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Kali Mireva

Evolution of Hotel Minibars: From Soda Cans to Craft Beers

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A well-stocked mini bar can notably improve the guest experience of everyone staying in your hotel. Although the space is usually limited, and you may not be able to stock up on a lot, you can still achieve great customer satisfaction

If you have a good hotel beverage program, you may want to extend that feature from the hotel restaurants to the hotel rooms. This means having a well-stocked mini bar that’s also up to today’s standard. 

What does this mean? Let’s look into how hotel minibars evolved over the years and see where they are today!

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The Evolution of Hotel Minibars

The first hotel mini bar was introduced back in 1974. A manager at the Hong Kong Hilton hotel, Robert Arnold, was the one who came up with the concept. The incredible results appeared shortly after!

In the months after the hotel minibars became a thing at the Hilton hotel, their in-room drinks sales increased by 500%! This is similar to the effects in-room dining has had in hotels since they were first introduced. At the end of the year, the company had a 5% annual increase in overall sales.

Key takeaway: Mini bars have changed a lot over the years. From being all the rage since they first became a thing to losing their popularity in the early 2000s. Taking a personalized approach can save your hotel mini bar!

The Invention of Mini Bars

The mini bars were actually invented back in the 1960s by a German company. Around the same time, a developer at The Madison Hotel in Washington, DC wanted to make the hotel really stand out from the rest. He decided to tap into the world of mini bars. 

Having snacks and seasonal drinks readily available in the hotel room elevates the experience of guest’s stay, leading to greater customer satisfaction. However, at the time, America had a bit more complicated relationship with alcohol. This meant that different types of alcohol were not part of hotel minibars there for a while longer. 

Soon after, the State Alcoholic Beverage Control agencies went on to study how self-serve alcohol fit into the Prohibition era. In New Jersey, there was a plan to have a master switch that will shut access to all mini bars in the hotel after the legal hour to sell alcohol passes. However, the authorities ultimately let people take their own drinking decisions.

The Surprising Role Mini Bars Played in History

Back in the day, the hotel minibars didn’t just serve lonely travelers who didn’t want to venture out of their rooms. As a matter of fact, they even played a part in ending the Cold War. 

During the 1987 Washington Summit, Mikhail Gorbachev stayed at the Madison Hotel and got familiar with his mini bar. Later, Colin Powell writes in his book “My American Journey” that the Soviets spent a total of $1,400 in minibar alcohol just in a single night. That’s around $3,125 in today’s economy.

These were the times when the mini bars peaked and many of them were stocked up with high-priced items. However, like with many trends, once hotel minibars became more common, they started to lose their cool factor. 

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The Downfall in the 2000s

Between 2007 and 2012, mini bar sales dropped by 28%. Some major hotel chains invested in mini bars when they were making a difference in revenue, so they started looking away after the drop. Many places phased them out of the room design, others left them empty for guests to stock up on their own favorite drinks and snack food

There’s no clear reason why hotel minibars experienced this downfall. One could be the high price of the amenities. 

Another thing that’s worth discussing is the era of the Millennials. They love traveling for the experience and this is what they want to get. A new experience. 

Millennials don’t want to sip on a drink they could have at home but rather enjoy some great cocktails or specialty coffee at the hotel bar or restaurant. That’s why it’s important to offer appealing hotel food and beverage services for guests. The glassware and plates you use are crucial too.

So what options do hotel managers have in order to revive the mini bar? Turn it into an experience!

A New Era for the Mini Bar

Some hotels already made the switch to customizable and unique mini bar items. Instead of deciding for the customer how much Coca-Cola or beer they could have, they are striving to create a better pampering experience. To give people what they actually want!

Some take the approach of offering local options. Local craft beer and food for cicerone guests, local whiskey, snacks. Some offer trendy items like CBD beverages. Others even take it to the next level by giving guests the option to order a Mega Bar to their room. It includes a disco ball, a fully stocked bar, a sound system, and even their own mixologist

Of course, there’s no need to do something this extravagant to have returning and satisfied customers. However, taking a more personalized approach and sticking to some local options would give you a head start. Utilizing hotel technology to maintain inventory easier and getting the help of a cocktail expert will be helpful, too.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Hotel Minibars

If you are a food and beverage manager who wants to upgrade the mini bar experience for your customers, this FAQ section will be helpful. It’s important to understand how the guests of your hotel think and what they would like in order to create a memorable experience for them. 

From the best cocktail drinks in the lobby bar to the craft beer and food menus in the room, customers can have a full-circle experience when everything is thought through. Let’s jump right into it!

What’s Most Commonly Expected to Find in a Mini Bar? 

Guests most commonly expect to find alcohol, juice, water, small chocolates, crackers, chips, and other popular snacks in the mini bar. However, if you are in charge of making the decisions, better opt for something more unique.

Think about what your local area is famous for. Are visitors enjoying a specific type of drink or candy? 

There sure is something that will make your mini bar stand out from the rest! There’s no need to stick to the most popular brands worldwide in order to please your customers and make a profit out of this hotel room amenity. 

Is It Possible for Guests to Not Want a Mini Bar in Their Room? 

Yes, it’s possible for people to not want a mini bar in their room. If you have guests who are part of a school trip or maybe recovering from addiction, it’s possible for them to ask for the mini bar to be emptied or locked up. 

Although most travelers nowadays are in for the unique experience you curated for them, there could be exceptions like the aforementioned. The best you can do is fulfill the client’s request. This is what everyone in the hospitality industry should strive for - to make the customer feel heard and catered to.

How Often Is a Mini Bar Restocked? 

The mini bar is restocked depending on the consumption of the customer and the hotel policy. If you are in the hospitality industry and want to steer away from providing a cookie-cutter experience, you should follow the customer. Some of them are all about hotel beverages, while other are not interested.

Usually, mini bars are restocked as items are being used. However, in case the customer wants the extra space so they can store their own items, it’s good to give it to them. Communicate with them and found out what they prefer before fully restocking the amenities in their room!

How Are Hotel Minibar Charges Typically Handled?

Minibar charges are usually added to the guest's hotel bill and settled upon checkout. Some hotels have sensors or weight-sensitive shelves in the minibar that automatically track items consumed, while others rely on manual inventory checks by housekeeping staff.

How Are Hotel Minibar Prices Determined?

Minibar prices are determined by the hotel and are based on factors such as the cost of the items, overhead expenses, and desired profit margin. Prices may vary depending on the type of item and the hotel's location and target market.

Are Hotel Minibars Still Common?

Minibars have become less common in recent years, as many hotels are opting to remove them due to low usage, maintenance costs, and the rise of alternative options such as vending machines or in-room dining services. However, they can still be found in many upscale hotels and boutique properties.

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