Trump Chicago first hotel to offer certified organic room-service menu

Looks like more hotels are helping guests live healthier lifestyles, especially during their travels. Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago just debuted an in-room dining menu that is certified organic by Oregon Tilth, an international organic certification organization.

This will be the first hotel in North America to provide an all-organic menu, created and cooked from local and sustainable farmers. The room-service menu is divided into five categories-breakfast, lunch, dinner, late-night snacks and spa dining. The in-room dining menu specifically features 10 certified organic dishes.

Selections from the organic breakfast menu include: Swiss Bircher Mueesli and a “Fight the Fatigue Fitness Breakfast” that includes a choice of fresh juice, plus an egg white omelet, chicken sausage, tropical protein shake, housemade Trump bakery muffin and your choice of Julius Meinl coffee, Harney & Sons tea or Oberweis skim milk.

For lunch or dinner, feast on organic selections including a classic Caesar salad; fusilli pasta with wild mushrooms, asparagus and English peas; wok-fried rice with tofu, beef, chicken or shrimp; wild mushroom risotto with parmigiano reggiano and English peas; organic center-cut pork chop with apricot glaze; sirloin steak frites with maitre d’ butter; and plenty of organic dessert options.

With these healthy options, you have no excuse for ordering late-night burgers and fries.

Grand Hyatt New York “reinvents” room service

Don’t you just hate it when you order room service, it takes close to an hour to arrive and when it finally gets to your room, the food is cold? Apparently, so does the Hyatt.

In an effort to “reinvent” the concept room service, the Grand Hyatt New York is mixing up the way room service has worked in the past and is putting the power of change into the hands of its guests. Welcome, Market – the Grand Hyatt’s new food and beverage venue in the hotel’s lobby. Market offers a little of New York‘s finest eats and treats from the Roasting Plant, Tisserie, Chickalicious and Macaron Café NYC and serves up breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, beer and wine for hotel guests who need a fast fix to curb their hunger. You simply walk into Market, pick out what you want to eat, charge the food to your room and take your meal with you. In other words, eliminate the service and do-it-yourself.

The hotel will continue to offer traditional room service for those who don’t want to walk downstairs.

Don’t become a hermit: eight tips for solo business travelers

Solo business travel can be downright depressing. Even if you hate team dinners (and your colleagues), don’t mind dining alone and prefer a bit of privacy, frequent individual business trips can turn you into a hermit. After a while, you socialize almost not at all, become intolerant of other people and seek out the types of conversation that can only be held in your own head. Along the way, you can become perpetually annoyed or even seriously depressed. The tendencies that characterize your personal life can invade your job performance, as well. Sucking at work can take a toll on your self-esteem, intensifying the problem. Before you know it, you’re beholden to this toxic dynamic — extracting yourself requires a triumph of the will, which is unlikely when you’re trapped by the pressure of a seemingly inescapable situation.

Prevention is really the only course of action at your disposal. Otherwise, you’re left waiting for someone else to notice the problem and pull you out of your rut. For lone road warriors, unfortunately, regular exposure to anyone is rare. Clients are most likely to realize the situation, but that’s more likely to result in a call to your boss than to you. Your extrication from the perils of solo business traveler life thus could come at the cost of a ding to your career. To avoid this, you’ll have to be, as the management gurus say, “proactive.”

Your sanity and livelihood are on the line. Fortunately, you’re inherently equipped to protect yourself, and the travel environment offers much that you can use. However, both your mind and the hotel offer plenty in the way of temptation, so try to stay on an even keel.

Here are six ways to ward off hermitdom for the solo business traveler:

1. Dinner should not be “do not disturb”
Avoid room service at all costs. Once you get a taste of the convenience, even if you have a good reason that first time, you’ll slip into the habit of eating in bed every night. It won’t take you long to have an excuse for every occasion. Go down to the restaurant. If you have access to a car, leave the property. Otherwise, you’ll start to think that meals should be consumed in hiding. Some restaurants offer a communal table for business travelers: take advantage of it.

