The hotel minibar is the lonely business traveller’s friend, home of the £7 mouth full of gin and the £2.50 chocolate bar. But for how much longer?
Some hotel chains are giving up the in-room minibar and soon, some say, this once ubiquitous little fridge 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.
However a recent Tripadvisor survey found that only 21% 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% 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.”
The 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 minbar 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, hotel lounges, bars and restaurants are becoming more than just a convenience for the hotel guest. In London, more and more hotel bars and restaurants have their own street entrance and encourage bookings from non-guests. Gordon Ramsay’s Maze at the Grosvenor Square and Theo Randall at the Intercontinental are examples of restaurants which have become a destination in their own right.
The lobby in the Hampton Inn, Waterloo has a workspace area with chiller cabinets offering snacks and drinks, where business travellers can continue to work in a relaxed environment without feeling like they are holed up in isolation. And, the minibar has moved from the room with them!
London hotels also offer up great choices for bars whether you are a guest or not. If you haven’t already, take the opportunity to visit the Radio Roof Top Bar at ME Hotel or the Sky Bar on the 14th Floor of the Doubletree Tower of London.