Image: Room-service breakfast at the W
© W Hotels
The first meal of the day at the W Hotel includes an in-room toaster for piping-hot bread. Other touches include unique items like peanut butter and jelly crepes, a flight tasting of different coffees or teas, and your favorite muffins or breads baked to order.
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updated 8/22/2007 1:40:49 PM ET 2007-08-22T17:40:49

Goodbye limp French fries, hello fine dining: Room service has woken up from a long, dull nap.

Whatever you want, you can get it 24 hours a day at some hotels—whether it's on the menu or not. And it when it arrives, it may come in courses served sequentially, as in a fine restaurant. Can't decide between the 1,000 different wines offered? No problem. The room-service sommelier will be happy drop by.

Kosher? Vegan? Gluten-free? It's all available.

Foodies take note: In hotels worldwide, what used to be an afterthought has become a top room-service priority—in part, because customers are demanding it.

"We're finding that baby boomers are spending more time in their rooms when they travel, just relaxing, and younger generations are spending more time in their rooms working," says Bjorn Hanson, a principal in the Hospitality and Leisure Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "As a result, there is a higher level of demand for room service, and hotels are forced to improve it."

Options for all
For example, Peninsula Hotels, which has seven worldwide locations, including Hong Kong and Beverly Hills, launched a wellness program last year that provides healthy and organic food on their room-service menus. At the Chicago branch, there's even an organic menu for children.

W Hotels offer room service through its Whatever/Whenever department, which means that guests can order whatever items they like, 24 hours a day, and the hotel will prepare the meal for them—even if its not on the menu. At the Mandarin Oriental in Bermuda, room-service fare expands beyond the typical seafood and meat options. Stay here, and you can order a rum and chocolate pairing or an afternoon champagne tea to enjoy in your room.

Now this is service
One of the biggest changes hotels are implementing, says Hanson, is to bring a restaurant-like experience to your room.

The Four Seasons in Washington, D.C., for example, revamped its room service last year and now offers fine dining in guest rooms instead of delivering food all together on one tray.

A server arranges a table in the room with Frette linens, white Bernardaud china and sterling silver, and delivers each course one by one. Guests call when they are ready for their next course; it may also arrive in 20-minute intervals. Start with a tomato basil soup with garlic croutons, then move on to the organic baby greens with aged vinaigrette and the milk-fed veal chop. End with the orange blossom crème brulee. If you're not in the mood for such pomp and circumstance, it is possible to have your food delivered all together.

"We were finding that more guests wanted to eat in their rooms," says Tiffani Cailor, director of public relations for the property. "Many are business travelers who eat in courses between phone calls, so it made sense to make these changes."

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Besides the Peninsula, The Metropolitan in Bangkok is another example of a hotel that offers healthy meal choices. Guests can order from Glow, the hotel's restaurant that emphasizes healthy, natural and organic food using only fresh ingredients. When you order from here, there's no need for deprivation. Choices include steamed fish in a fragrant mushroom, chili and ginger broth with greens and brown rice or udon noodles, baby corn, shiitake mushrooms and snow peas with a spicy lemon-garlic dressing.

Drink up
Given the limited wine choices room-service menus typically have, oenophiles usually can't indulge, but that's not the case when they stay at the One & Only Palmilla in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Nearly a thousand bottles of wine are on the room-service list here, including Italian makes like Gaja, French vintages like Joseph Drouhin and Chilean names like Almaviva. If you need help selecting the best wine for your meal, a sommelier can come to your room to help you choose; he can even help you identify its flavors when it arrives.

The only drawback? When one's room is so appealing, it makes sightseeing difficult.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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