Back in normal times, if you were looking to rent a hotel room for a few hours, the plan probably didn’t involve soup. But everything has changed, and just as restaurants are promoting fancy igloos and decadent yurts for private, socially distanced meals, hotels are creating pandemic-friendly dining spaces out of their rooms.
Sofitel Washington DC just launched in-suite dinners where guests can linger in one of the French luxury hotel chain’s rooms for two and a half hours. There’s no booking fee, though parties (one to six people, per DC regulations) are required to spend at least $70 on food and beverage.
“We have a weekly meeting, and we were brainstorming: what do we do with what we have? I don’t have anyone in my rooms, no one is coming into the city,” says general manager Karla Erales. “There are so many obstacles and restrictions—we totally understand and support them—but how do we operate?”
Erales says Sofitel DC, which is located at Lafayette Square, just blocks from the White House, has been particularly hard hit. Over inauguration weekend, when the hotel would typically overflow with guests and events, the property was virtually empty given the pandemic and its location in the restricted red zone. The hotel hopes the in-suite dining program will bring back business from locals who want to escape the confines of their own homes, or those who want to plan a special occasion celebration without worrying about changes in weather or regulations.
“We wanted to provide a private, safe, hygienic option,” says Erales, who adds that rooms won’t be booked back-to-back (there’s a Covid resting period procedure). Per standard hotel policy, everything will be thoroughly cleaned between use, including the private bathrooms.
If you’re already entertaining fantasies of eating room service ice cream sundaes in bed a la Kevin at The Plaza in Home Alone 2—or any other kind of fantasies—you might consider staying the night. “We sell the room for dining purposes. We haven’t had anyone use the bed or shower (it’s been small groups of 4 to 6 people),” says Erales. That being said, the hotel offers a “competitive” rate for any guests who decide they want to spend the night (around $249).
Chef Kevin Lalli’s in-room menu is identical to his offerings at the lobby restaurant, Opaline Brasserie, offering French fare like lobster bisque and coq au vin alongside French wines, Champagnes, and aperitifs. The restaurant itself has remained open for outdoor dining and carryout, and just welcomed guests back in with the lift of DC’s indoor dining ban last week.
Riggs DC, a luxury hotel that opened in Penn Quarter a month before the pandemic, launched “Café Riggs Upstairs” during the month-long ban. Brunch and dinner parties could book safety deposit box-inspired rooms in the historic bank building for room service with a $250 minimum. The program has been paused with the reopening of indoor dining at Café Riggs , though a representative from the hotel says they may resume in-suite service for the public pending restrictions.
Correction: Home Alone 2 was set at The Plaza, not The Ritz.