Friday, March 14, 2008

Hotel Mini Bars

I spend over 200 nights a year in hotels around the world. As you can imagine, in-room mini bars play a significant part in my life. Most of them are unimaginative and average. There are notable exceptions such as the Delano in South Beach Miami, which is all about sun, sand and sex, and the Metropolitan in London, which has the same focus (just without the sun). I would also add the Hotel Monaco in San Francisco, which is West Coast funky.

Most hotels just go for bland. For a start, they put middle of the road, everyday brands in the fridge and charge a 400% premium. How irritating is that? Being everyday brands, they have no mystery and you are only too well aware of how much you are being gouged on price. Another pet hate is the location of mini bars. There seems to be some in-house joke that has fridges hidden out of sight or requiring yoga-trained dexterity to bend down to floor level (often in the middle of the night), risking serious injury to life and limb. This isn’t how we stock drinks at home or in bars so why would you do it in a hotel room? Finding a new solution that delivers a quality experience at eye and hand level would be a major breakthrough in hotel culture.

What makes the ideal mini bar? Here are 10 ideas to work with.

1. Physically, it needs to be at eye level, easy to open, big enough for you to put your own supermarket soft drink purchases inside. It should not hum or make an unpleasant noise during the night.

2. It should be full of local goodies that you haven’t tried and don’t know the price of.

3. A great mini bar will have a dual focus on indulgence and health. Indulgent foods for when you’re feeling all alone, miserable, depressed after a bad meeting. Healthy foods for when you’re feeling motivated, committed and inspired.

4. They should all feature a mixture of savory and sweet snacks. Savory to be enjoyed with a quiet beer or glass of wine; sweet for midnight cravings brought on by jetlag.

5. Half a half bottle of a very good Bordeaux within arm’s reach, along with screw cap bottles of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for 2-3 day stays. Essential in every mini bar.

6. The best two local beers, in bottles, ice cold.

7. It should have some ready to take, hard to find, gift items for the inevitable situation where you’re rushing to meet someone and don't have time to pick anything up.

8. Packets of potato chips and snacks in local flavors you have never tried before on the top shelf.

9. And don’t forget pre and post hangover cures/preventives. Add to that lots of water, aspirin and Berocca.

10. Finally, we can live without the Toblerone and Snickers bars. Replace these tired old war horses with the best local milk chocolate available.


Ian said...

You are quite right Kevin; we have all been ripped off by hotel mini-bars, where is an innovative and cost-effective alternative?

London's Hoxton Hotel has a refreshingly different offering: an in-room fridge with complimentary mineral water and real fresh milk. And then a foyer shop which offers all the minibar usuals but at normal retail prices. It's a shock paying 65pence for some pringles (normal minibar price - £3). And, there's always the minimart over the road for a bottle of Evian or some Cobra beers to take back and stack in the in-room fridge.

In that respect, the Hoxton is a rip-off-free-zone...

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Susan Plunkett said...

I agree! I don't stay in hotels that often but what an uninspired lot the mini bars are and yes! to the noise and position angle. Air cons are often very noisy also - rattling away like an old tram trolley - and TV settings are generally problematic.

Hotels do need to consider the kind of fare they put in mini-bars against lifestyle choices these days. I love cashews but don't need to sift the ones you inevitably find from the salt mine they are covered in. And yes, please, no Snickers and small packets of M&M's - indeed, lets savour some local fare in these directions.

I would add some small bottles of good quality mineral water and bottles of fresh pure water.

Other items in hotel rooms:

I'd also welcome a return to proper stationary. One small sheet of paper is inadequate - and please, update the local restaurant scene info in the room book often!

And those tiny little milks they have - usually the UHT kind - they consider one of those adequate for a cup of coffee or tea and that you may have 3 cups a day. Please don't be so stingy on those Mr and Mrs Hotel chain!

Sun, sand and sex? What do you get there Kevin? I have an image of a scrapper, a bottle of UV, a spray container of insect repellent and condoms. LOL How trite I sound.

Anonymous said...

Many less luxurious hotels and motels leave mini fridges on with/without food or drinks to chill. This energy consumption is a sustainability issue, and for me, takes priority over what kind of beer or snacks lie within.

giangi said...

As for Toblerone I don't agree with you :I found myself last November in A'dam, totally drunk one morning in my hotel room drawing"love marks" on the hotel room walls using a toblerone bar as a crayon.That was amazing, I was feeling like a rock star.
Can we talk about food design tools?

Piotr Jakubowski said...

Definitely agree about the beer and the local foods.

I recently went to Vegas on a business trip, and noticed that the minibars there have some kind of pressure sensitive contraptions in there. Knowing that they were trying to screw me over with the prices, I walked to the supermarket across the street to get $1 water (as opposed to $4) and when I got back I opened the fridge up to put it in. "Items removed from the fridge will be charged". Damn it.

At least water tastes fine warm.

Kevin Roberts said...

Giangi, you'd have been better with a Bassetts Liquorice stick! KR.

Anonymous said...

Good advice for Hoteliers Kev!

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