Cracking Open the Hotel Minibar

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    Cracking Open the Hotel Minibar:):cool:

    The traditional hotel minibar may offer a cure for late-night cravings, but the home of the $4 Kit Kat can make anyone, hotel executive or guest, grumble.

    Dissatisfied with tepid sales or fed up with arguing over disputed charges, hotels world-wide are overhauling their minibar offerings, moving tempting items out into open view, or just leaving fridges empty for guests to use.

    The moves aim to ease the headaches of operating the Lilliputian appliances. Traditional minibars need to be checked and replenished by employees daily. Unsold items expire. Bottles of beer disappear.

    Paying $8 for the same bottle of water that costs $2 at the corner store may mystify guests, but hotels say they need to charge high prices.

    "People think the hotels are trying to gouge them, but actually [minibars] are loss-leaders," says Beth Scott, vice president, food and beverage strategy, at Hilton Worldwide, which has been phasing out stocked minibars at some hotels.

    • Vodka: Among Loews's top-selling liquors.
    • Bottled water: No. 1 selling minibar drink.
    • Diet Coke: No. 2 selling drink.
    • Pringles potato chips: Top-selling snack.
    • Decks of cards, Zagat guides: Omni tried more non-food goodies but pulled them due to slow sales.
    • M&M's: Account for 7% of minibar revenue at Omni Hotels.
    • Popchips: Kimpton Hotels added the non-fried chips in a health kick.
    • Grand Canyon Pilsner beer: Enchantment Resort swapped Heineken for this local brew

    Hyatt Hotels & Resorts is eliminating stocked minibars from some of its convention hotels, leaving empty refrigerators for guests to use for their own items. It is adding stores selling snacks and fresh foods in many lobbies. Hilton and Omni are making similar moves.
    Other hotels—especially luxury spots—are taking the opposite tack, throwing in free minibar goodies. The Ocean House in Westerly, R.I., stocks its rooms with nonalcoholic drinks and glass jars filled with trail mix, malted-milk balls and mixed nuts.
    Last fall, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants started a "Raid the Mini Bar" program for its InTouch loyalty program members. They get a coupon worth $10 toward minibar items ($15 at its New York City properties.) That's about enough to cover a bottle of water and a granola bar.

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