MiniBars still a good way for Hotels to Make Money!

Forget the M&M’s and potato chips. Reach for some aloe vera pulp juice or a crystal-studded bottle from a “library” of designer water.

The hotel mini-bar is getting an upgrade as hotels seek to make more money from midnight-snacking hotel guests or better reflect the tastes of their clientele. For many, that means offering a fat-free or exotic menu of treats such as coconut water, muscle milk and Parmesan herb chips.

“They’re using their mini-bars as an extension of the property’s personality, so they’re stocking them with items that add to the mystique and experience,” says Glenn Haussman, executive editor of HotelInteractive.com.

Some examples:

•           The Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago has an in-room water library with a $25 bottle of bling h20, decorated with genuine Swarovski crystals.

•           The Delamar Greenwich Harbor and Delamar Southport, both in Connecticut, have Honeydrop drinks, locally made juices and teas sweetened with wildflower honey instead of refined sugars. The mini-bar also includes a “make your own” martini option.

•           The Chatwal in New York has such non-edible items as a signed copy of American Eve, a story about the love affair between architect Stanford White who designed the building, and Evelyn Nesbit  There’s also a copy of The Great Gatsby and a box of candy cigarettes.

“Hotels feel they need to have an edge, and this is one way to do it,” says Nicole Campoy-Leffler, editor of the Daily Meal, which examined several hotel mini-bars. “They’re almost like a shop for edible souvenirs.”

Not long ago, hotels had about given up on their underachieving mini-bars.From 2009 to 2010, annual mini-bar revenue per available room dropped from $392 to $368, according to PKF Hospitality research. Guests complained that they could get the same items for less at nearby grocery stores.

Technology that automatically charges guests for items they take has made it less expensive for hotels to monitor guests’ consumption at mini-bars.

Among the highest-end luxury hotels, 83% still have mini-bars, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

“A mini-bar is definitely a signal to guests that the hotel experience is more upscale,” Haussman says.