The butler’s pantry at Blind Tiger on Danforth Street in Portland is original to the 19th-century home. “It was kind of screaming for us to create this,” general manager Tammara Croman said about the complimentary pantry for guests. In addition to snacks and beverages, guests can pick up picnic baskets and blankets, French press coffee makers, and Asian cast-iron teapots to use during their stay. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

It’s a golden age of food in Portland, with exceptional restaurants, breweries, bars, bakeries and coffee shops seemingly on every corner. So you wouldn’t think it necessary for the boutique Blind Tiger hotel on Danforth Street to load its guests up with free snacks and beverages.

But the hotel’s proprietors insist upon it.

Set in a grand 19th-century brick home in the city’s West End, Blind Tiger gives guests 24/7 access to the original butler’s pantry, just off the dining room. The space is artfully stocked with all manner of complimentary treats: jars of penny candy, nuts cutely packaged in half-pint mason jars, grapefruit shrubs, Maine Root sodas, scones baked in its kitchen, and slices of a house-made Swedish almond cake that’s particularly popular among guests. And that’s just for starters.

“It’s a benefit for a multitude of reasons,” explained general manager Tammara Croman, who lists making the guests feel at home; supplying breakfast to those leaving early; accommodating visitors who simply want to put their feet up and not traipse around town; fostering fun; and providing a relaxed way for strangers to meet and make connections.

Other upscale Maine hotels offer in-room chocolates and cookies, well-stocked lobby shops, midnight PB&Js and minibars.



Raymond Brunyanszki, co-owner of the luxe Camden Harbour Inn, believes the hotel was the first in Maine with minibars some 16 years ago – or at least the first with minibars stocked with alcohol, which require a state license and inspections. The law also requires, in most circumstances, that hotels charge for alcohol, Brunyanszki said.

In an email, Brunyanszki outlined a brief history of the minibar, introduced in Hong Kong in the 1970s. “The logic was: Why would you want to go outside when you can just step out of bed and get a drink.”

His own first minibar experience, he said, was at the Bali Beach Hotel in Indonesia, “where I developed my guilty pleasure for Toblerone and Sour Cream & Onion Pringles while watching TV from a soaking tub.”

At first, hotel guests around the world were willing to pay the (often insanely) high prices for minibar items “as part of the new experience or thrill,” Brunyanszki wrote. Eventually, the thrill wore off. At the same time, because minibars require so much labor and attention – at the Camden Harbour Inn, they are monitored and replenished in every room twice each day – they proved unprofitable. Brunyanszki estimated he spends $100 on amenities for guest stays, including bottled water, chocolates and other snacks, and welcome and farewell gifts.

The Camden Harbour Inn does not charge guests for these items, but add-on charges are one reason some hospitality professionals don’t like minibars.


“There is an underlying message to the minibar, which is we are going to nickel and dime you to death,” said Cate Colombo, general manager of the Chebeague Island Inn in Casco Bay. “I don’t ever want a guest to feel that way. I don’t ever want them to think about the amount of money they are spending at this hotel.”

Guests at the inn get a text the morning of their arrival asking what ferry they’ll be on and what they’d like to snack on and sip. Aside from the inn, the island has few dining (or grocery) options.

“It’s another way to connect,” Colombo said. “We try to tailor to every single guest. When we are texting them, essentially we are asking them to give us their grocery list. We put it together, we put it in a cute little bag, and we bring it up to their room.”

Guests won’t find minibars in their rooms at Canopy by Hilton in Portland’s Old Port. General Manager Ginny Petrovek has a different objection to them. “We don’t want our guests to hang out in rooms and eat M&Ms and Diet Cokes,” she said. “We want them hanging out with us … in our (public) spaces and enjoying what we offer and enjoying what’s so great about the city of Portland.

Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport does have minibars, and guests pay for any in-room snacks they eat – including M&Ms. But Director of Operations Lilly Hallowell makes no apologies for the candies, which are branded with the hotel’s logo and colors.

“I chose things I really love,” she said of her approach to provisioning guest rooms. “I feel like M&Ms are just … maybe it’s just me … I feel like it’s the chocolate candy.”



