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Why Don’t Hotel Rooms Have Microwaves?

A hotel staff cleaning a room wearing gloves.

Microwaves are an extra for hotels. Beyond simply having to purchase a microwave for every room, a hotel also has to buy and install a shelf for it to sit on. The hotel also has to hire staff to clean the new cooking area, deal with the security problems that come with the microwave, and deal with the lost revenue from room service.

With all of the amenities that hotels are eager to advertise, it seems odd that so many hotels do not have a microwave oven in their rooms. The amount of money that a person or family pays for a room seems to have little effect on this; there are hotels that charge a lot of money with no microwave, and hotels that charge hardly anything that come with a microwave and mini-fridge.

There are several reasons for this, but the two main ones come down to demand and cost.

Demand

Different hotel staff posing for a picture.

Not everyone who stays at a hotel needs or wants a microwave. Hotel managers know that hotels that are used primarily by people who need a longer-term housing solution will almost always need to come with a microwave, for example, while hotels that serve primarily business customers will rarely have a high demand for microwaves.  

Extended-stay hotels need to have amenities in place to attract guests who will want to save money by making some simple meals for themselves in their hotel rooms.

Higher end hotels that cater to vacationers, however, may not have a lot of demand for microwaves. These travelers will likely want to eat meals in restaurants, not spend their vacations heating up TV dinners in a microwave.

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Costs

Different type of microwave sold on a appliance store.

If there is not a lot of demand for microwaves in a hotel room, it can be hard for hotels to justify the cost. Costs consist of the expense to buy the microwaves, store them, maintain them, and clean them.

Direct Costs

Costs for microwaves can go well beyond just the purchase price for new microwaves in every room.  Simply purchasing a microwave for every room can cost a smaller hotel thousands of dollars. While this is a relatively minor expense for larger hotel chains, many privately owned hotels will not be able to afford to equip every room with new appliances.

In addition to placing the microwave in each room, every room will need to have a place to put the microwave. That means buying or building extra shelving in each room. Older hotels may even need to put in new electrical outlets and upgrade their wiring to handle the extra demands of all of those ovens being used at around the same time.

That can add tens of thousands of dollars to the installation bill for even small hotels, with large hotels looking at a potential six-figure or higher upgrade cost.

Indirect Costs

A man repairing a microwave oven.

Once the microwaves are installed in the rooms, hotels have to figure out how to secure, maintain and clean them. While it may seem silly, microwaves are one of the most stolen items in many hotel rooms. With higher-end microwave ovens retailing for over $200 a piece, taking the microwave when checking out will often pay for the cost of the hotel room.

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With hotel rooms not being cleaned in some cases for several days after the room has been used, and in other cases being cleaned by outside staffing agencies, it can be difficult for the hotel to get back the money that the appliance costs. While there are anti-theft devices that can be used, these cost even more money.

In other hotels, vandalism is a problem. Hotels that are frequented by school groups or other problem populations run into the problem of people putting items into the microwave that make a mess or  destroy the microwave. In some extreme cases, objects placed in a microwave can cause structural damage to the hotel.

At the very least, hotels have to pay their cleaning staff for the extra time it takes to clean the microwave after every guest checks out. Placing microwaves in rooms can also cause an increase in the hotel’s liability insurance.

All together, this can mean that placing microwaves in hotel rooms can run over $1000 a year per room in a hotel, representing a significant expense for many lodging facilities. In some hotels, the solution has been to only offer microwaves in a few of the rooms, which the hotel then charges a higher price for.

These hotels will often also charge a security deposit, ensuring that any damage that is caused will be charged to the guest and not the hotel.

Lost Profits

A couple lying on bed with breakfast.

Finally, hotels have to consider the cost of lost profits. Once a guest has the ability to microwave a breakfast burrito or TV dinner, he or she is not paying for a meal from room service or in the downstairs restaurant.

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Hotels that have added microwaves and minifridges have seen their room service profits dry up, as many people will choose a smaller, cheaper meal than order from a menu. As online services have cut into the room service market, however, this is becoming less of an issue.