Minibars offer convenience, choice for guests

NATIONAL REPORT—The global minibar market size is expected to reach $1.49 billion by 2024, owing to the transformation, growth and emergence of the hospitality industry around the world, according to a report recently released by Hexa Research.

Hotel Business reached out to a few companies in the minibar arena to get their take on the current state of this area of hospitality. While not everyone agrees with the research company’s very optimistic estimate, the consensus from the experts was that the market is thriving.

“The market for minibars and fridges continues to grow year over year,” said Walt Strasser, EVP of sales and marketing with Minibar Systems. “Many guests at all hotel service levels have come to expect a minibar and/or guestroom convenience fridge.”

“The need for minibars in the industry makes sense,” said Pierre Agrario, VP of account management and key accounts with Bartech. “Guests expect food and beverage items to be available to them on the spot. While a minibar operation never affects the revenues from the hotels’ bars, restaurants or in-room service, it offers instant satisfaction.” And, certainly, instant gratification is important to today’s evolving traveler.

Strasser agreed. “Hotels need to realize any and all incremental revenue that can be achieved,” he said.

The impulse sale is at the center of the entire concept of minibars. Much like the candy bars and gum that entice shoppers on the checkout line, minibars offer guests the opportunity to consume something they may not have realized they wanted—or something they definitely knew they wanted, but didn’t want to wait for.

“Guests all check in and check out at different times, and often don’t have the time to wait 45 minutes for room-service items,” Strasser said. “Guests expect to find items they are familiar with. Providing local brands often does not work.”

“Minibars make life on the go easy for all hotel guests,” said Patrik Mattson, VP of lodging, Americas, for Dometic. “[We] understand that guests want to be able to snack easily and drink easily.”

Guests have an expectation that minibars and refrigerators will be available in their rooms. “Guest complaints increase if either a minibar or fridge is not available for use,” said Strasser. “In today’s U.S. market, more than 80% of hotels in the 3-, 4- and 5-star category will have either a minibar or convenience fridge available for their guests.”

And that’s not just because guests expect it; for many hotel guests, having an in-room minibar or fridge is an absolute necessity.

“More and more guests are traveling with items that require refrigeration,” Strasser explained. “Medicine that requires refrigeration especially is carried by a significant amount of travelers. However, the minibar or fridge has become an expected amenity, similar to a coffeepot in today’s hotel rooms. If hotels do not have a coffeepot or fridge, there will be a significant amount of guest complaints. These complaints are even more prevalent in warmer southern climates, such as Florida and Louisiana.”

While, traditionally, minibar charges have been calculated manually by hospitality staff when the guests are not in the room, new technology has allowed for the usage to be automatically and immediately processed. “Today’s automated minibars are extremely efficient and require a minimal amount of human resources to operate,” said Strasser. “This keeps costs down and profits up.”

Bartech uses wireless technology for its eTray for non-refrigerated items in the guestroom. The eTray uses a module that is integrated directly into the electronics. “With many hotels expressing a need to offer in-room products without equipping guestrooms with traditional minibars, the enhanced eTray is specifically designed to address this market demand,” said Agrario.

Like all categories of appliances, energy efficiency is on the minds of minibar manufacturers, as well as hotel owners and operators. “Minibar Systems manufactures its products to save energy, post charges automatically through its SmartCube automated minibar and has refined the operations of the department to ensure ongoing profitability for the hotel and complete satisfaction for guests,” said Strasser. “For the fridge category, Minibar Systems manufactures its products to save energy and operate silently, with an emphasis on an eye-catching design.”

New cooling methods have also been introduced. “As the market continues to evolve, so do the technologies that are available for minibars,” said Mattson. “One of the cooling methods that Dometic offers is semi-conductors, which has been a huge hit due to the completely silent operating system and reduced energy footprint.” HB

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