Dear Mr. Know-It-All, I know that fiber-optics were invented in Hong Kong. What else comes from the SAR? – Mother of Invention How about the minibar? They say that the German company Siegas invented the refrigerated minibar in 1963. But the minibar as we know it actually has its origins in Hong Kong. It’s all thanks to Robert Arnold, the then food and beverage director of the Hong Kong Hilton, the island’s most prestigious hotel. As the legend goes: Back in 1974 Arnold was returning from Bangkok to Hong Kong when a stewardess offered him a drink. A gin and tonic? A vodka lime soda? No one knows. But Arnold was handed a mini bottle of alcohol and the cogs began to turn. Back in Hong Kong, he suggested his idea. The mini refrigerators in the Hilton’s rooms stocked complimentary water, but it was expensive to give away. Why not stock them with mini bottles of alcohol and a few easy snacks, to recoup costs? Any additional profit would be a pleasant bonus. Together with his team—which included Hong Kong Sevens Squad captain Ian Duncan—Arnold developed the idea, trialing it on one floor of the hotel. Drinks and snacks would be stocked in the fridges and made available on an honor system: Guests would fill out what they had, and be billed at the end of their stay. Human nature notwithstanding, the idea worked spectacularly. It was soon rolled out to all 800 rooms of the hotel. And profits? Profits ticked up 5 percent. Hilton’s big bosses paid attention, and the idea spread—first to all Hilton chains, and then across the industry. The age of the $20 Coca-Cola had arrived. Nowadays, it looks as if minibars have had their day. Guests are tiring of expensive sachets of peanuts and even more expensive tiny bottles of very average Scotch. A few hotels have switched back to the free minibar model as an added incentive for guests. Even in Hong Kong, the birthplace of the minibar itself, hotels are moving away from the paid concept. The Upper House, Hotel Icon, Marco Polo hotels, The Mercer, the Ovolo chain and more all offer fully stocked, fully free minibars. As for the Hong Kong Hilton, it closed in 1995 and today the Cheung Kong Center stands in its place. But the minibar it created lives on after it: A legacy that spans the globe. The Hong Kong Hilton (RIP), birthplace of the minibar (Benson Lo/SCMP) Mr. Know-It-All answers your questions and quells your urban concerns. Send queries, troubles or problems to firstname.lastname@example.org .