Hotels are possessed with a mission to transform the guestroom into a residence, a home away from home for guests, and no home is complete without a refrigerator.
Tom Smith, area VP of operations for the Hyatt Regency Orlando, said when his hotel was purchased in 2013 (when it was the Peabody Orlando), the guestrooms were outfitted with coolers instead of refrigerators. The issue was that guests didn't know the devices were coolers, they would store perishables in the space and the items would expire. Smith cooled future guests out with a simple solution.
"We bought 1,640 refrigerators," Smith said. "In the full-service segment there is the expectation that refrigerators and minibars will be in the guestroom, and destinations want them."
According to Loren Nalewanski, VP, global brand management at SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites by Marriott, it didn't become standard to have refrigerators in guestrooms, regardless of room type, until 10 years ago. Since then, many guests have associated them with minibars over the years because many refrigerators even today are still stocked with goods associated with fees.
"When I think back 25-plus years in the business, nobody had [refrigerators] in guestrooms outside of full-service luxury," Nalewanski said.
He compared refrigerators to ironing boards, which were also available on request—for a fee. "In the 90s, those things became mandatory," Nalewanski said. "Until then, refrigerators and microwaves were most often present in suites across brands."
Dan Russell, SVP of operations for Red Roof Inn, also agrees that guests expect refrigerators, but his hotels only offer them in premium, superior and deluxe rooms (roughly half a property's rooms). "The number of rooms with refrigerators differs on a market-by-market basis," Russell said. "There has to be reason to invest the capital in them."
"Some people are still surprised that there are refrigerators in their guestroom," said JoLynn Ratzlaff, GM of the Cobblestone Inn & Suites in Schuyler, Neb. "Refrigerators are a simple but important inclusion for them. Guests really appreciate it that we have them, and it cuts down on living costs."