Hotels take a more thoughtful approach to stocking minibars

Equinox Hotel’s health-oriented RoomBar offers a selection of “next-level snacks. (TW photo by Christina Jelski)

Equinox Hotel’s health-oriented RoomBar offers a selection of “next-level snacks. (TW photo by Christina Jelski)

Focus on Culinary Travel

Hotels take a more thoughtful approach to stocking minibars

By Christina Jelski

Equinox Hotel’s health-oriented RoomBar offers a selection of “next-level snacks. (TW photo by Christina Jelski)

Equinox Hotel’s health-oriented RoomBar offers a selection of “next-level snacks. (TW photo by Christina Jelski)

Long associated with undistinguished products at exorbitant prices, the traditional hotel minibar has fallen somewhat out of fashion in recent years. 

But while many players in the limited-service and midscale sectors are abandoning minibars in favor of grab-and-go retail outlets or compact lobby cafes, others are choosing to evolve the concept by using minibars to highlight more thoughtful offerings that go far beyond mass-market liquor and mediocre candy bars. 

“Surveys have shown that [the minibar] ranks lowest in terms of guest priorities upon booking,” said Liana Corwin, a consumer travel expert who is a frequent television contributor and media commentator. Even so, she added, “While the minibar may not be at the top of the list of guest priorities, it’s still an amenity that many expect to see in their rooms, albeit in a modified sense.”

For some high-end properties, the minibar has taken on new importance as a key brand touch point, offering a highly curated selection of products designed to further communicate a hotel’s positioning.

At the wellness-focused Equinox Hotel in New York’s Hudson Yards, for example, the property’s RoomBar seeks to cater to “those who travel as thoughtfully as they live.”

The RoomBar menu features items like a vegan probiotic by Juice Press, which claims to be packed with 2.5 billion CFUs (colony forming units) of good bacteria ($20), and what it calls “next-level snacks” such as plant-based kelp jerky ($12), Fika peanut butter quinoa bites ($12) and crispy, almond-butter Brussels sprouts ($10). 

Other menu highlights include ginger-lemon kombucha ($8), locally sourced Greenhook gin ($65) and sugar-free Be Mixed cocktail mixers ($8), among many other snacks, beverages, supplements and sundries.

For other hotels, the minibar represents an opportunity to create a memorable brand experience, at no cost to the guest.

The Fauchon L’Hotel in Paris, which opened last year, is the first hospitality venture from French luxury food purveyor Fauchon. It has generated buzz with its signature Gourmet Bar. Housed in a wardrobe-size pink cabinet, the Gourmet Bar is filled with more than $176 worth of Fauchon products, including Champagne, foie gras, cheese, crackers, cookies and sweets, all complimentary and restocked daily.

“Fauchon L’Hotel has disrupted the hospitality industry by reimagining the typical in-room minibar,” said Maud Welter, director of sales and marketing at the hotel. “And guests are stunned when they learn that what they have not consumed during their stay with us can be packed up and taken with them for their flight home or on to their next destination.”

Taking the idea of a complimentary minibar one step further is New York-based startup Extra. Recognizing that the minibar is considered valuable real estate for smaller food and beverage brands, Extra provides a cost-effective way for hotels to offer guests complimentary in-room snacks and drinks, while giving up-and-coming brands an effective platform for gathering customer feedback and data. 

A sampling of complimentary in-room items available at some hotels and vacation rentals via Extra. Guests are prompted to complete product reviews on the freebies in order to earn rewards.

A sampling of complimentary in-room items available at some hotels and vacation rentals via Extra. Guests are prompted to complete product reviews on the freebies in order to earn rewards.

Extra’s hospitality partners, which currently include boutique hotel brands like Selina and various luxury vacation rental operators, can place a selection of four to five items in their accommodations, alongside a welcome card with a QR code or text messaging prompt. 

Guests can consume the items during their stay. The card encourages them to complete 30-second product reviews on the freebies in order to earn rewards, including discounts on a future purchase of products or discounts on future stays and experiences. Unlike a traditional minibar, however, the products aren’t replaced once they’re consumed during a stay. 

Gen Liston, founder and CEO of Extra, said, “Brands are desperate to enter new channels and particularly hotels, because they have such a captive audience in an environment where they can really touch, use and taste a product.”

She added that the company is dedicated to only featuring high-quality and unique items, typically stocking them in a full-size packaging format.

Items that have received rave reviews at properties participating in the Extra program include a plant-based ice cream, Dream Pops; a CBD-infused beverage, Good Day; a cauliflower oatmeal from Purely Elizabeth; and a low-sugar candy, SmartSweets.

“If you can really surprise people or give them something above their expectations, then that fuels a really memorable experience,” Liston said. 

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