How Minibars Have Made a Comeback

How Minibars Have Made a Comeback

After years of minibar neglect, it feels at times that the days of the minibar are over. Travelers of the future will have to put on pants and leave their room for a late-night snack or drink. But in the face of criticism that the minibar is a relic, some hotels are reclaiming it. In fact, there’s a strong argument to be made that there’s never been a better time to be a minibar fan than right now because the top hotels in the world are making the minibar relevant again.

“This is an exciting opportunity to take something that people may have perceived in the past as dying or antiquated and have fun with it.” Guests can make their choices on an app or simply text what they want to see when they get back into their room, and the hotel staff will make it happen. 

But the minibar didn’t start as a bastion of free choice.

How the minibar became a modern staple

In 1974, the minibar made its worldwide debut when the Hong Kong Hilton added a minibar with liquor to each of its 840 rooms. Drink sales increased by 500 percent and added 5 percent to the hotel’s total income. Follow the money in minibars, as in life, and you’ll see where the trend goes. Major chains around the world installed minibars throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, cementing their place as a common amenity.

Anyone who traveled in the ‘90s could count on a minibar stocked with questionably priced items no matter where they were. But as with all trends, once the minibar became commonplace, it started to lose its cool.

The long, slow decline of the hotel minibar

From 2007 to 2012, the minibar’s sales dropped 28 percent. Major hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt followed the money into minibars, and they followed the money out as well. They were phased out in favor of newer hotel designs or simply left empty so that travelers could stock them with their own purchases from the liquor store across the street. Some boutique hotels tried to stymie the minibar losses by adding non-consumable items like sex kits, but all you have to do is visit a hotel to see how well that caught on.

Hotels are generally fine with ditching something that doesn’t make money. According to a 2017 industry report, minibars account for only 0.4 percent of total food and beverage service revenue.

It can almost feel like hotels just don’t get us. When it comes to food and beverage, hospitality professionals are often at a loss over how to convert such a basic and essential commodity into a service that generates a profit while living up to guest expectations.

It’s impossible to blame just one thing for the fall of the minibar. Trends come and go for an uncountable number of reasons. One was probably the cost. Recession-era travelers didn’t have the luxury of paying four times the cost of an item they should have. The rise of the hotel bar should shoulder some responsibility as well. Because why would you want to drink coffee out of a paper coffee cup when you could go downstairs and order a bespoke cocktail at a hotel bar so cool that even locals go there?

We would be remiss not to mention the en vogue target for the death of all consumer items: the millennial. Millennials love to travel because traveling is an experience. Sipping the same minibar drinks you can find in your dad’s fridge while in a new city is definitely not an experience.

This leaves hotels with two options: ditch the minibar altogether, or make it an experience.

It’s safe to say that the minibar is having a mini-revival, depending on your thoughts about how long something has to decline before it can “come back”.

“The days of the service provider telling you what you’re going to have and that’s good enough is over.” It doesn’t make sense for some all-knowing hospitality worker to decide how many Diet Cokes you should be allotted versus how much beer. “If those aren’t relevant to you, the majority isn’t relevant.”

Hence, the minibar at the Yacht Club is now order-what-you-want. People take note of where they can be pampered these days, and luxury hotels are providing that pampering. Plus, with increased customization, people can taste what the city has to offer before actually going out into the city. The local whiskey, local beer, local snacks, everything. Similar local takes are happening in many places.

Taking the minibar concept even further is the W Hotel in London. Suite guests can order the Mega Bar for their room, which comes with a full bar.

Of course, you don’t have to take things that far. All that’s needed is some solid options and a somewhat personalized experience. A good minibar with a local focus is one of the best indications that you’re in a hotel that cares about (and takes care of) guests’ wants and needs. In other words, you’re less likely to find stained sheets at a hotel with a modern minibar. stain-free and well-stocked?

“The service provider no longer defines what luxury is,” “The consumer does.” are suppliers of high-quality minibars and minibar trolleys

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