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Minibars: a demand for quality

Less gluttonous in terms of electricity and more stylish in terms of design, the minibar is in tune with the times. While the current context may not be propitious to major investments, ranges of manual minibars offer options with an economic fit.

In this context that does not encourage investment, that forces hotelier to decide between this and that expense, the minibar suffers the competition. Beds, flat screens and any other furnishing that directly affects the client has priority. All suppliers are feeling this cold shoulder that – we hope – is only temporary. “Everything is in slow motion,” remarks Stefano Collotti, sales manager at Vitrifrigo for France and Italy. “The first quarter was good, but the rest of the year is unclear,” admits Isabelle Carbon, sales director at Dometic as she tugs at our heartstrings: “as the volume of orders drops the risk of layoffs rises.”Indel B’s expertise is not limited to minibars. The Italian specialist offers hoteliers a wide range of products: electronic safes, hairdryers, electronic locks. The innovation for 2009: the supplier offers hoteliers a range of LCD televisions in three sizes – 22, 26 and 32 inches – developed in collaboration with a major technology firm. Dometic, meanwhile, distributes its proSafe 2008 range of room safes for residence hotels, Origo E200 vitro-ceramic hobs and the DW 2440 dishwasher. And, with its expertise in refrigeration, the supplier also offers the SW 180 wine cellar for hotels and restaurants.At present, Christine Casula, sales manager at Minibar Systems for Southern France, reports more dynamism among independent hoteliers and franchises than at hotel groups where the decision making process is longer. While the outlook is uncertain, the sector has not brutally ceased equipment purchases. Many building and renovation projects are holding their course. And the drop in occupancy offers a fine opportunity for those that can afford it to freshen up their properties. Minibars are still an important element in the room and are part of this movement. “During Equip Hotel, we felt a positive trend,” observes Isabelle Carbon.In order to satisfy hoteliers’ current needs, minibar professionals play the extent of their ranges and are promoting manual products. “Rather than taking a very stylish HiPromatic, hoteliers may opt for a classic range that costs less for a level of quality that will satisfy their needs,” ad-vises Isabelle Carbon. At Dometic, the current best seller is the RH 423 LDAG. With a 23 l capacity, energy consumption of 1 KwH/24 h, and a glass door, this minibar is representative of how the product has evolved. In fact, today hoteliers are looking for minibars with smaller capacities that are less gluttonous and more stylish.The evolution of the minibar’s role means it has a smaller capacity. Once a substitute for the real bar holding a wide range of alcoholic beverages – mignonettes, wine, champagne – to quell nocturnal thirst, today the minibar has been filled with a “healthier” trio: soft drinks, water, beer. Except for the luxury sector, the minibar increasingly acts as a refrigerator to keep these beverages cool. Hoteliers believe that if the customer wants a good alcohol served properly then he has the choice between going down to the bar or calling room service. This evolution may go hand in hand with making this service free, as a goodwill gesture to loyal customers, or a part of packages offering a free minibar.The second major trend: minibars are coming out of the closet and blending into today’s most modern design. Vitrifrigo products are available with both solid and customizable doors, but the product with the highest demand is the one with the glazed door. “More attractive, they also tend to stimulate consumption,” explains Stefano Collotti. Dometic, which produced one of the .rst of this type of minibar for Novotel’s Novation bedroom, produces Classic and Design ranges with glazed-door models. In order to fit into the hotel’s décor, the HiPro 4000 Vision minibar also offers more original transparent doors. Made of acrylic, they are available in several innovative colors such as orangered, gray, sea blue and sky blue.Stylish and economic, the Primo +, the new manual minibar from Minibar Systems, is making a timely début. Available from June in 20 l, 30 l and 40 l models, it will also be available in a 50 l model by the end of the year. “Many clients were very interested in the design of our SmartCube range, but do not have the means,” explains Christine Casula, sales manager at Minibar Systems. The Primo + offers an intermediary solution between the classic Primo and the hightech SmartCube range, by adapting the modern look of the SmartCube to a 100% manual range.In order to respond to hoteliers’ high expectations, the energy