Having guests over at home has become less common in Seoul over the past two decades, with restaurants and cafes on almost every neighborhood corner making it easy to dine out at any time of the day.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has driven people to spend more time in their own spaces. The phenomenon has naturally led to the public's interest in home furnishing, interior design, and home-cooked meals.
Capitalizing on the trend, high-end hotels are creating their own brands or working with vendors to provide luxury products and services guests can also enjoy at home.
The relatively new Korean phrase "sohwakhaeng," which means "small but certain happiness," has also helped boost the popularity of hotel branded products. More people today are willing to treat themselves to small daily pleasures, and are less focused on having to save up for what they find an increasingly unpredictable future.
"Luxury hotels today are seeking to launch their private brand products at a more reasonable price for guests of diverse purchasing power, which includes millennials and Generation Z,'" a five-star hotel manager who requested anonymity told The Korea Herald.
"We commonly find guests in their 20s who are interested in purchasing our products regularly, without actually staying at our hotels for the night, which is a new phenomenon that we noticed in the past three years," the manager added.
Walkerhill Hotel and Resorts launched an online kimchi subscription service in 2021, where customers can subscribe to regular deliveries of Supex Kimchi, the hotel's Korean restaurant Myongwolgwan's signature side dish.
Supex Kimchi, short for "super excellent kimchi," has garnered wide popularity since the early 2000s, with loyal guests visiting to the hotel's restaurant solely to purchase it before the online shopping mall opened.
Under the subscription service, customers can order from a diverse range of Supex Kimchi, from baek kimchi to yeolmu kimchi, to be delivered twice a month at delivery dates and times of their choosing.
In 2022, a year after the online mall's launch, sales of Supex Kimchi jumped 900 percent, compared to 2020.
"More than 95 percent of our guests are women, and we see mothers subscribing for two locations at the same time -- one for themselves and one for their daughters," the hotel's PR manager told The Korea Herald.
Other newly offered items since January are Walkerhill meal kits, such as pizza, steak and risotto from the hotel's Italian restaurant, and galbitang, bulgogi package options also from Myongwolgwan. The plan is to familiarize the Walkerhill brand to the younger generation so the purchases can lead to future visits, according to the manager.
Similarly, Four Seasons Hotel Seoul has also expanded its scent collection, after the Four Seasons' Candle picked up steam upon its release.
The candle, diffuser and room spray collection scent is a blend of cedar and sandalwood inspired by the natural surroundings of the Korean hanok.
"The first experience for guests stepping into our hotel is the scent from the lobby," Moon In-young, the communications director at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, told The Korea Herald.
"Our concierge frequently receives questions from guests on where to purchase them, upon arrival and check-out."
Guests who look for the products are mostly in their 30s to 50s, according to Moon.
Demand for the collection drastically increases during gifting seasons, such as the Chuseok and Christmas holidays. The set can only be purchased directly at the hotel, but during peak seasons, orders can be made online and need to be picked up at the hotel.
Since 2018, the hotel's speakeasy bar, Charles H., has teamed up with local brewery Magpie Brewing Co. to create and serve its own craft beer.
Each year, a new type of draft beer is unveiled with unique names given for each, such as Newyorker, Distrito Federal and Coconut Grove. Since the Four Seasons' craft beer is only sold at the hotel bar, checking out and reviewing its latest edition has become popular among regular guests.
Another subscription-based service is the Glad Hotels and Resorts flower delivery, which began in 2021.
Partnering with local wedding flower shop the Saint, the hotel delivers fresh seasonal bouquets to customers' homes every other Wednesday.
At the start of each month, subscribers can choose from three color options for the types of flowers that would match their home. The “larger blooms” option, vase and flower scissors can be ordered separately upon request.
Meanwhile, Haevichi Hotel and Resort under Hyundai Motor Group has recently opened their top restaurants outside of the Jeju Island hotel.
Michael by Haevichi, an American restaurant, on Monday opened its third destination in Myeong-dong, followed by its other branches in Seoul's Jongno and Busan's Haeundae. Haevichi's Chinese and Japanese restaurants have also opened at the same Myeong-dong location to reach out to more people.
“Our restaurants will have the same operating philosophy and concept, and provide delicate services to meet with expectations of a luxury hotel located in the same building,” Haevichi Hotel and Resort's management team said.
The newly opened American, Chinese and Japanese restaurants are located in a 15-story complex that is shared with hotels Le Meridien Seoul Myeongdong and Moxy Seoul Myeongdong.