Restaurants Are Using Hotel Rooms to Offer Pandemic-friendly Private Dining

Hotel occupancy is down, restaurant dining rooms are closing, so the two are teaming up.

You know why you order room service at a hotel: You’ve had a long day of work or travel or whatever, and you just don’t want to deal with seeing anyone. But at a time when you’re not supposed to see people whether you want to or not, some hotels and restaurants are running with that concept.

As outdoor dining conditions fade and indoor dining restrictions continue, restauranteurs are teaming with hotels—which are also struggling with reduced occupancy during the COVID-19 pandemic—to offer indoor dining in the isolated spaces of unused hotel rooms, no additional plastic dividers necessary, explains Bloomberg. In one example, the Walnut Street Cafe in Philadelphia is offering a $65 prix fixe meal—alongside a $50 room charge—to offer “Walnut Suite Café” dining at the AKA University City hotel located above the restaurant.

“We had so few options for serving guests, so I said, ‘Let’s try this,’” café co-owner Branden McRill told the business site, saying the idea started when the city shut down indoor dining in November. Diners can reportedly also apply their $50 as a room credit to stay over for the night if they want. In all, McRill said they’re serving about 60 guests a night.

And Philadelphia is not alone. In Brooklyn, Le Crocodile told Bloomberg they’ve been serving $100 three-course meals into 13 rooms in the hotel above them since late October. “On the weekends, we’re often fully booked,” restaurant owner Jon Neidich said.  And hotels in Minneapolis and Boston are apparently offering similar options.

Neidich even suggested that hotel room dining—a situation created out of necessity—comes with a silver lining: Yes, the experience is more expensive, but it’s a special event at a time when people may need something reinvigorating. “They order more, a nicer bottle of wine,” he was quoted as saying. “The check averages are higher. That means people are enjoying themselves.”

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