consumption of Primo + was reduced to less than 1 KwH/24 h regardless of its capacity. At a time when the electricity bill tends to grow at the same rate as environ-mental values, minibar suppliers are being especially careful to offer equipment that consumes less and less. This is why Vitrifrigo, which once specialized in absorption minibars with its Guest range, has just added a compressor minibar to its range. Its Next range will be available starting in May. “Customer demand is affected by increased environmental awareness and will lean towards products with low energy consumption with “A” classification, and even more probably A+ or A++.” In order to refute the primary complaint that goes hand in hand with compressor minibars – higher noise levels – Next guarantees quiet for clientele: the minibar turns off at night and operates during the daytime.Energy consumption is also the warhorse of Indel B., the only manufacturer offering minibars with three different refrigeration systems– compressor, absorption and thermoelectric systems, designed to reassure maximum environmental respect – the Italian supplier offers a solution that is both silent and has limited energy consumption with its K Plus range. Using CFC-free refrigeration gas, these minibars have A+ classification with energy consumption between 0.21 kWh/24h and 0.26 kWh/24h. In parallel, Indel B offers its Drink Plus absorption range. Renewed both in terms of design and technique, it presents better insulation of the minibar and better technology enabling it to significantly reduce the daily energy consumption of minibars.In a context where cost reduction is a goal shared by all hoteliers, the Rolls of minibars – the automatic – is overtaken by more economic manual models. But automatic minibars have not gone into storage yet. It is still the most interesting solution for high capacity hotels with a significant RevPAR able to sustain this high investment. In fact it has important properties for large operations: automatic billing that prevents revenue losses, limits man hour costs by optimizing restocking and a better capacity for analyzing consumption to adapt the offer accordingly.In light of the current situation that is hardly propitious to investment, suppliers have flexible solutions available that make adaptation possible. The SmartCube by Minibar Systems can evolve from a manual mode to a semi-automatic solution that controls opening and closing or even an entirely automatic solution. “The hotelier that would like an automatic minibar but does not have the budget for it may begin with the classic model and make it evolve in one, two or five years, without having to fully reinvest in an automatic range,” explains Christine Casula. Dometic also offers “upgradeable manual” products to offset limited financing capacities, outlines Isabelle Carbon.Dometic with HiPromatic and Minibar Systems with SmartCube are positioned on this upscale product segment. Bartech also banks on the radically innovative form of its Flat Fridge minibar. This summer the group will introduce this surprising minibar that trades the classic cube shape for that of a high-tech television. "Like flat screens, in addition to being stylish, the Flat Fridge is a space saver in rooms," explains Sophie Longevialle, marketing director at Bartech. And this space gain does not mean a more limited offer because the arrangement inside the Flat Fridge is specially designed to hold mignonettes, and soft drinks as well as three 75 cl bottles of champagne.Despite the difficult situation, minibars have not lost the will to innovate. “Our R & D department is working on new concepts to prepare us for the end of the crisis,” explains Isabelle Carbon. The future of automatic minibars probably lies in increased communications. Several minibar ranges already speak the same language thanks to the Zigbee protocol. In the future it is possible that this communication will take place through the hotel’s IP network. The will to converge brings together all the players. “These solutions are planned, tested, analyzed,” admits Isabelle Carbon. “That is in everyone’s interest. The IP network is the most reliable,” concludes Christine Casula.Multi-product partnersIndel B’s expertise is not limited to minibars. The Italian specialist offers hoteliers a wide range of products: electronic safes, hairdryers, electronic locks. The innovation for 2009: the supplier offers hoteliers a range of LCD televisions in three sizes – 22, 26 and 32 inches – developed in collaboration with a major technology firm. Dometic, meanwhile, distributes its proSafe 2008 range of room safes for residence hotels, Origo E200 vitro-ceramic hobs and the DW 2440 dishwasher. And, with its expertise in refrigeration, the supplier also offers the SW 180 wine cellar for hotels and restaurants.

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