Minibars resulted in a500%increase in room-service sales of alcohol in its inception. Since then, the well may have run dry with the near-universal standardminibar. Loosing out to convenience stores as guests choose cheap over easy, hoteliers have been forced to shift their offerings.
WhenSiegas, a German-run company, invented the minibar in the 60s, it was an immediate profit-maker with luxuryhoteliers: customers eagerly forked over money for the marked up snacks and drinks.Minibarswere first integrated in 1963 into Washington D.C.’s Madison Hotel suites and quickly became an expected perk in luxury hospitality chains.
Hilton Hong Kong rolled-out the world’s first hotel-wideminibar offerin 1974 by stocking liquors and fridges in all of their 840 rooms. It spurred a 5% boost to the company's net income that year.
Soon, theminibarbecame a near-universal industry standard, loved and cursed at by millions of desperate midnightsnackers/drinkers.
Since then, Hilton started backtracking in some properties, leaving the fridges in rooms for guests to stock themselves. Other hotel giants, such as the Marriott, the Grand Hyatt and Starwood are following suit and phasing out the traditionalminibarfrom some properties.
Hospitality managers have become frustrated withminibarmanagement. Nearly 500 hotel ownerssurveyedunanimously agreed that they believed re-stocking mini-bars to be a “nightmare,” with 84% reporting that guests would dodge bills through stealing items and replacing stocked items with inferior products.
A hotel manager in New York City shared her reasoning with Food Arts:
Moreover,TripAdvisorreleased a survey that showed that theminibarranked at the bottom of all hotel amenities in popularity -- only 21% of respondents felt the room fridge was an important feature. In comparison, 89% of those surveyed wanted free wireless.
Today, minibars are underused and most often not worth the additional effort and waste expended on this once popular in-room amenity. Rethinking minibarofferings may reengage the guest and make the effort worthwhile.
These days, creative thinkinghotelsare wooing discerning drinkers by stocking theiramped-upminibarswith everything from homemadebottled cocktails and dirty Martini kits to locally sourced beers and spirits.
The current evolution of the minibar - from afterthought, to, in the case of these hotels, ahyper-curatedamenity - goes hand-in-hand with larger trends in the bar industry, where everything is either “bespoke,” “housemade” or “handcrafted.”