Customers at SPG legacy hotels appear to be very irritated by Marriott’s exclusive cooperation with Pepsi judging by the constant complaints overheard at lounges and restaurants.
Previously hotels, including former Starwood properties, most often serve Coca Cola products which seem to be more popular and people apparently are quite upset when the product they are used to isn’t available.
This week I went to the Athenee Luxury Collection Hotel in Bangkok and of course now Marriott has moved in their Pepsi policy there as well.
I overheard customers on two different occasions complaining about Coca Cola not being available and in one case a guest ended up going down to 7-11 and buying a Coke Zero.
How did all this come about? Last year John wrote an article how Pepsi moved into the Marriott brands (access here) and this didn’t sit well with guests as it seems.
Back in 1991 when Marriott’s hotel business was performing badly and they were losing money the company asked Coca Cola to loan money to them – US$100 Million – which the company refused to give. Following this Marriott dropped Coke and went into bed with Pepsi, forming a new Hospitality-Soda partnership. Until then, Coke and Marriott had had a 20 year partnership that the hospitality company threw over board after the soda company refused to act as a bank.
The same attitude I encountered by guests in Bangkok was repeated a few days later at the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport hotel. Pepsi isn’t popular at all in Germany and guests really seem to hate it based on comments by the lounge staff at the Sheraton.
Apart from the fact that people drink way too much soda and it’s not good for us, this really seems to be a problem. A hospitality company that only serves one type of (unpopular) soda because of an exclusive contract doesn’t really have much to do with hospitality.
Interestingly enough, it’s often possible to buy Coca Cola at the hotel bar while only PepsiCo products are available in the lounge and the mini bar. An alternative could be to switch to Ginger Ale or Bitter Lemon depending on if that’s suits the guests taste for fizzy, sweet drinks.