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LUXURY OPINION: Raising the (Mini) Bar

HOTEL MINI-BARS are in a state of flux. Every so often we hear of another luxury hotel that will no longer feature mini bars in their rooms, but at the same time many luxury hotels are leading the way when it comes to revolutionising the bog-standard fridge into a standout feature of any suite.

The Luxury Travel Bible doesn't want to see the demise of such a staple of luxury hotel visits so here is our ode to the humble mini bar. Many luxury hotels get it right, others less so... here is what TLTB and our luxury insiders love, hate and think hotels could do better with.

What luxury insiders love:
Mini Bars in luxury hotels
1. The convenience of a mini-bar. Every luxury traveller has experienced a nightmare journey and arrived late at their hotel. So, we all know the importance of foregoing the hotel restaurant and grabbing a G&T and bag of potato chips and heading to bed.
2. If we're on holiday there is a certain luxury in climbing into bed with a glass of wine and chocolate bar and watching a movie. The fact we don't need to highlight this gluttony by ringing down to room service makes it all the more special.
3. When hotels think about what guests really need... Practical might be boring but sometimes we forget our suntan lotion, toothpaste or find ourselves needing tampons or condoms.  Guests might be too embarrassed to ask at Front Desk.
4. Quirky mini-bars. Whether it offers a sex kit or a karma kit, we love it when a hotel's personality is reflected.
5. A wide variety on the menu. Luxury travellers don't want one variety on offer, they want two. We don't want the norm so we love it when we are surprised by an interesting selection on offer.
What luxury insiders hate:
1. We're already paying for the luxury suite, so don't push it with overpriced, run-of-the-mill chocolates bars that we know cost next-to-nothing from the local store. If you are charging high prices, make the product extra special.

2. Boring soft drinks. Please get creative with the non-alcoholic options. Cans of sugary soda just don't cut it, so how about fresh organic juices, local beverages, virgin cocktails or fruit smoothies?

3. An over-stocked minibar. While we do want a wide ranging menu, at the same time we would appreciate space to chill local delights that we buy while sightseeing. Plus any luxury traveller knows that cosmetics (especially eye-cream) are best stored in the refrigerator.

4. An abundance of potato chips, chocolate and sugary drinks... we might be on holiday but we want to at least attempt to be healthy. Why not include some low-calorie, low-fat options such as pretzels, vegetable crudities and dips and fat-free yoghurts?

5. One of our Luxury Insiders' biggest pet peeves is a lack of a kettle in hotel suites. We get frustrated when our need for a late night cup of tea or an early morning coffee results in either having to call room service or having to go without. And while we are at it, please provide a good selection of teas - fruit, herbal, decaffeinated and green would be very much appreciated.

luxury hotel mini bars

What hotels should do:
1. The idea of a 'mini-bar' being just a small fridge in the corner is rather out-dated... hotels should display the goodies in a beautiful cabinet, in lovely display baskets or provide crystal glasses. Sell your product before we even see what the menu has to offer.
2. It's basic but a good one - travellers want water (of a few different varieties) for when going to the beach, to stay hydrated in our suite, to refresh at the gym or take with us when sightseeing. Make it convenient for us and have plenty of H2O available (i.e. more than just two bottles).
3. No International Brands! You chose to build your luxury hotel in this location, so sell it to us from all angles, even the minibar. Include local products and delicacies that will tempt us to go out and discover the local area.  We want to get an authentic taste of the city, so use the mini bar to showcase local brands and small companies and let your visitors support the local economy.
4. You know the area, we don't. The minibar should show us what we will actually need - whether it's an Oxygen can for the high altitude, sunscreen for the amazing weather or blister Band-Aids to aid our weary feet after a long day of sightseeing.
5. Consider the Little Luxies. Parents don't want them only have access to junk food so how about some fruit juice ice lollies, healthy snacks, Organic milk and granola bars... your Michelin-starred chef should get their thinking cap on.
6. Get out of the idea that a mini-bar purchase is an impulse buy. Make it special, make us unable to resist the delights on offer, make making a purchase from the mini-bar a must do as much as a signature treatment in your spa or dining in your award-winning restaurant.
7. Guests have flown thousands of miles to reach your hotel so consider their jet lag and the need for a little R&R. Vitamins, face masks, eye gel, scented candles and aromatherapy oils are most welcomed.
8. Luxury travellers aren't standard across the board, so why should the mini bar be? Allow guests to have what they want waiting in the mini-bar for when they arrive.
You know your guests and you would NEVER use one-size-fits all customer service so don't apply it to the mini bar. Business travellers, families, couples and single travellers all stay here, so tailor your mini-bar to suit every guest.
9. The suite is so beautiful, and if we are travelling solo we may not want to sit in the hotel bar alone... so provide drinks in the mini-bar worthy of your hotel bar.
10. One of the most popular (and perhaps surprising) responses from our Luxury Insiders for inclusion in a 'Mini Bar' (not the fridge, but the concept) was International Stamps and Postcards. We might be connected to the internet 24/7 but we still like to send an old fashioned postcard home. Including them in-suite would be much easier than trying to track down a Post Office.
 
Sarah Bryans 12/3/14
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