Mobile apps bridge gap between automatic and manual functions in the minibar

This article is part one of a two-part series on the hotel minibar. Look to Thursday’s technology newsletter for part two.

Mobile apps are providing hoteliers ways to manage both automatic and manual minibars, but apps affect management of each solution in different ways. The functions a mobile application handles can differ depending on if it is designed to work with a manual or an automatic minibar.

“The mobile software is different than the one we do for automatic—that is much more complex,” said Bruno Agrario, VP sales and marketing at minibar provider Bartech. “We have maintenance tools so that if the minibar were to break down, the automatic version of the software would email the right department automatically. For a manual minibar, an attendant in the room would log that information into the tablet and send it to the right person.”

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Mobile technology can also affect automated posting and the problem of erroneous charges. “What’s really automatic about automated minibars is posting,” said Christelle Pigeat, CEO and VP of sales and marketing at minibar solutions provider Mobile Simple. But automatic posting can generate erroneous charges, which can be a problem in an age when guests are quick to take to social media to complain, said Pigeat.

“Before, you always had a paper invoice before you left, so you had a chance to notify the desk receptionist of an error,” said Pigeat. “Now, if a guest can check-out without going to the counter, they may not realize they’ve been charged until after they leave, and then they have to go back and call the hotel.”

At the same, mobile devices can allow an attendant to swiftly issue a credit when they see that an item has simply been picked up and put down again. “Even before we moved to tablets, any replacements that were moved but not taken could be issued a credit on the PDA, so they didn’t need to deal with it later,” said Walt Strasser, EVP, Minibar Systems. “They deal with it in real time during the refill process.”