November 12, 2021
By Kim Campbell

Some hotels have opted out of including a stocked mini bar in guest rooms in recent years, replacing the once-popular amenity with empty mini fridges so that guests can bring and store their own food and drinks. Rather than removing mini bars altogether, however, what if we gave new life to the classic amenity with some fresh, exciting hotel mini bar ideas instead? 

In this post, that’s our aim: Reinvigorate the hotel mini bar’s reputation. We break down why mini bar use has declined, why mini bar prices tend to be so high, and outline 13 hotel mini bar ideas designed to maximize the guest experience.

Balancing hotel mini bar prices with guest perception

Hoteliers know that mini bars tend to be quite an expense for hotels that offer them. While not all guests use the mini bar in their room, the hotel still incurs the costs of purchasing the items that fill them, cleaning costs, and the expense of operating a refrigerator in every room.

In order to recoup the costs, many hotels mark-up mini bar prices. To turn a profit, some hotels overprice their mini bar items by far too much. This is one of the most common mistakes that hotels make. Overpriced items are a big turn-off for most travelers and can make them feel taken advantage of, but hoteliers are still tasked to find a way to balance mini bar ROI.

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Reinventing the hotel mini bar

So, how can hotels keep mini bars in guest rooms without losing money or affecting their guest perception? How can hoteliers shake things up?

The appeal of any hotel mini bar really comes down to what items are offered and how those items are presented. To reinvent the hotel mini bar, hoteliers might want to consider shifting strategies, moving away from price-hiking and instead offering more value to guests.

13 unique hotel mini bar ideas to impress your guests

A run-of-the-mill mini bar could be hurting your hotel’s overall satisfaction scores or preventing your hotel from recouping the cost of purchasing expensive amenities. If you're looking to impress your guests and save your mini bar from extinction, it may be time to think outside of the box. That's where these hotel mini bar ideas come in. 

1. Disguise the mini bar in high-end furniture

Nothing screams “dorm room” louder than a mini fridge. A small refrigerator stuffed with pricey snacks is not only unsightly, but it's doing nothing to improve your guest experience

The Nautilus by Arlo is an impressive and iconic hotel located in South Beach. Designed by Morris Lapidus and celebrated for its modern style, the hotel was designed to create “a home for urban explorers.” Each of the property’s 250 rooms boast a mini bar disguised as an oversized steamer trunk-inspired chest, reminiscent of the luggage trunks one may have carried for long journeys at sea.

2. Sleek is chic

Can you include the mini bar cohesively inside furniture already present in the room? Minimalist hotels can tuck away a high-end mini bar inside sleek storage cabinets. Avoid mini bar storage that adds bulk to the room or feels obtrusive.

3. Choose mini bar storage that adds to the room’s perceived value

Boutique hotels could repurpose a vanity or armoire to hold the mini bar without sacrificing the air of luxury in the hotel room. Look to the Fauchon L’Hotel Paris for inspiration.

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4. Direct guests to the mini bar

Don’t blend the mini bar into your hotel’s interior design so well that guests don’t know where to find it. Feel free to keep it tucked away, but make sure signage is visible to show guests where the mini bar is located. If there's any question, encourage front desk members to inform guests during the check-in process.

5. Pick a theme

Does your hotel embrace cottage-like charm, contemporary design, or perhaps an eco-friendly approach? Is there a specific style or design that your property embraces? Match your mini bar offerings to a theme that resonates throughout the hotel’s branding or marketing efforts.

6. Include mini bar costs in the room rate

Consider increasing the cost of your room rate to include “complimentary” items in the room. The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, is one of the top destination hotels in Cabo San Lucas. On average, you can expect a room at The Cape to cost around $500-600 a night. While that rate may be startling to many travelers at first glance, luxurious amenities are included in the room rate.

Each of the 161 ocean view rooms at this beachfront property comes equipped with a complimentary crystal bottle of tequila and all of the accompaniments needed to make a variety of top-shelf drinks. While the cost of a stay at The Cape may be high, guests continue to book there time and again for the lavish amenities. The hotel boasts an almost perfect rating on Tripadvisor with over 2,300 reviews of excellence.

7. Highlight local vendor relationships

Are you offering guests at your hotel a taste of the local fare? If so, include information about the vendors and distributors you’re using. Help promote your own business relationships while also providing hotel guests with a personalized and immersive local experience.

8. Sell guests snacks with a story

Is there a long-standing company or product that your city or town is especially proud of? Showcase products made in your area and offer guests snippets of the company history.

