When the Hilton Hong Kong installed the world’s first minibar in 1974, in-room drink sales shot up 500%, boosting the company’s net income by 5% that year. But today, it’s all about free Wi-Fi, social hours, and community-focused lobbies. Put simply: The hotel minibar decline showcases a dying breed.
What you need to know about the hotel minibar decline:
Guests have better options than overpriced snacks.
Minibars are no longer novel, and guests are tired of paying $10 for a Coke and $8.50 for a small bag of macadamia nuts. Rather than remove the little refrigerators, some chains, such as Hilton, have been emptying them and leaving them for guests to fill with their own snacks.
PKF Hospitality Research found that in the U.S., revenue from minibars, which represents just 1% of total hotel revenue, fell 28% from 2007 to 2012. During that same time, hotel bars and lounges saw a 4.9% jump in revenue. Today’s engagement-hungry hotel guests prefer to relax in the lobby bar with a glass of wine and mingling.
Hotels have found that guests prefer purchasing drinks and snacks in a small shop near the lobby, or from a nearby 24-hour convenience store. According to the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, the number of convenience stores increased to a record 149,220 in 2012, up 0.7% from the previous year.
Many hotels are launching little shops – some just off to the side of the registration area – to offer lower prices and prepared food. The trend for “convenience eating” also is contributing to a decline in the traditional hotel restaurant that serves three meals a day.
A majority of guests prefer free Wi-Fi instead.
A TripAdvisor survey showed that minibars are ranked as the least important amenity. In fact, only 21% of respondents found the room fridge an important amenity, compared with 89% who wanted a free wireless connection.
The hotel minibar decline may be a welcome change for many, however. One advantage is that there are no more disputes about who had what. The headache of arguing with guests over what exactly they did or did not consume is removed. Hotels will no longer need to eat the cost of contested snacks in order to keep guests happy. And then, there’s the amount of time housekeeping has to spend refilling the bar and keeping track of every item, when their focus should be on creating a pristine guest room experience.
Written by Junvi Ola.