The New Thing Is the Maxi-Bar

Forget the Minibar! Bisha's Bar is the New Standard!

Hotels are turning to new bar experiences as a means to keep luxury customers on their toes—and increase favorable food and beverage margins, while they’re at it.

Enter in-room cocktail service. While in-room dining has been on the decline—showing a 3 percent dip from 2016 to 2017, according to hospitality insights firm STR—hoteliers are realizing that expertly shaken martinis, rather than well-done cheeseburgers, are just what travelers want showing up at their doors. In some cases, that means dispatching a bartender for in-person service; at other times, it’s about making a room’s minibar feel more like a home bar.

“As the mother of a six-year-old, having a perfectly created cocktail in my room creates a really memorable moment,” says Kelly McCourt, director of sales and marketing at the Darcy, which opened in Washington in April 2017 with a cocktail butler who crafts the hotel’s signature drinks from a bedside bar cart. In Miami Beach, The Nobu Hotel’s Beverage Butler has also been going strong, ferrying a trolley of liquid wares up and down guest corridors since just after it opened in late 2016.  The Campari sodas he shakes are complimentary, but the hotel doesn’t advertise the service in order to “surprise and delight” guests.

Consider this the next evolution in luxury hotel service; after all, why go down to the bar when the drinks can come to you? Here, the leaders of the in-room drinking pack—expect to see additional resorts join the ranks in the very near future.

Bisha Hotel Toronto

It should come as no surprise that for his first hotel, nightclub impresario and restaurateur Charles Khabouth paid additional attention to his in-room beverage program. Since its opening in Toronto’s entertainment district last year, the dramatic Bisha Hotel has stood out for its bespoke Studio Munge furnishings, including bar carts—a throwback to retro Hollywood glamour—crowded with 375ml bottles of Belvedere and Kettle One vodka, Hennessy cognac, and Tanqueray gin that are priced without the typical minibar markup.

(The Veuve is “obviously kept in the fridge at all times,” the hotel’s general manager Jacques Lapierre explained.) Should one bar cart prove insufficient, the two-floor Bisha suite has one in the kitchen and a second in the upstairs bedroom. Whatever isn’t already on hand—be it ice, cocktail shakers, fresh juice, or garnishes—can be sent on demand by the hotel’s Crown Service concierge team.


Featured in Bloomberg by Kerry Medina