Wythe Hotel is an impressive property in Brooklyn with a rich local history. Built 120 years ago, and originally a factory, guests who stay at the Wythe Hotel are able to soak in the rich history of NYC, as well as stunning views of Manhattan. The hotel focuses on providing their guests with local products and experiences from the wallpaper they use to their mini bar offerings like potato chips baked on Long Island.

9. Showcase what your hotel does best

Located in Shoreditch, the hub of London’s cultural scene, the Mondrian is a 120-room hotel that has an incredible reputation in the tourism industry worldwide for a reason that may surprise you. Travelers from all over the world flock to the Mondrian for ... the bartender, Mr. Ryan Chetiyawardana.

With titles including “Best International Cocktail Bar” and “International Bartender of the Year," Chetiyawardana is an innovator in the world of cocktail crafting. The mini bars at the Mondrian each include pre-bottled versions of some of his boundary-pushing cocktails, such as the “Frosted Martini” and the beloved “Beeswax” Old-Fashioned.

What is your hotel’s star attraction? Tie it into your mini bar offerings.

10. Become farmer’s market-friendly

Is your hotel located in an area with a flourishing farmer’s market? If it fits the style and service of your hotel, consider adding fresh finds from the market to the mini bar. Fresh fruits, vegetable snacks, or artisanal toiletries would be a pleasant surprise for many travelers who are used to overpriced sodas and unhealthy sugary snacks.                  

11. Provide sustainable or environmentally-friendly options

Do you run an eco-friendly hotel with a strong green initiative? Include organic and sustainable amenities in the mini bar with information about the hotel’s environmental initiatives. Give guests the option to use recyclable materials, offer a reusable branded hotel water bottle, use thermoelectric refrigerators, eco-friendly printing methods, and so on.

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12. Work with a local brewery or distillery          

Craft breweries and distilleries have begun to pop up all over the country in the last few decades. Is your hotel located in an area with a big beer scene, rich prohibition history, renowned wine region, or another claim to alcohol fame? Showcase your region’s unique history by offering local spirits to your guests.

The Opus Hotel in Vancouver puts the fame of British Columbia’s wine and beer reputation on full display for hotel guests. Each of the in-room mini bars at the Opus Hotel serves a variety of local offerings that include Legend Distilling gin and miniature growlers from Granville Island Brewing, both located nearby.

13. Offer ready-made cocktails

Offer “cocktails” that include everything a guest would need to make a delicious in-room drink. Craft a house-made Bloody Mary mix. Pair the mix with a small bottle of vodka and some tomato juice for an artisanal cocktail weary travelers won’t have to visit the bar for. Provide guests an in-room recipe book and any tools they will need (shaker, strainer, etc.) to assist them in preparation.

Frequently asked questions about hotel mini bars

Why are hotel mini bar items so expensive?

Mini bar pricing looks a lot like the marked-up pricing we see at convenience stores. In both instances, the business can charge more because the customers are willing to pay more for the convenience of having items on-hand.

How do hotels charge for mini bar use?

Many hotels employ modern mini bar technology that uses sensors to identify when items have been removed from the mini bar. The items are then charged to the room. There are many hotels that offer in-room mini bars without this technology, however, and in those circumstances, the items are usually counted and charged by a team member after checkout.

Are hotel mini bar items an extra charge?

The cost of mini bar items in a hotel room depends on the hotel’s policy. While some hotels include the cost of in-room snacks and drinks in the cost of the room, other properties offer these items at a separate expense. A pricing list is usually included to denote the cost of each item.

What’s in a hotel mini bar?

The items in a hotel mini bar can vary greatly from property to property, as well as from location to location. While some hotels may choose to include standard mini bar items such as soda, water, orange juice, beer, or snacks, other properties may choose to include house-made or locally-sourced items. Some mini bars strictly offer food and drink options, while others may include lotions, soaps, or other amenities.

Put these hotel mini bar ideas to good use!

Up next, impress your guests even further with these 19 hotel amenity ideas.

How can we help?

Headshot of Cvent writer Kimberly Campbell

Kim Campbell

Kim is a full-time copy and content writer with many years of experience in the hospitality industry. She entered the hotel world in 2013 as a housekeeping team member and worked her way through various departments before being appointed to Director of Sales. Kim has championed numerous successful sales efforts, revenue strategies, and marketing campaigns — all of which landed her a spot on Hotel Management Magazine’s “Thirty Under 30” list. Don’t be fooled though; she’s not all business! An avid forest forager, post-apocalyptic fiction fan, and free-sample-fiend, Kim prides herself on being well-rounded.
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