2. Join the club
Most business travelers have some form of elite hotel status, allowing them to hang in the club-level lounge. Skip the hotel bar, and use the exclusive offering instead. Sure, the food (and sometimes the booze) is free, which is always a plus. More important is that you’ll be around people like you. Shared experiences lead to natural conversations. And, if you and the other guests in the club are on long-term projects, you may wind up with some new friends. You may have a companion for dinner a night or two a week.

If your hotel doesn’t have a club level (or if you don’t have the status yet to get in), see if it has a manager’s reception. These are not at all uncommon (I stayed at a Homewood Suites in a Nashville suburb for that had one nightly). You can snack a bit, get some free liquor and meet the other road warriers who live the way you do.

3. Seek open spaces
You don’t have to work in your room. Instead of holing up in your cave, take your laptop down to the lobby — it has all those seats for a reason. Listen to the piano player while you peck away. Or, sit by the pool. Just being around people will help you remember that they exist.

For many professionals, confidentiality is a concern, but don’t let this become an excuse. Find a seat with your back to a wall, and you should be fine.

4. Take your client out
Yes, this is like volunteering for more work, but you’ll get something out of it. In addition to maintaining some human contact, you’ll strengthen your business relationship. Forego big team dinners in favor of one-on-ones where you can get to know each other. Just be careful not to get too chummy: it’s a business relationship first.

5. Check out the local color
If you’re on a long-term assignment, join a local gym instead of using the one at the hotel. Hit Craigslist to see if there are any groups around that share your interests. At first, you’ll be plagued by the nagging thought, “But, I’d have to drive (or walk or take the subway) to go.” Think about what home life is like for a normal person, though. You leave the house all the time. It shouldn’t be any different because you’re in a hotel.

Local networking groups can be a great outlet. You’ll meet people who want to be met, and you’ll further your career … all while keeping yourself from going nuts.

6. Find a friend of a friend
You may not know anyone where you’re going, but there’s a decent chance you know someone who does. Ask around. A friend of a friend can help you get oriented and give you an occasional buddy for dinners and drinks. It may be awkward at first, but that will go away. In the end, you’ll make a new friend, and you’ll get the hell out of your room for a while.

7. Meetups and tweetups
The internet can be useful. I’m always seeing traffic on Twitter for various get-togethers. Poke around. Also, cruise LinkedIn (if your mindset is professional) and Facebook (if it’s not). There’s always something going on in just about every city, and social media can make it pretty easy to find something that will turn you on.

8. Treat yourself to a spa experience
Chances are you need it anyway. Line up a massage one evening, and enjoy human contact of the most relaxing kind. Sit in a hot tub for a few minutes afterward. Then, go back to the drudgery of solo business travel at least somewhat refreshed.

Something new on the room service menu: ordering online

Room service isn’t new. But not having to be in your room to place the order is.

Ordering room service is now going the way of everything else–online, via smartphones or laptops. And it’s getting more detailed, offering more food choices with photos and daily specials.

Some of the hotels that are making the jump are Omni Mandalay (Irving, TX), Hyatt Regecy (Monterey, CA), and Westin Maui (Lahaina, HI).

Not that a quick phone call was inconvenient, but the ease of ordering from practically anywhere could be a businessperson or busy parent’s dream. And for the hotels, the service means more business–Malibu Beach Inn’s room service orders jumped 25% in the first six months. And Omni Mandalay’s guests have been spending about $3 more per order when ordering online.

And it’s not just food that hotels are offering up online. Other services that are becoming available the same way: housekeeping, valet, wake-up calls, and towel requests.


Band on the Run: No Silver Spoon, Just Stainless Steel Please!

Ember Swift, Canadian musician and touring performer, will be keeping us up-to-date on what it’s like to tour a band throughout North America. Having just arrived back from Beijing where she spent three months (check out her “Canadian in Beijing” series), she offers a musician’s perspective on road life. Enjoy!

My roommate Elaine is awesome. She’s from Calgary, AB and a friend of my sister’s who also came to this wedding on her own. She and I are sharing a room because these rooms are unbelievably overpriced, as is the way with most resorts. We also know each other from the number of times that my band and I have passed through Calgary on tour across Western Canada (and she’s been a great support of my music for several years) so, at least we had a bit of background before we had to share this space for several days.