The easiest way for hotels to offer snacks to guests is to turn over the task of selecting and stocking them to large national companies like Torn Ranch in California. Making individual deals with the many Maine food entrepreneurs churning out artisanal jams, kelp bars, buckwheat-blueberry crackers and the like is time-consuming and challenging for busy hoteliers.

Among the issues, according to the state’s hospitality professionals, is that local food entrepreneurs may not be able to provide steady or adequate supplies for hotel accounts. The way they are packaged also might not work well. At Hidden Pond, for instance, “I would love to showcase Kate’s Butter. I don’t eat any other butter,” Hallowell said. But the Arundel-based company sells in sticks, which aren’t suitable for guest rooms.

Big national brands also like to reach well-heeled guests so much that they often offer hotels bargain rates. That’s not something your typical small entrepreneur can manage. And perhaps that’s why when asked to name local products they use, several hotels cited Stonewall Kitchen. Sure, the company is based in York, but it’s now owned by a private equity firm and sells its products around the world.

At Hidden Pond, Hallowell prefers to buy locally, as much as she is able. “When you have guests that are coming in from far away or even not so far away, they like to experience food and drink that is related to where they are traveling,” she said.

Sure, Earth at Hidden Pond is great for meals, but the resort also offers plenty of in-between snacking for guests. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Local in-room items at Hidden Pond include granola from Grandy Oats in Hiram, Lucy’s Granola Toffee Bars from Blue Hill and Port City Pretzels from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (There are also gummy lobsters – natch.)


Such items fit Hidden Pond’s environmental ethos. “You are not shipping from large distances,” Hallowell said, so it’s less fuel, and often less packaging and cooling.

“I think it’s a missed opportunity if everything in your room – the decor, the brand of soap, the brand of towels, … the bathrobes – is really intentional, and then you have a generic minibar,” she said.

At Camden Harbour, over the years guests have enjoyed Mapleton-based Fox Family Potato Chips, local cheeses, local fruit, cookies from the hotel’s own kitchen, and chocolates from stores in Ogunquit (Harbor Candy) and Camden (Uncle Willy’s Candy Shoppe) – though the hotel’s bedtime turn-down chocolates now come from Belgian chocolatier Leonidas. The hotel stocks many national and international brands, too. In Brunyanszki’s experience, people often prefer items they know.

“At the end of the day, I’m here for guests,” he said. “Maybe I’m old-fashioned in that way in hospitality. I’m not here to dictate what they should want.”

Canopy offers a retail shop that sells snacks. Among local items are Portland-based Lady Krispie cereal bars. For guests celebrating anniversaries, complimentary chocolates from The Pastry Pair in Scarborough are sent to the room, with flavors selected to reflect hotel spaces; the Champagne-flavored bon bon, for instance, is meant to evoke Luna, the hotel’s rooftop bar.

While the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth does not offer in-room snacks, during the summer high season, small presents are placed in the room each evening. Rauni Kew, the inn’s public relations manager, cited pretzels from Stonewall Kitchen paired with Raye’s Mustard from Eastport, house-made oatmeal cookies and blueberry chocolate bark, and a recipe card for the hotel’s lobster rolls.


Some of the items in the butler’s pantry at Blind Tiger include granola and nuts in mason jars, house-made scones and granola bars, Mary Janes and wax-bottle penny candy. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


“Intentional” is a word that comes up a lot when you ask hoteliers how they select snacks for guests. Imagine Blind Tiger on Danforth (and now with a sister property on Carleton Street) as your coolest friend’s house, Croman said. If you were visiting her, she’d tell you to help yourself to whatever you liked in the kitchen. That’s the idea behind Blind Tiger’s butler’s pantry.

Some items change seasonally, Croman said, to help tell a story. In the summer, the makings of s’mores evoke nostalgia. In the fall, house-made pumpkin scones taste like autumn in New England. Do guests take advantage of the pantry, given the hotel’s generous complimentary breakfast and the dozens of great food options within just a few minutes’ walk?

“You would be amazed,” Croman said. “We are constantly refilling it.”

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