The Story of Four Seasons Hotels

The Four Seasons group of hotels and resorts is one of my favorite brands in the world. From The Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita to Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, each property I stayed at was over the top luxury and service. But it wasn’t until my recent visit to the Four Seasons Toronto that I came to know the story of how this brand came to be.

Founding of The Four Seasons

Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, located in the vibrant Yorkville neighborhood, is the Canadian company’s flagship property. This is where it all started. In 1961, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts opened its first property – a motor hotel in downtown Toronto, down the street from where the current hotel stands. It was the brainchild of Isadore Sharp, the company’s Founder and Chairman. He wanted to set the stage for a new type of hotel experience with personalized service for business travelers. He found a niche in mid-size hotels of exceptional quality offering distinctive service and opened another location in London. The hotel became popular with celebrities when the Toronto International Film Festival was held in the Yorkville area.

four seasons hotel toronto

Amenities We Now Take For Granted

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As the brand expanded, Four Seasons became the first hotel company in North America to introduce now-standard items such as bath amenities, robes and hair dryers. It was also the first to provide European-style concierge services and 24/7 in-room dining. Twice-daily housekeeping, one-hour pressing and round-the-clock laundry and dry cleaning are additional guest services introduced by Four Seasons long before any other luxury hotel operators.

Have you ever wished to take home a hotel mattress? The first custom made Four Seasons mattress that we all love debuted in 1984, and has been the standard bearer for a night of perfect rest in all of Four Seasons hotels since then. In 2014, Four Seasons further innovated their sleep experience by introducing a fully customizable mattress that allows guests to choose the firmness of their hotel bed.  

Since then, the company has included  Private Residences, Residential Rentals, and  the Four Seasons Jet in its portfolio.

The Golden Rule

Academic researchers have done several studies and published papers about the reasons for Four Seasons success. It comes down to their mission statement: To treat others as we’d wish to be treated ourselves. Isn’t it simple and powerful?

And this is so evident in the staff interactions I have had across all the properties. Most employees I met were super friendly. We talked about our common passion for travel. They told me that they worked for the company for years, as many as 30 years! They often utilize the company benefits to travel to different Four Seasons properties, take their families to discounted dinners at the hotel, and enjoy their work life balance. The company culture ensures that the employees are well taken care of. Having a base of loyal and happy employees definitely reflects on how the guests feel too.

I wouldn’t be writing this blog post featuring a brand unless there was a sustainability promise. Through their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) program, Four Seasons for Good, seeks to preserve and regenerate the beautiful places in which they operate, and leave a positive, enduring impact on the communities. Each of the two pillars: Planet (environmental impact) and People (social impact) makes efforts to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It makes me feel good about my stay too!

Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

Now let’s go back to Toronto, where it all started. A beautiful lobby with intricate lattice doors welcomed me in. The Premier Room on a 30 floor tower had a stunning view of a quieter part of the city, overlooking charming row townhouses and a park. The interior, in grey tunes, was soft and blended with the sky. A luscious giant raspberry macron with fresh raspberries and gold leaf was waiting for me to devour. This was going to be a wonderful stay already!

Fun fact: The 9,038-square-foot penthouse, which occupies the entire 55th floor of the West Residence at The Four Seasons Toronto was sold for Canadian $28 million in 2012, making it the most expensive condominium unit sold in Canada!

four seasons spa

The Spa

The Spa at Four Seasons Toronto is a must! My 90-minute Signature Gold and Diamond Facial was not only indulgent, I came out radiating. Think hour and a half of cleansing, peeling, massages, gold infused and rose quartz crystals masks, and anti-aging gold serum. My family members couldn’t believe the glow on my face. The relaxing rooms also had great views of Toronto skyline.

At some point during your stay, also make sure to check out the indoor swimming pool and state of the art gym. I am generally not a hotel gym person but this one was worth sweating at.

Dining

The dinner at Café Boulud was one of my best meals in Toronto. The airy restaurant with lots of natural lighting and modern interiors offers international Chef Daniel Boulud’s homestyle French menu. Melt-in-your-mouth Bluefin Tuna, fresh from the ocean Nova Scotia Lobster with homemade linguini, and fennel poached British Columbia Spot Prawns stood out for me. The Grapefruit Givre was a unique dessert. A half grapefruit was filled with grapefruit sorbet and topped with sesame halva strands and rose lokum (Turkish delight). Nothing like I have ever seen before. The menu is seasonal so you may not find the same dishes I tried. But if you go on a Wednesday, order the Three-Course Rotisserie Menu with PEI Mussels and Sticky Toffee Pudding. Yum!

The best part about Four Seasons Hotel Toronto is the location. As soon as you come out of the hotel, you are in the heart of Yorkville, Toronto’s top shopping and dining destination. There’s luxury designer boutiques, cafes with lovely ambiance and all types of restaurants. Just walking around the neighborhood and people (and their dogs) watching is also fun.

Four Seasons Hotel Toronto is also pet-friendly!

Check out more stories from Canada on my website.