PALO ALTO, CA—Picture it: Your guest has arrived from across the country, they’ve had subpar plane food and the last thing they want to do is get in at midnight only to eat candy from the minibar. It’s a scenario that plays out for many travelers. In-room minibars have long served as an enticing option for guests at risk of becoming “hangry”—a state of hunger that also involves feelings of anger or irritability—but typically, the food options are unhealthy or just not satisfying.
In a city known for serving as the launch pad of innovation, it is fitting that a new twist on an old amenity would also be created here. The Epiphany Hotel, a Joie de Vivre property here, is now offering the Fresh Fridge, an in-room amenity that provides a chef-curated selection of seasonal food and beverages that is pre-ordered for a flat fee.
“For Epiphany, the basis of it was to be on the cutting edge. We sit in Silicon Valley and part of our process is being ahead of the curve and innovative. We wanted to offer something that is different and we thought about the minibar,” said General Manager Seth McDaniels. “It’s a detailed process as there are items that might not be the healthiest. We thought, ‘What if we created a minibar concept that is healthy?’” While many guests are looking for healthy options, he noted this is especially true in Northern California.
On the outside, the miniature Smeg refrigerator looks like a throwback to simpler times—and maybe it is, because the chef-curated items on the inside are made with organic and wholesome ingredients sourced from the Palo Alto Farmers’ Market. Project Juice, a San Francisco-based cold-pressed juice company, supplies the beverages with witty, yet descriptive drink names like Swiss Beetz, Immunity and Almond Mylk, while the hotel’s F&B operations serves up handcrafted American fare with a healthy bent.
“We’ve been offering it to our guests and it’s been a big hit. People love it and it’s there upon arrival as a welcome amenity that is an add-on,” said McDaniels. “We have guests who will stay a full week and they can either lightly go through each day or devour it, if they like. They can then use the Smeg to store their own snacks and drinks. It’s there for the entire stay. We keep checking on it to make sure items are fresh, we’ll bus it and make sure it looks nice in there. If they would like us to replenish it for them, we can do that as well.”
At a time when many hotels are doing away with the standard minibar and opting for less costly, low maintenance options for guests, the team at Epiphany sees the Fresh Fridge as a way to delight guests and be a part of the community in which they reside.
“It’s definitely the market, each hotel needs to be part of the community and culture of where it exists. There is high demand for a focus on health and cuisine among our guests. The biggest part is making sure it’s done the right way every time it’s ordered. It’s got to be perfect and it has to blow our guests away when they open it. We want that wow factor.”
The healthy options don’t stop at the guestroom; the hotel also provides programming that aligns with their wellness ethos. There are partnerships with a nearby yoga studio and full-service gym, with class schedules placed in every guestroom. In addition, the hotel is preparing for the arrival of Nobu, a high-end Japanese restaurant chain led by Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa.
“We are big about health. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a full-service fitness center at my fingertips and it’s complimentary, every time. Our guests really enjoy that,” he said. “Everyone is excited with all that’s happening here.”