Bedding Down: Free Hotel Mini-bar on the Rise?

by Chris on December 5, 2011

Noticed on the road: More luxury hotels seem to be including free mini bars to their high end guests.
hotel mini bar

Photo courtesy of UggBoy, Flickr Creative Commons

One of the biggest arguments that I have with my husband when we’re on the road together concerns the hotel  mini bar. I avoid them like the plague, preferring to save money by buying snacks and money at a nearby grocery store. Whereas he can’t seem to stay out of them, rationalizing that ease of access is worth the extra costs.

Which is why I applaud the emergence of a trend that I’ve seen at several luxury hotels: The complimentary mini-bar.

Baur am Lac, Zurich, Switzerland

I first witnessed the trend at the sophisticated Baur au Lac in Zurich. As expensive as it is private (if you were going to Switzerland to open a secret bank account, this would be your pick), the hotel rewards their lavish spenders by including a minibar stocked with beer, wine, soft drinks, water, and snacks in their suites. Chocolate is represented (naturally), and there’s no question that wi-fi is free.

Baur am Lac, Zurich, Switzerland

I asked the bellhop who showed me to my suite about the policy. “Our customers don’t want to be nickel and dimed,” he replied. “The owners made a conscious decision not to bog down check out with a list of charges.” Made sense to me; as I munched my Toblerone, I wondered how much the hotel actually spent vs. the goodwill and repeat customers they receive.

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, CA

My second encounter with the free minibar came when I toured the famed Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. A notable celebrity getaway(Julia Roberts and her husband were having breakfast a few tables away), the Post Ranch Inn treats its guests like stars, with a gift-size basket of snacks and drinks, including a full-sized bottle of wine, free in the room.

A treehouse room at the Post Ranch Inn, in Big Sur, California

Post Ranch Inn "treehouse," Big Sur, CA

One could argue that with the prices that the Baur au Lac and Post Ranch Inn charge, the minibar should be free (and you’re right – if ALL hotels in this category went this direction, I might justify splurging for a stay more often). Which is why it’s so exciting that less expensive hotels, such as the AC by Marriott chain, also offer a gratis minibar. I haven’t been to an AC by Marriott, as they are mostly located in Spain and Italy, but it sounds like they also want to offer travelers something a little extra.

So a question to all of you out there: Do you use the minibar when you travel? Would it make a difference to you if your hotel offered it for free? 

Note: The Baur au Lac sponsored my stay, but my opinions are my own. 

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kara December 5, 2011 at 6:42 am

Hotel Andaz on Wall Street in NYC has a complimentary minbar: sodas, chips, energy bars. I would definitely stay there again – goodwill is, well, good!

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Chris December 5, 2011 at 8:21 am

A friend on Facebook also mentioned Hotel Andaz. That’s now going on my list! Thanks for the tip.

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George December 7, 2011 at 5:39 am

If you really travel a lot then you should go with the Intercontental Group. Their top tier Royal Ambassador level includes free daily mini-bar, free movies, suite upgrades etc.

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Chris December 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm

George – I do travel a lot, but I don’t usually get to pick my hotel and I’m often at small or independent properties. So I can’t take advantage of the good hotel loyalty programs out there. My husband gets good perks through Intercontinental though.

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Lane January 11, 2012 at 7:24 am

Oh please tell me this is becoming reality. Of course this would’ve been nice about eight years ago — when my daughter raided our “free” mini-bar one night. $127!!!

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John February 18, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Not sure if I’d want a complimentary mini-bar…it would be too tempting to go after all the extra calories and sugar. Or maybe, I could just stuff it all in a bag and avoid grocery shopping for a week!

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