America, the hotel industry’s latest trend: closing its in-room minibars.
Those tiny refrigerators, armed with sensors that seem to detect when you gaze longingly at the overpriced Pringles or chilled Diet Cokes, are doing a disappearing act. During the latest round of hotel renovations, these so-called guest “conveniences” are reportedly being unplugged and unceremoniously wheeled away at a growing number of hotels. For example, when the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans upgraded its guest rooms last year, the minibars were shown the door and replaced by regular refrigerators. Some Hyatt properties, including the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch, did away with theirs years ago.
Minibars represent everything that’s wrong with full-service hotels, according to many disenchanted guests.
It may surprise you to learn that most hotels don’t like minibars, either. The ones getting rid of these so-called “amenities” say they’re too much trouble and don’t make enough money, despite the high markups.
“Of the hundreds of hotels with minibars to which I have served as a consultant, not one achieved a profit from the minibar service,” says Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University’s Tisch Center hospitality program. He supports canning them. In addition to being a seemingly endless source of guest complaints, the expense of the snacks and beverages and the hassle of restocking them represent a drain on profits.
“Even with the sensor, there are items consumed, but not paid for,” Hanson says. “For example, if bottles are stored on their sides, some dishonest guests will remove the top from the bottle without removing the bottle from the unit and allow the contents to pour into a glass, so the sensor will not detect that the item has been consumed.”
Some municipalities already have de facto bans on minibars because they restrict the sale of spirits, which kills any hope of a minibar turning a profit. Or we could always follow New Zealand’s example, which may effectively ban minibars when new liquor laws kick in this December.