The hotel minibar is the lonely business traveler’s friend, home of the $9 mouth-full of Scotch and the $3.50 candy bar. But for how much longer?
Some hotel chains are giving up the in-room minibar and soon, some say, this once ubiquitous little ice box of booze will be extinct.
The Germans invented the minibar in the 1950s, and it made its first hotel room debut either at the Madison in Washington, D.C., in the ’60s or the Hong Kong Hilton in the ’70s — minibar history is surprisingly murky.
But a recent Tripadvisor survey found that only 21 percent of participants said they cared if there was a minibar in the room.
Marriott is phasing out the minibar. Hilton and Hyatt are doing something similar. Some hotels are upgrading the minibar’s contents — the Four Seasons in Los Angeles upgraded its minibar to include 100 percent organic gummy bears made with real fruit juice. Other hotels are leaving an empty fridge in the room so guests can stock it themselves or are just adding vending machines in the hallway.
“The hotel minibar is a dying amenity,” said travel expert Jimmy Im. “[Hotels] are losing a lot of money from the minibar. Not only is it expensive to have a minibar, but people are stealing things.”
Oh, yes, that old “drink the vodka, fill the bottle with water and pop it back in the minibar” trick.
But there’s more to getting rid of the minibar than just that — hotel guests are becoming more sociable and are heading to the lobby bar instead of hiding out in their rooms to drink alone.
“I think people want to be seen when they go to these hotels… It’s kind of like wearing a brand label,” Im said. “You want to tell your friends where you’re staying. It’s all about being social.”
In fact, the Loews is upgrading its lobby to add comfy sofas, candles and a brand new bar.
“The days of really eating room service and attacking your mini-bar in your guest rooms are slowly evolving and people really want to spend more time out in public areas and feel comfortable,” said Brian Johnson, the managing director at Loews Hollywood Hotel.