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.