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What is the Future of Hotel Minibar?

The Wall Street Journal featured an interesting story about hotel minibar (report + video). For decades, hotel minibar was a must-have amenity for hotels. Now, things have changed. Hoteliers are taking the minibar concept to two directions.

Some hotels (mostly limited service hotels) get rid of the minibars. From the operation standpoint, it does not seem worthy of keeping a minibar because the labor costs of purchasing, managing inventory, and preventing thefts are not cheap --- this is one of the reasons why hotels have to put a higher price tag on the minibar items. From the traveler standpoint, not everyone wants to pay a high price for food and beverage items in the minibar. Accordingly, some hotels replace the in-room minibar concept with the lobby mini-market concept.

Another group of hotels, mostly in the luxury or boutique hotel segment, customizes the minibar with a local flavor or makes it free for guests. For example, travelers can find ham-flavored Chilean almonds in the Ritz-Carlton, Santiago, and the Grand Canyon Pilsner, a local brew, in The Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona. The soft drinks and snacks are free in Hyatt’s Andaz hotels, which is call “Bartech’s eCube.”

No matter if it is a mini-market or a mini-bar concept, it is retail business for hotels. Category management can be helpful in analyzing the sales. According to The Wall Street Journal, the best sellers are:
  • Bottle water: No. 1 selling drink 
  • Diet Coke: No. 2 selling drink 
  • Pringles potato chips: No. 1 selling snack 
  • M&M’s: Contributes to 7% of Omni Hotel’s minibar revenue
Another interesting discussion is that some hotels use sensors to control the minibar items. I visited the W Hotel on Lexington between E 49th St and E 50th St, which installed sensors for the minibars. If an item is removed, a charge will be posted to the room automatically. Personally, I do not think it is a good idea of using sensors in minibars; there are better places for sensors. As a hotel guest, I would feel that the hotel is “watching” me for every move I make. Moreover, guests may move the items to another place, or take a look at the items and then decide not to buy them. Thanks to the “smart” sensors, charges will be posted. Then, the guests will have to dispute the charges later.

In your experience, what are your favorite items or the most interesting items you have seen in a hotel minibar? In your opinions, what is the future for hotel minibar?



References:
A. Petersen (September 14, 2011). Cracking open the hotel minibar. The Wall Street Journal, D1 & D2. Online access through http://on.wsj.com/qHDp0r.
The picture of Bartech’s eCube was downloaded from HotelOnline.com.

Comments

  1. Hannah Feuerstein-SimonSeptember 19, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    The concept of the minibar is both very convenient yet aggravating. For as long as I can remember, 99% of hotels have had minibars in them. Their purpose is to serve as an easy way to get a snack or a drink when you are in the room and don't feel like leaving or are desperate. The astronomical prices of the food and beverages in the minibar, however, deter a lot of people away from "taking" from it. The way I see it is that people are desperate to get a quick snack so they have no choice but to grab something from the minibar. This is why hotels get away with such high prices.
    Typically, when my family goes to hotels we will stock up on drinks and snacks prior to checking in, as to be sure we don't get charged ridiculous amounts for a soda. If we do forget though, and are in the desperate situation, we will take something from the minibar.
    As for the future of minibars, each hotel will have to evaluate whether or not it is worth it for them to keep such snacks in the room. I think a good idea is to still have a mini fridge so people can bring their own drinks to the room.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your comment, Hannah. I agree that it is a good idea to have a mini fridge in room. Some hotels will provide a mini fridge upon request (as not every room has a fridge).

    ReplyDelete
  3. I actually have yet to see a minibar in any of the hotels that i have stayed in, however the thought of a minibar actually seems sort of dated to me. I mean with the options of room service, going out, order in, sundry stands and vending machines, i can't really see a reason to have a minibar at all. In fact, i feel like a minibar belongs in another blog of yours about extra charges and rip-offs. furthermore, if i saw a mini bar in my room i would be terrified that it was one that was sensored. Are hotels obligated to to tell you whether or not their mini-bars have a sensor on them to avoid these miscellaneous charges? And how much money do hotels lose on the disputed charges of these minibars?

    -Kelly Hodges

    ReplyDelete

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