Hotel minibars: Bridging the gap between guest satisfaction and profit

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New technologies are reducing operations costs and increasing revenue brought in by minibars.

by PIERRE AGRARIO

Ask a hotelier to picture the results of implementing a minibar solution within each of their guestrooms, and you will hear stories about high operational costs, a lack of guest interest due to pricey items and, ultimately, a less than impressive return on investment. Although shared by a number of industry professionals, such experiences are increasingly displaced thanks to the wider availability of advanced automated minibar technologies. Today’s consensus is that “not all minibars are created equal” as new features have drastically reduced management costs and time. These solutions are also perfectly adept at delivering a level of service in line with today’s guest expectations for speed and convenience, enhancing the hotel experience and boosting property revenues.

Hotel minibars have long accommodated guest demands for instant and personalized satisfaction – an expectation that has only become all the more ingrained as hoteliers increasingly adopt other self-service solutions that cater to faster-paced and more convenience-oriented lifestyles. With their ability to offer choice through an array of products that are available 24 hours a day, minibars are a perfect example of providing a seamless service to guests on their own terms.

With their growing popularity and presence in properties around the world, today’s leading automated minibar solutions are a direct response to that ever-growing need for quicker results and flawless functionality. Using built-in sensors that are integrated with a hotel’s PMS, automated minibars have the ability to track the purchase and removal of items the moment that a guest consumes them. From a guest convenience standpoint, this feature virtually guarantees an end to time-consuming and frustrating checkouts, where unaccounted for items must be counted and added to the final guest folio. Equally important to guests and hotel staff alike, automating the purchase of minibar items minimizes the potential for disagreements on what has been consumed, ensuring that a guest is never billed incorrectly and protecting a hotel’s reputation and earnings.

A primary concern for hoteliers considering guestroom minibars has been the substantial cost associated with operation and maintenance. Lacking any other means, hotels equipped with manual minibars have often had staff physically check inventory levels for all guest rooms one-by-one on a daily basis. The presence of automated minibars for guestroom attendants means that each employee can remotely and in real time know exactly what items need replenishing and which rooms need to be restocked. When it comes to management personnel, another benefit of being able to remotely track consumption is being able to forecast items that need to be stocked in a hotel’s overall inventory. With minibar items predominantly consisting of perishable goods, hoteliers often find themselves walking a thin line between ordering too much or too little of a product, risking either a loss on revenue as overstocked items expire or affecting guest satisfaction and the ability to make a profit due to low inventory levels. Hotels equipped with automated minibar technology fully circumvent this obstacle by knowing which products are selling and how much of each item is currently in stock at any given time.

With their ability to fully streamline inventory tracking and guest billing functions, automatic minibars have allowed hoteliers to revisit an essential issue that has long stood in the way of maximizing in-room purchases: overly priced items. While hotels utilizing manual minibars understandably need to make up for the demanding expenses associated with their operation, few should be surprised with the lack of guest interest. By eliminating the factors responsible for time-consuming restocking and inefficient inventory tracking practices, hotels can finally offer products at a competitive price.

As hotels and resorts move closer to offering full self-service functionality, hoteliers are embracing automation and technology not just because it’s trendy, but because of a genuine guest demand for amenities that are always available at a moment’s notice. The service that minibars offer is a reflection of what today’s guests are looking for from their experience: an amenity that fills an immediate desire with little time, effort or cost. By leveraging the latest in automated minibar technology, hotels can address guest needs in a way that ultimately safeguards their reputation and operational efficiency, while adding to their bottom lines.               ■

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