Let’s agree on one thing: Not all questions have a black and white, yes or no, answer. The hotel minibar poses one of those questions that require more than mere binary thinking to be resolved.
The minibar might be considered by many to be an irrelevant antiquated amenity that can no longer delight modern savvy guests (which might be true in most cases) but certainly doesn’t deserve to be completely eradicated.
As the hospitality industry continues to reshape and make necessary changes, I see an exciting opportunity to take something that people may perceive as “old and dying” and create a modern experience.
The trick in today’s world is to use amenities such as the minibar to create “an experience” – something few hotels seem to get.
Is there any saving grace for the minibar?
When it comes to the topic of hotel minibars, differences in opinion quickly arise, whether amongst industry experts or guests. For some, the hotel minibar represents a luxurious indulgent. An opportunity to enjoy a nice glass of wine after a long day in the comfort of your room.
For others, minibar items are overpriced, poorly delivered, and unnecessary products that often fail short of giving a pleasurable experience to the consumer. Add to this sad story the fact that minibars consume a lot of energy and require a lot of maintenance work, it’s easy to see why there’s a hot debate around this once treasured amenity.
Back in the mid-seventies, when it was first introduced globally, having a minibar at your luxury hotel meant you were taking your guest experience to the ultimate level. It was a true symbol of luxury.
But as we all know, things change.
Today’s emerging luxury consumer is exposed to more technology.
He or she holds a different perspective of what luxury is, has higher expectations and finds very little pleasure in the traditional minibar.
In his article titled The 13 things that make hotels unbearable, Founder and CEO of Plum, David Koretz, shares a list of the things he can’t stand about hotels. While it does make for a very sobering read for any hotelier, the part that stood out for me is his experience of the minibar.
“Minibars are only for the drunk and the desperate, and the prices appear to exist only to make airport prices look reasonable.” [sourced from Koretz’s article]
This poses a definite problem for smart hoteliers that must be addressed. Not only do we owe it to our luxury guests to continue to innovate all aspects of our hotels, but we must also figure out how to make sustainable upgrades.
Whether you personally agree or disagree with the continuation of the minibar, one thing is clear. We must continue to deliver exceptional guest experiences that make our patrons happy to continue doing business with us, and we must use every opportunity to incorporate sustainable changes that enhance the guest experience while protecting and preserving our environment.
At Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, we’ve chosen to upgrade our minibar experience and to experiment with a new sustainable approach that continues to delight our guests.
Having recently shared this article with the LinkedIn hotelier community on my thoughts around the minibar and how we can make better use of it, I realized there’s a need for more conversations around enhancing guest expectations while making sustainability more practical in the luxury space.
If you’re looking for a more positive (and profitable) approach to the minibar debate at your luxury hotel, here’s what I recommend.
The saving grace for the minibar:
Let your minibar be a creation and showcasing of local talent and producers. Eliminate unnecessary products that usually go to waste anyway (Products that people consider “gas-store worthy”).
Most importantly, consider creating your own brand that’s locally sourced.
As modern luxury travelers continue to demand personalization and “experiential travel” we need to realize that the best gift we can offer our guests is to give them more of that desirable local experience. Have your guest “taste the city” before going out into the city. Both business and pleasure travelers care more about authentic local experiences than ever before.
So why not bring them a taste of it in their room?
Create and personalize your own locally sourced, eco-friendly products for the minibar experience. It helps support local communities and delivers that authentic experience That modern Luxury consumers care about.
That’s part of the successful makeover we’ve given our minibars at MOBKK. We’ve turned the in-room bar experience into something ecofriendly that also supports local culture.
First, we’ve eliminated all imported juices and replaced them with our own organic fresh ones that are locally made.
We also decided to take it a step further and do away with those “normal” over-processed snacks. The ones often found in every other hotel in the world. Instead, our special treats are unique to Mandarin Oriental Bangkok because they are all local delights and delicacies that we’ve sourced and packaged.
And we’ve decided to take it one step further when it comes to delighting our guests. Instead of the usual Gin and Rum that many of us are accustomed to, we’ve collaborated with two Thai local spirits brands and introduced a new Gin and Rum as part of our in-room mini bar experience. The liquor is produced exclusively for MOBKK and has enabled our guests to try something local that’s high quality when they stay with us.
The outcome of this minibar makeover has proven to be quite successful so far. We’ve already reduced our carbon footprint.
As a result, our guests love the new local experiences in the room, and when it comes to sales, we’re seeing over 60% increase in sales compared to last year.
As a fellow hotelier, I am aware your situation might be different so this isn’t meant to be a copy-paste solution. This is about encouraging you to get more creative and to start thinking outside the box. It’s about thinking globally and acting locally.
If you have a minibar in your hotel and you haven’t taken the time to upgrade it since installation, it’s likely your guests aren’t too amused, much like David Koretz shares.
So is it worth salvaging your hotel minibar, or should you put an end to it?
I look forward to reading your thoughts and insights on this.