In this, the fall season, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago is set to reopen Thursday after its largest renovation since opening in 1989.
The hotel, which was ranked No. 9 nationwide by U.S. News & World Report in February, started renovations in September 2019 and closed completely March 21 because of the pandemic. The renovation updated the hotel’s suites and public spaces — including the lobby, lounge areas, reception area, bar spaces and the restaurant — in a postmodern look with a contemporary luxury twist. Meeting spaces are also getting a new look, and a junior ballroom will be available for the holidays.
The hotel will reopen with its Lead With Care program in place — enhanced health and safety measures, supplies and equipment.
“Part of our Lead With Care program is identifying a hygiene officer for the hotel,” said General Manager Stephen Wancha. “So, we literally have weekly meetings with a group of department head managers to discuss anything and everything … things with our other properties that have already reopened — best practices from them, bouncing ideas, questions, comments, concerns and so forth off of them to see how they’ve handled it.”
According to Wancha and Tim Churchmack, director of rooms, guests can expect to be greeted at the door with a contactless temperature screening and a set of COVID-19 health questions. Using the Four Seasons’ mobile app created in 2017 for guests to chat with hotel personnel, they can check in virtually, and room keys will be ready at the reception desk. A welcome kit with hand sanitizer, wipes and masks is provided in each room (kids get a mask with Sammy the Skyscraper on it when they enter the lobby), along with a remote control with a band indicating it was sanitized between guests. And those items that were reusable have been replaced with single-use items (from coffee mugs to paper cups), Churchmack said.
Rooms will be disinfected daily with EPA-approved products and will have blacklight inspection by room attendants; public areas will be cleaned hourly with extra attention to frequently used areas, including front desk counters and public restrooms. Housekeeping teams are being retrained on cleaning protocols. Standalone air purifiers will operate in each room, Churchmack said.
“From a service standpoint, we still have all the options,” Wancha said. “Your fridge will be empty, and you’ll have the opportunity during the reservation process to preorder those items. Then you don’t need to worry what was in this space prior to me.”
Room service will be delivered with a knock and drop or packaged, according to your preference. Hotel restaurant QR codes will allow guests to see the menu on their own handheld device. The restaurant, named Adorn, opens Thursday for dinner only; breakfast, lunch and dinner service will start Oct. 5, Wancha said. Afternoon tea service will be in full swing for children and adults by the holiday season.
Shared spaces like the fitness room, pool and spa will be open with occupancy restrictions and physical distancing, Churchmack said. Guests can preregister for time in those areas. Massages are being booked, but no facials, Wancha said. Employees change their aprons between clients, and wear masks, face shields and gloves. Plexiglass screens separate clients and employees during manicures.
Guests must wear masks in all public areas of the hotel.
Guests can use the mobile app to ask questions, make requests or discuss problems with on-site staff. (The app translates over 100 languages.) Churchmack said that unlike other hotels that use artificial intelligence to respond to guests on a chat platform, Four Seasons’ chat is staffed by on-site personnel, who aim to respond to clients within 90 seconds.
“The nice thing about the system is that it’s intuitive to what you’re asking about, so it’s actually being monitored by the people in the spa 1/4 u201a the people at the front desk,” Churchmack said. “So you’re going to get a response from the person who’s best equipped to answer your question.”
Wancha says details like this help create a cohesive, personalized experience for guests that is contactless.
According to Churchmack, security and hotel staff are also undergoing training on how to handle situations where feelings run high over wearing masks.
The renovation aims to create a new vibe that runs through the hotel’s food, art and music, which it defines as a “quintessential Chicago experience.”
Wancha says a lot of the artwork in the guest rooms and the lobby spaces is by local artists and photographers. The hotel is moving away from top-40, piped-in music to Chicago jazz, soul, blues and house. A DJ booth is being added to the lobby/restaurant area, and live DJ and live music events are planned during the week, Wancha said.
“Every Saturday in November, we’ll have live music,” Wancha said. “We’re really excited to create a little bit of energy and an escape for people like us that live here, as well as those that want to come in and stay at the hotel.”
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