Hotels and resorts are increasingly stocking minibars with healthier alternatives to traditional high-fat, high-sugar snacks - a boon to business and leisure travelers as well as the hospitality industry.
At the Hyatt Hotels Corp.-owned H +2.18% Andaz Wall Street in New York, minibars are stocked with organic Clif Bars and Terra plain and vegetable natural chips. This summer, the Four Seasons Hotel Austin in Texas will test the sales of six organic, healthy and/or locally-produced products, including peeled mango, ginger tea and nut-and-fruit gluten-free energy bars.
Three out of four in-room snack-box choices in Loews Hotels L +1.25% include low-fat items such as trail mix, cashews and honey-wheat pretzels. The trail mix and cashews outsell the chocolate cookies, and Fiji Water is the minibar's most popular item at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego, said Adam Martindale, the resort's director of food and beverage.
Minibars were once mostly a collection of high-fat, sugary impulse treats like chips, cookies, sodas, plus alcoholic beverages. While those items won't be disappearing, travelers - particularly business travelers with a hectic schedule - will notice changes for the better when it comes to in-room convenience options.
Frequent business travelers may be at risk from unhealthy habits on the road. Those who take more than 20 trips per month were more likely to suffer from obesity and other health-related issues, according to results of a study of 13,000 workers by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health released in May.
While companies cut back on business travel during the economic downturn, they also are starting to loosen their purse strings and send workers back on the road. U.S. hotels raised rates by 3% to meet the increased demand in the first quarter of 2011, according to American Express Global Business Travel.
Hotels with minibars increasingly offer at least one or two healthier choices, and nuts are the most popular, said Matthew Jones, director of West Coast operations for In-Room West, a subsidiary of In-Room Plus which stocks minibars in hundreds of hotels nationwide and globally.
The trend goes hand-in-hand with the economic recovery. Some hotels that previously removed minibars altogether are now putting them back and seeing in-room snacks as a value-added amenity, he added.
Diversifying minibar options may mean organic, gluten-free, preservative-free and low-calorie, but also more local offerings or sustainable personal-care items, such as toothbrushes recycled out of yogurt containers paired with items like Tom's of Maine natural toothpaste, Jones said.
"Healthy items can help to enhance revenue for a specific property and be something to set a property apart," he said. "You want items that a guest can't get from a corner store." Many hotels are reordering organic and low-calorie offerings, indicating that they are selling, Jones said.