'Tis the season for expensive cakes and really fancy takeout
December is a month of excitement as people plan Christmas parties and gatherings with families and friends. Things are a little different this year as the prolonged coronavirus pandemic forces people to stay home and splurge on cakes and takeout food to try and trap some Christmas spirit.
High-end hotels and dessert companies are scrambling to pull in customers with luxurious Christmas-themed cakes and food packages.
Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas, located at the center of southern Seoul's Gangnam District, is offering three luxurious Christmas cakes that are only available in December. The three cakes are all winter-themed and cost 68,000 won ($62) each.
According to the five-star hotel, sales of Christmas cakes this year have already jumped up 50 percent between Dec. 1 and Dec. 16, compared to the same period last year.
The five-star hotel also offers “Holiday To Go” packages targeting people who want to eat hotel food at their homes. Three dishes are available in the package — turkey, BBQ pork ribs and Virginia ham — and each comes with 11 side dishes. They will be offered in a takeout container that can keep the food warm for at least an hour.
Planning a party at home is a complicated process and the hotel strives to cash in, hoping people will pay to have all the hard work done for them. The “Home Party Pack” includes two bottles of wine, cake, salad, chocolate, and chandelier candles for those who wish to decorate their homes just like a hotel restaurant.
“We’ve been offering dosirak [lunch box] service along with drive-thru services to our customers since the Covid-19 outbreak started, and it is actually getting good feedback,” said a spokesperson for Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas. “As the demand for takeout service is likely to increase further due to the pandemic, we’ve been focusing on developing related products such as the Holiday To Go Pack and Home Party Pack.”
Lotte Hotel also offers eight Christmas-themed cakes from its bakery Delica-Hans. The Christmas cake lineup includes chocolate cake Noel, shaped like a yule log, and the Black Forest cake, decorated with a tree and rabbit-shaped chocolates. The two cakes cost 53,000 won and 62,000 won respectively.
Lotte Hotel said it had received orders for the cakes since the end of last month, and the rate has jumped up 30 percent so far compared to the same period a year earlier.
The hotel is also offering its version of a take-home Christmas dinner, dubbed "Holiday Gala at Home." The package allows people to enjoy a five-course meal with a starter, soup, seafood, steak, and dessert.
“As 'untact' ways of offering food gained popularity, and it seemed like demand has been growing continuously, we strengthened our lineup [with cake and the takeout service] targeting people who are planning Christmas parties," said a spokesperson for Lotte Hotel.
Luxury is not the only focus this year — hotels are also trying to stand out by being unique.
Kensington Hotel Yeouido has rolled out four different Christmas cakes this year priced between 39,900 won and 79,900 won. One of the most popular cakes, the Santa Ball Cake, looks like a big red ball until it's cut, revealing fresh strawberries inside.
“Our sales of Christmas-themed cakes so far have soared more than 20 percent compared to the same period a year ago,” a spokesperson for Kensington Hotels & Resorts said. “It’s maybe because of the unique design of the cakes that have been gaining interest from customers who are planning a party for Christmas.”
The hotel also strengthened its takeout service called “Chef’s Dosirak Set.” A total of three main dishes are available as part of the service: Chili shrimp fried rice with crab meat soup, a sashimi package consisting of salmon, abalone and halibut and a barbeque set including roasted meats and sweet pumpkin soup.
While five-star hotels are mainly targeting the fancy dinner party crowd, dessert companies are focused on children instead.
Paris Baguette has introduced various cakes and treats which feature characters that are popular among children, such as Pengsoo — a penguin character from the Korea Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) — Pororo, Rupi and Secret Jouju.
The number of advance reservation orders has shot up 60 percent this year compared to last year.
Baskin Robbins has also released 24 different Christmas-themed ice cream cakes in cooperation with famous cartoon character Wally.
Department stores are also hoping to cash in on strengthening the product lineups of Christmas decorations.
Lotte Department Store has opened a Christmas Market selling luxurious tableware and home decorations until Dec. 20. The market offers premium tableware from Germany-based Villeroy & Boch, as well as Christmas trees from France-based home fashion brand Sia.
Limited-edition wine is also being offered. In cooperation with California-based Clos Du Val Winery, it introduced a premium wine made from high-quality grapes from vineyards owned by Clos Du Val, according to the company. It costs 265,000 won.
"We came up with various party products and decorations as demand for tableware and home decoration products has been continuously growing amid the coronavirus pandemic," said Oh Sae-eun, head of the home appliance team at Lotte Department Store.
Hyundai Department Store is also catching up by strengthening its lineup of Christmas decorations. Ahead of the festive season, it newly introduced some 30 Christmas-related products such as trees and ornaments.
According to the department store, its sales of home decoration products during the Dec. 1 to Dec. 16 period shot up 53.1 percent on year.
BY CHEA SARAH [firstname.lastname@example.org]