière available in the room so I can make it myself.

I also know that £5 bowl of soup probably cost you less than £1 for ingredients and 2 mins to heat up so unless your waiter earns £4 for 2 mins work (£120 an hour) I don't buy the rip off. I also don't get the £10 min for a main course either, nor the £3 for a pint, all of which I frequently decline in preference to an entire meal with food and drink, no hidden service charges AND a proper VAT receipt correctly itemised from a Wetherspoons pub with change from £8 (usually less). They can deliver decent food on a budget, why can't you? They also take 10 mins to serve me usually rather than the best part of an hour unlike hotel restaurants while I get bored waiting and wondering how much the hotel will charge me for the 'service'.

I had completely had it tonight when I thought I would try the restaurant. I had to ask especially for the menu. Clearly a tactic that you use so that when people sit down and ask for a menu, you've already 'got them'. Most normal (not hotel) restaurants have the decency to put a menu on public display so you can make your mind up first. Having thought it overpriced, I was just going to have a starter (the famous £5 soup) but then ventured to the bar to see what they had there only to be told they didn't serve food. Except the nuts I spotted and then had to ask if there were any other edible items they sold also not classified as food, such as crisps etc. I then popped out to the car for 5 mins then returned to the restaurant only to find it closed. No warning when I was there 5 mins earlier, no clearly indicated signs indicating their hours, nothing. However, I could get exactly the same food on the menu delivered as room service to my room. I was going to ask if having then had it delivered to my room I could bring it back to the bar, be sociable and annoy all the other hungry guests being told by barstaff that they didn't serve food.

So tonight as I was hungry and actually needed more to eat than nuts (even if the bar didn't classify them as food) I went to Tesco, bought long life milk, sugar free cereal, plates, cutlery, juice, bread, fresh fruit (not available in your restaurant, why?), coffee, cafetière (so I don't need to drink instant chemical soup) and a bottle opener for less than the price of two meals in your restaurant, thus saving me eating breakfast with you indefinitely and at least the next two evening meals. Saved a fortune and of course I can also eat whenever I like. Result. Healthy eating for a 1/3 the price of overpriced unhealthy food. I have also considered buying a microwave for £30 and putting it in my room so that I can enjoy a Tesco curry and rice for an amazing £1.50 rather than the £15 and long delay with it would take you to serve up pretty much the same thing. After 3 days, I'm already in profit (and I can eat my food in less than 10 minutes).

Look this isn't just a stereotypical stingy Scotsman story. There's a number of points here - one is that when I'm in a hotel I actually want to eat healthily and 'normal' food, not joints covered in unpronouncable incomprehensible French names trying to be pretentious. Nor do I need huge portions, starch, carbohydrates and overcooked vegetables. I actually want food that's reasonably close to what I would eat at home, portion size and with tasty fruit and vegetables. I also don't want to wonder why you charge 3x the price of Wetherspoons, your food is nothing special and by the way your beer is probably crap too. Serving 6 types of lager and no ale isn't much of a choice really. As someone in a hotel on business I also resent my week being whittled away waiting for a table, waiting for my order to be taken and waiting for my food to arrive. Once in a while is OK for a special occasion, but when it becomes a regular nightly event because I travel a lot, it eats in not only my time when I could be catching up on work or getting an early night but also when I might like to go for a walk and enjoy the local sights. Wetherspoons can take my order and serve me in 10 mins, why does a restaurant like to block a table out for over an hour with slow service the main cause?

Anyone else think the hotel industry needs a good kicking? As a starting point, if you want the lowest prices for a bed, try this remarkable Hotel search engine which I use very regularly and which makes finding hotels a lot easier.

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