Industry News
How hotel restaurants transform into a winter wonderland

Winter isn’t finished with travelers yet. All over the world, travelers are still up to their knees in snow or shivering from the unforgiving cold, and hotels everywhere are doing what they can to provide a warm and cozy atmosphere to travelers in order to celebrate the season and keep travelers engaged, no matter the location or the temperature. 

Food and beverage programs at leading hotels know that outdoor dining isn’t just for warm months of the year, and many guests want to experience winter weather in a special way. Quattro restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley features a winter pop-up experience in its Après outdoor terrace.

The après-ski mountainside resort theme has been in play for the last two years, with several large fire pits, semi-private wooden chalets and even a snow machine on feature, according to Quattro Executive Chef Martín Morelli. 

“The special menu at Après is designed for sharing and celebrates the best après-ski cuisine, including warming cocktails and our signature family-style s’mores with house-made graham crackers and vanilla bean marshmallows,” Morelli says. He notes that families love it because they also offer movies on the weekends.

In another al fresco dining trend, hotels are creating igloo dining experiences for guests in the Midwest US. The trend has reached Hilton Garden Inn in Rib Mountain, Wis., where guests can dine out in two warmed up igloos on a deck. There’s a heater, a rug and even a small futon to keep guests cozy and warm. These igloos remain open to guests from November to March. 

During the chilly season, the hotel serves comfort food favorites, including pork chop with grilled cabbage and house-made pierogi on the side. The food is all from local farms, and the fish is from Lake Superior. The igloos are available to the public and can be booked for a $100 minimum spend.

Other hotels in Michigan, New York, Cincinnati and Washington have igloos available for visitors to dine in as well. Drinks on hand include the boozy Antares Hot Chocolate now available at the Davenport Hotel’s igloos in Spokane, Wash. The hotel also provides a DJ, local beer and blankets and pillows for guests to enjoy as they dine in their igloos. 

Some hotels go all out and redecorate drastically for the wintertime. Gurney’s in Newport, R.I., for example, has a ball with its new designs. Known as a summer wedding hotspot, the hotel becomes a winter wonderland with an ice skating rink and almost a dozen heated igloos. The theme? Tropical Summer. Bright colors and rattan everywhere, plus velvet pillows. The owners of Gurney’s hired a creative agency to manage the new design of the hotel, meant to attract families, couples and groups. The redesign paid off, because according to the resort’s Area General Manager Michael Nenner, guest attendance raised “significantly” as a result of the new design. 

Another prime example of hotels designing for winter is The Ivy in Baltimore. This hotel turns the courtyard into a winter garden with lights, draping magnolia branches and rustic-inspired decor. To a hotel like The Ivy, such changes make the location a must-visit during the wintertime. 

These changes tend to produce results, too. When The Bobby in Nashville, Tenn., announced its new rooftop igloos and cedar cabins, it averaged 300 phone calls and 150 emails a day from interested parties.

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