Sunday musings: Toll House Cookies, drones over America, dying hotel minibars

by Charlie Leocha on January 5, 2014

By Kimberly Vardeman from Lubbock, TX, USA via Wikimedia Commons By Kimberly Vardeman from Lubbock, TX, USA via Wikimedia Commons


We travel to the home of the chocolate chip cookie, then take a look at the FAA’s testing of drones. And, finally, ponder the existence of the hotel minibar — is it long for this travel world?

A history of the chocolate chip cookie

Last year celebrated the 75th anniversary of the creation of the chocolate chip cookie. I discovered the original site of this creation when stopping at Wendy’s in Whitman, Mass., on a drive between Boston and Cape Cod. There was a small museum to the Toll House and its chocolate chip cookie. Another random travel experience. Later, I met the descendants of the Wakefields on a new year’s eve and watched Boston’s fireworks over the Boston Common from their balcony. It’s a small world and smaller still when you travel.

Ruth Wakefield, who ran the popular Toll House restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts, with her husband, Kenneth, from 1930 to 1967, brought the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie into being in the late 1930s. The recipe, which has been tweaked over the ensuing decades, made its first appearance in print in the 1938 edition of Wakefield’s “Tried and True” cookbook. Created as an accompaniment to ice cream, the chocolate chip cookie quickly became so celebrated that Marjorie Husted (a.k.a. Betty Crocker) featured it on her radio program. On March 20, 1939, Wakefield gave Nestlé the right to use her cookie recipe and the Toll House name.

In a bargain that rivals Peter Minuit’s purchase of Manhattan, the price was a dollar — a dollar that Wakefield later said she never received (though she was reportedly given free chocolate for life and was also paid by Nestlé for work as a consultant).

Drones over America, testing begins

The FAA has selected six organizations to test development and testing of drones in the domestic skies. We are not talking about drones the size of model airplanes that have been seen on commercials delivering beer to parched partiers during football games. These drones coming to the skies over America are the size of commercial planes and need to be blended into the air traffic control system. That will take time — and when the FAA timing is factored in, that means a lot of time.

But, the process is beginning and drones will be in the skies within six months in select areas for testing.

“The test-site news is a glimmer of hope, but there is still much standing in the way of catching up to other countries that are ahead of us on this new technology revolution,” said Brendan Schulman, a New York lawyer who heads commercial drone practice for the law firm Kramer Levin.

The FAA will work with the chosen groups to get at least one drone site operating within the next six months.

When did you last use a hotel minibar?

Personally, I don’t remember the last time that I used a hotel minibar. In fact, I normally ask the check-in person to keep the minibar key so that there is no question that I have not dipped into the libations. On the other hand, friends of mine live via the minibar. They can’t wait to get a Coke or have a snack when they get back to the hotel late at night. What’s your take? Some see minibars as a dying amenity.

A recent survey by the travel website found that the hotel minibar was the least important amenity for U.S. travelers. Only 21 percent of travelers ranked the mini-bar as an important amenity, compared to 89 percent who called free in-room wireless Internet the most important.

There is little financial reason to keep minibars. Hotel consulting firms estimate that minibars generate no more than 0.24 percent of total hotel revenue, with much of that eaten up by the cost to check and restock the bars.
Companies that build and sell automated minibars that electronically charge guests when a drink or snack is removed from the bar say they can cut the labor costs by up to 60 percent.

Still, industry experts say minibars won’t be around for long.

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