Interview with Christy Evans: Server, In-Room Dining The Sutton Place Hotel, Vancouver
So who gets up and is on the job in the wee hours of the morning so that you can have your jaca and “eggs westcoast style” delivered to you—even before you’ve figured out how that Mensa I.Q. test disguised as the hot-cold control in your shower works? Even your mother wouldn’t care so much. But your room service waiter keeps the wellbeing of your mumbly, bleary-eyed, bathrobe-clad self in mind and it takes alertness, strong arms, good balance, selective vision plus the discretion of a priest to be good at that job day after day.
We canvassed pro server Christy Evans, a long time employee at the glam Sutton Place (a favourite hotel with the film industry) about what goes on behind those closed hotel room doors. She’s seen it all: the away-from-home, closet personalities; the unspeakable midnight food cravings; and every kind of garb that passes for sleepwear. Up till now, she’s never spilled a drop.
Is in-room dining the new room service?
Room service implies that we clean so we prefer the term in-room dining
How long can food stay hot before it becomes overcooked
Depends. For example, eggs over medium are really eggs over easy but we don’t tell the guests that. We have most everything up in five minutes.
Is there anything that doesn’t travel well, such as hollandaise sauce
Everything is fine except toast -- it becomes cold cardboard. Chef makes items that aren’t on the restaurant menu with traveling time in mind.
What do you consider a decent tip
What do you usually get
10 – 15%. As well, most hotels have a delivery charge and most guests think we get that but it goes to the hotel. Some orders have 15% put on automatically – if it is pre-order or the cards that you hang on the door and you request a specific time
I have to ask – quirky food requests?
In the 10 years I’ve been here, I have only seen a few. Really.
Some guests ask for whole cucumbers – I assume they are eating them.
We get a lot of younger stars just starting out and they aren’t so particular.
One young celeb asked that vegetarian chili be available every day but she never ordered it. Instead she ordered spaghetti and meatballs.
They can be a little snotty – the younger ones. And they all have dogs.
We have a VIP pet program that includes a bottle of Evian, filet mignon and hash-brown bone made by exec chef and a side of gravy. (We have never sold a VIP pet program)
Any requests for large pots of melted chocolate? 🙂
There’s been a few, including whipped cream and strawberries, usually for honeymooners. It is one of our packages, including massage oil.
We pick out some of our favourites from the chocolate buffet – one big plate, but we have a dessert charge (a little bit less)
What are the most popular non-food requests from room service.
Cleaning out the mini-bar -- they want to use the fridge. And once they see the wine prices, they usually ask for an ice bucket and BYOB. Sometimes the male room service staff are asked where they can find a prostitute but usually the concierge handles that.
Bratty kids – what do you do with them
There’s a little hot box that slips under the table. Kids want to get into this box – it fits four dishes. They always want to get under the table. Usually the parents let the kids do whatever they want and we have to work around them.
Any safety concerns?
There have been a few burn incidents. One of the worst burns you can get is from the metal lid – some of us have neck burns. That’s how you can tell a true room service waiter – by his neck.
Do you get many underage guests trying to order booze?
We already have the goods on them so by the time they try to order from us, we’ve got them pegged. If a parent is allowing them to stay by themselves with their parents’ credit card, we are often asked to strip the mini-bar and just serve sodas.
What’s the most common scam?
People replace the mini-bar bottles with water.
Ever been stiffed?
Somebody called us for take-out orders. She said she was in an office across the street working late and six people ordered breakfast. She charged it to a fake credit card and even had the driver’s license match the credit card. We were silly because the bill was about $200 and we are right across the street from Denny’s. We found out we were scammed a few months later.
Recently, the same thing almost happened in the restaurant but I had told them about our incident so they were hip.
How often do people steal things off the trays like the silverware or bud vases?
We use really nice coffee pots and they always go missing. It’s almost impossible to keep track because we have so many different shifts. They steal from the residence side so they won’t have to go shopping, such as salt and pepper, little ketchup bottles.
There are a lot of misinformed guests but most know what they want. Just the other day someone said, “I know you have a vegetarian clubhouse but is that the same as the regular clubhouse without meat?” Yes.
People don’t know how to make coffee in their rooms so they will order coffee from room service. We know because the coffee maker will be plugged in and water is spilling all over the counter when arrive. We sometimes have to leave instructions on how to use the coffee maker.
Quite often on the graveyards shift, (11pm-6.30am), people will order and they fall asleep. We have to knock a few times and sometimes call security to make sure they are okay.
Do they get charged?
For the most part, we will let it go. One guest did it four nights in a row and finally we charged him on the fifth night. He ordered pizza every night. The staff eats a lot of pizza.
Who is more likely to order room service, business travelers or celebs?
All of them. The door-knob pre-order form is mainly business and celebs. Vacationers are not so specific about times.
Do you get ticked off when someone orders one soda or cuppa java only?
I feel really bad for them because it is so expensive. Delivery charge is $3.50 and soda is $4 with tax it works out to $10.
Does anyone refuse to pay?
Just the other day someone called down and said, “I only ordered a coffee and two OJ and the price came to $28 – don’t you think that is outrageous?” I replied yes, but I am not in charge of the prices. He paid and tipped us $4.
Embarrassing moments? Guests semi-clad?
Yeah, there’s been a few. Many guests feel comfortable with us and answer the door semi-naked. One woman answered the door completely naked and talked to the waiter as if she was fully clothed. He didn’t know where to look. When he came down to the room service area and told me what happened he was still beet red. When I have gone into rooms, the men hide –they don’t want a woman to see them naked. This is the consensus amongst all of us.
Do you get more orders on a rainy night?
And that’s a lot of orders for Vancouver.
Most popular orders?
Besides pizza, burgers and fries and pop.
Most elaborate order?
In our presidential suite we have delivered dinner with a waiter and he stays in the room at their beck and call, serving multiple courses,opening wine. And for those people, money means nothing. Lobster is a popular order with bottles of champagne.
What is the average guest stay and room service bill
Per order, breakfast is about $35 per person and dinner $45 per person. OJ costs the same as wine. Most guests stay three days but in our long-term apartments celebrities sometimes stay up to six months.
Worst trashed room?
Marital disputes. Lots of things get broken, such as lamps. And I’ve seen blood and drugs. Housekeeping usually handles that.
Marilyn Manson dyed his hair black and he got dye everywhere – on the carpet, on the furniture. He got a whopping cleaning fee but people like that don’t seem to care about the money.
One guest we got to know quite well (she stayed a long time) was a bit crazy; she would order eight different meals in one night and I don’t think she ate any of them. We just thought she was lonely. Imagine a teenager’s room with 15 friends – and she was a heavy smoker – that’s how messy it was. Housekeeping had to throw out the couch after she left; there was spilled food and gravy mashed into the upholstery.
What other tasks do you get asked to help with once in the room?
They usually can’t figure out the AC control and the TV remote. They can never find the room service menu but of course that is before we get up there.
One time a woman couldn’t find her cell phone. We had to crawl under the bed to retrieve it. She knew it was under the bed.
For the most part, people are embarrassed when they have a stupid question – calling room service is the last resort.