One thing you can always count on at an Andaz hotel is the great selection of local snacks and drinks stocked in the minibar.
Guests might find locally made New York brownies at the Andaz 5th Avenue, fiber-filled Enjambre bars at the Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya in Mexico, Maui-style potato chips at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort in Hawaii or plantain chips and garlic peanuts at the Andaz Bali.
Every property has traditionally featured mouthwatering goodies from the destination you probably can’t find at home. Better yet, snacks and nonalcoholic drinks have been free at Andaz properties around the world — until now, it appears.
Those beloved, complimentary goodies may be a thing of the past at certain Andaz locations like the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows, where nothing but water appears to be free, according to a post in FlyerTalk first reported by View From the Wing.
While Diet Coke used to be complimentary at this popular Scottsdale, Arizona, hotel, a can now costs $4 a pop. That previously free bag of Boulder Canyon Potato Chips is now a whopping $8 a bag.
This is in contrast to the homepage of the official Andaz website, which currently reads, “Our complimentary mini-bar invites guests to taste local treats and nonalcoholic beverages.”
“We are currently working to refresh the Andaz minibar experience to better suit the needs of today’s travelers,” Hyatt said in a statement to View From the Wing. “During this interim period, properties can determine what minibar selections are offered on a complimentary basis.”
TPG reached out to Hyatt for further clarification and they declined to comment.
Hyatt’s about-face on the complimentary in-room minibar is in contrast to the public-facing marketing language on the brand’s website but in line with many of the hotel’s individual amenity listings.
A quick search of the Andaz Scottsdale website states “minibar” as an amenity. At other properties, however, including the Andaz 5th Avenue, room amenities include a “Mini fridge with complimentary snacks and nonalcoholic beverages.”
Other individual hotel websites have the minibar or fridge denoted with “select complimentary snacks and beverages,” potentially leaving open the possibility of having a standard where only a few items are free, such as the expected bottles of water.
Who is ‘today’s traveler?’
What’s most curious about this change is Hyatt’s notion that the company is making the tweak to “better suit the needs of today’s traveler.” It should go without saying that today’s travelers don’t want to pay for something now that was once free, especially for items as insignificant as a bag of potato chips and soda.
More and more, hotels are passing costs on to guests or cutting amenities and services that don’t add to a hotel’s bottom line but at the cost of the guest experience — and today’s travelers want better experiences, not worse.
Housekeeping, for example, has been the most hotly debated as hotels stripped back daily service around the world, with many keeping those coronavirus-era rollbacks in place. Cutting back daily housekeeping allows hotels to spend less on labor. Restocking minifridges that don’t necessarily allow for profit, except for alcohol, falls in line with that same “if it’s not making us money, why offer it?” school of thought.
This specific example is further proof that even luxury hotels aren’t immune.
Earlier this year at the New York University hotel conference, Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian said, “My view is that we need to keep our ears wide open and understand what’s really most important to [our customers] because some of our luxury travelers don’t want daily housekeeping.” He continued, “So, we have to pay attention to that same level of conscious decision about practicing empathy, listening carefully and applying choice where it’s requested.”
Who exactly is requesting these changes, though? It would be hard to believe that even the most wealthy, luxe travelers want less than they had before, especially considering they’re the clientele who are used to receiving the most. After all, they’re the travelers choosing properties that offer everything from turndown service to fresh towels on demand to, sometimes, free potato chips in their extravagantly priced rooms.
What do hotels think customers really want these days? It appears they really don’t know, and making these changes under the assumption that travelers have evolved into people who want less and want to pay more is getting old. Today’s travelers are being given less and being forced to pay more — so let’s not pretend.
While it appears that individual Andaz properties will now have the opportunity to charge guests for what was previously free in the minibar, it’s disappointing that Hyatt is giving them the option. Sure, they’ll make a few bucks off a Coke and a can of Pringles, but at what cost to brand loyalty and the overall experience?
The bigger question, really, is when will it all stop — or will it? Soon, what will even be left to roll back or charge for? Comforters? Pillows? The bed itself? And how long will loyal travelers put up with it?