Taking on the minibar

The minibar has become a source of debate and frustration for hotels. While some chains are having success, it is no secret that the big chains are giving up on in-room minibars. The reason? Too much upkeep and not enough profits.

At our Arizona property, Enchantment Resort, we faced the same challenge of deciding whether or not to keep our minibars. As an independent, I am able to move quickly and create direct lines of communication with my properties. I have the luxury of creating my own rules, which allows me to be innovative and creative and move fast when missteps occur. We used this flexibility when addressing the issue of the minibar, and in the end increased guest purchases and profits from minibars.

What did we do to achieve this success? Reinvent the minibar. We took a fresh and hard look at what we stocked and how it aligned with what guests wanted. The first step was to place the responsibility of managing the minibar with the resort’s director of retail. Directors of retail have experience enticing guests with clever merchandise and appealing displays. Minibars are about retail, not the food experience.

The contents of our bar were completely revamped, introducing local products and retail items to the mix. In addition, we paid close attention to placement. Two full-sized bottles of Arizona Stronghold wines (a notable vineyard near the resort) are displayed on a shelf outside the minibar, right next to the television. Now when guests are relaxing with their favorite show, their eyes continue to glance over at an appealing bottle of wine. Of course, we also conveniently placed a bag of chocolate-covered wine grapes next to those bottles. It’s a suggested pairing guests can’t resist. We often find guests buy both bottles, one to enjoy in-room and one to bring home as a souvenir.

In a cabinet next to the minibar, a leather tray holds snacks like Yavapai trail mix and jalapeno almonds as well as souvenir items including our Mii amo cookbook, a cd of Native American flute music, playing cards and full-size bottles of the resort’s popular jojoba plant-based bath products. Inside the fridge, two Arizona craft beers — Grand Canyon Pilsner from Williams and Oak Creek Amber from Sedona — replaced mass-market brews. We’ve found incorporating regional items appealed more to guests. We still include the minibar staples like Fiji water, M&Ms, Diet Coke and Snickers, but guests often would rather spend their money on items they can’t purchase back home. The current mix with regional items immediately caused minibar revenues to shoot up 32%, and the cost went down. 

Prior to this experiment, I had considered taking out the minibars at our Virginia property. Now I’ve opted to have our retail director re-think the contents. She’s stocking them with Virginia wines, local craft beers from Williamsburg and Lexington and Virginia peanuts. It’s a great lesson on learning about your customer, their needs and the possibility of shifting responsibilities within the property.