Elaine has these big blue eyes the colour of the ocean and a bright wide smile. She is one of those people who has no problem being blunt and direct – telling it like it is – and she has been amazing to spend time with here. She makes me laugh regularly. I had forgotten how funny she is and the extra flash of entertainment has made the world of difference to me here.

Having a bit of company (who I’m not related to) hasn’t hurt either.

This morning, I called up room service to request a spoon. I had been grocery shopping yesterday to offset the price of food (and absence of vegan options) and so I wanted to eat my cereal here in my room, just quietly bringing in the day with the ocean (and Elaine) as my witness. Lo and behold, there was no cutlery in the room and so I called room service and requested they bring me up a spoon to use.

The guy arrived a few minutes later with a paper napkin wrapped around four plastic spoons.

I took the spoons without a comment and the guy left, but Elaine took one look at the spoons when I had unwrapped them and said “Oh no. That’s insulting. What are we in prison here? They can’t bring us up real spoons!?” She got on the phone to room service and said, quite plainly, “Excuse me, I’m paying good money for this room and you could only bring me a disposable spoon? I’ll be needing a metal one. Thank you.” Two minutes later there was another knock on the door and four metal spoons arrived (we didn’t need four of them, but that’s okay) and they were wrapped in a cloth napkin this time.

Go Elaine!

I mean, we weren’t asking for a silver spoon, just one made out of stainless steel.

So, I ate my cereal with a bit of class – which, in my case, is “working class” and that’s just fine with me.

Another example of how I simply don’t fit in here is that yesterday, after my run, my running pants were wet because I had put them back on after my impromptu jump in the ocean in my underwear. When I got back to the room, I hung up my wet things on the railing and went about my day. When I returned to the room several hours later, the light on my phone was flashing indicating that I had a message.

The message was from the front desk. It said, “Excuse me Ms.Swift, can you please remove the clothing from the railing of your room. It’s a safety hazard.”

Really? What kind of safety is it threatening? There’s an awning under the balconies that covers the dining area, so the potential of falling clothing harming someone is absent. Besides, I actually tied them onto the railing in case the wind picked them up.

Perhaps it’s threatening the safety of having a set of balconies look pristine to all of the beach walkers and ensuring regular bookings at these resort rooms? Or, the safety of having each balcony look alike and unmarred by running gear, thus offsetting the consistent (read: conformist) “look” of the resort? Hhmm, other than those safety issues, I could think of no others.

I laughed out loud when I got the message. I went to check on the clothes that weren’t quite dry and so I left them up for another half hour before bringing them down.

Safety hazard, my ass.

The final and biggest insult here at this hotel was at the moment I checked in. The woman at the front desk told me that they no longer had any rooms available with two double beds and would we mind sharing a king-size bed or else having them roll in a cot for one of us to use? I was shocked. These rooms are listed between $350 and $1250 each and even though we got them through a wholesaler at $240 each, they’re still WAY overpriced in my opinion. We’re splitting it and even then, I don’t generally spend $120 on myself for a place to sleep!

My response to the front desk clerk was a calm and straightforward, “Uhm, no, not at this price! How about you just give us two separate rooms for no extra charge. I’m sure that’s possible.” She looked at me shocked and stammered, “Oh, no, we can’t do that, ma’am. Let me get my manager.”

The manager arrived and I smiled at her and introduced myself. I told her the situation, paused, leaned on the counter and put my head in my hand. I said, “I’ve got all the time in the world, so I’m sure you can figure this out. I’ll just hang out here until one becomes available.” The manager shook my hand, smiled back at me with clear eyes and then bent her heard and pushed some keys in the computer without a word. She then whispered something to her employee, turned and left.

Moments later I had my keys to this ocean front room that is listed at $1250 (robbery prices!) and definitely has two double beds in it. They obviously did have some available, just not in my original price range. Oh, the bureaucracy.

Did I just get a free upgrade? No complaints, of course.

When I told Elaine that story, she laughed with her whole body. It was at that point that I knew we’d have a great time together.

Eating off real metal spoons and staring at the ocean through the clothesline that doubles as our balcony railing.

In Maui, Hawaii.