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.

Upscale burgers at Oliver & Bonacini

Oliver & Bonacini has a few restaurants spread around the metro Toronto area that range from casual affordable to super fine dining where celebrities have been spotted. The restaurants are the creation of celebrity chefs, Peter Oliver and Michael Bonacini. I had lunch at Oliver & Bonacini Café Grill in Oakville but they have other locations in Bayview Village, Blue Mountain, Waterloo and downtown Toronto as well.

Fresh fruit juice cider

This Café was located at the entrance to a high end mall, and appeared very sleek yet casual. There was a definite business crowd, along with a few older shoppers who seem to enjoy fine dining during the week. The décor was contemporary with gray and white metallic furniture. We were seated promptly and my 3-year old nephew was attended to with a high chair right away.

The lunch menu consisted of simple everyday dishes with a refined twist. They offered freshly made juice cocktails – an apple beet cider served warm and an orange mango pineapple concoction. I ordered the grilled chicken burger with sweet potato fries. The ground chicken patty was moist and well cooked, served with a chipotle mayo, while the fries were crisped to perfection.

We also tried the vegetarian Portobello burger which had roasted red pepper, roasted tomato, goat cheese and basil almond pesto on a giant roasted Portobello. It was a treat whether you were a vegetarian, or not. The beer batter haddock served with fries and coleslaw seemed a big hit with both young and old. My nephew ate it all without a fuss!

For dessert, I had to have the gelato combination – I really liked the pistachio (despite the little chunks of ice) but the milk cream was ok. Overall, Chef Zuzana Harsaghy did an excellent job in keeping the food real, appetizing, yet upscale.

Their dinner menu seems more adventurous, with many fusion influences. The butter chicken caught my eye and I will have to come back next time for it.

More on where to dine in Toronto

A break at the Krepesz Café

Krepesz Café is a charming little café located in the eclectic Kensington market in Toronto. Whether you want to grab a bite before setting out for a shopping spree or take a coffee break during your finds, this Hungarian themed coffee shop will not disappoint you.

The interior feels like a lounge with interesting murals, cozy chairs as well as tables for larger groups. There is also some seating outside for when the Canadian weather is cooperative.

I was impressed with the interior, but this was where any modern features ended. It didn’t massively take away from the experience, but something like a touchscreen point-of-sale system (you can see what I mean at https://revelsystems.com/pos-systems/coffee-shop-pos/) would have been a nice addition. Technology like this can be a great tool for coffee shops and other similar businesses.

I was pleasantly surprised by the artfulness in the presentation. Each cup of latte we ordered had a different design created on top. It made the coffee-drinking experience very pleasant.

For the very first time, I had a Chimney Cake. The menu said “Chimney Cake is a Hungarian sweet pastry. It’s made with yeast-raised dough rolled on a wooden cylinder and baked in a rotisserie oven. Sugar caramelizes on the outside creating a sweet, crispy crust, but inside it stays soft!” To me, it was a simple sugary dough cake that paired well with afternoon tea or coffee. You can watch a video of how they make it.

The crepe menu also looked intriguing. They had savory (chicken paprika, spinach and feta) and sweet (apple cinnamon, walnut apricot jam) amongst others. Next time you are in the area, make sure you give Krepesz Café a definite try for breakfast, lunch or coffee.

More on where to dine in Toronto