Grinnell Thanksgiving Traditions

The Hotel Grinnell, with its old school roots and modern flair, is home-away-from-home for hundreds of students who can't make it home for the holidays.

Carolyn Cooper
November 21, 2019
Hotel Guest Service
Hotel Guest Messaging
Hospitality Highlight

When the colors of the leaves change and the air becomes crisp, Hotel Grinnell begins to plan their annual Thanksgiving Feast. A boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Grinnell, Iowa, Hotel Grinnell brings together the small-town community by supporting local businesses and giving students and families of nearby Grinnell College a "home away from home." Amelia Nickle, Development Manager, describes the purpose of her hotel as "creating vibrancy in the town of Grinnell." The other hotels in town are more than 2 miles outside of downtown, near the interstate. Hotel Grinnell prides itself on standing with other small businesses to keep Grinnell vibrant as it supports parents, students, and other community members. Hotel Grinnell creates a space in which visitors can experience authentic community and create long-lasting relationships.  

For many students attending Grinnell College, Thanksgiving marks the first extended visit home of the year and spending time with families and loved ones. After several parents inquired about local areas to celebrate the holiday, Hotel Grinnell decided to provide a space for families and students who weren't able to spend Thanksgiving at home. Nickel explained how support quickly grew behind a Hotel Grinnell Thanksgiving celebration, saying "Soon we had planned an elaborate homemade dinner and then an alumnus of Grinnell College generously offered to pay for the meals of any student who could not make it home for the holiday."

With funding secured and a plan in place, it came time to spread the word. Staff at the hotel reached out to the community through the college newsletter, leaving their Kipsu phone number for students to text their reservations for the dinner. Soon the reservation texts began flying in, with more than 200 students reserving a spot.

On the big day, warm aromas of home-cooked food filled the halls of Hotel Grinnell. The kitchen prepared all the classics—honey baked hams, green bean casserole, acorn filled squash, apple crisp, and creme brûlée. Nickle said "My family and a couple of other staff members' families all came to help so we could spend the day together."

"My own family and a couple of other staff members' families came to help, so we could all spend the day together."

- Amelia Nickle, Development Manager

"Our mantra 'surprise and delight' helps us focus on accommodating all students and guests," explained Nickle. The community building that comes with life in a college town allows staff at Hotel Grinnell to develop relationships with students and family over the four years students attend school. Nickle explained that "a couple of parents from the new group of freshmen students from Grinnell College came in and told me that this hotel was the reason their kid and family agreed that Grinnell was a great place to attend. Not only because [the hotel] was a comfortable place for parents to stay, but also that they were not going to push their kid to attend Grinnell College if they had to stay in budget hotels when visiting." After hosting the Thanksgiving dinner for students and their families, several parents reached out to the staff to thank them for making their students feel at home.

Nickle describes the goal for Hotel Grinnell as "accommodating our guests and their needs to help them stay close and be with family on Thanksgiving, instead of making them travel an hour in either direction to find a Thanksgiving meal." After hosting such a gracious dinner, many parents reached out to the hotel through text to thank them for making their kids feel at home when they couldn't be there.

Now a Kipsu partner for two years, Hotel Grinnell is constantly finding ways to engage with guests and community members through text and digital messaging. "The loyalty we have created with our guests, especially the parents of students that attend Grinnell College, is the reason we were so eager to support them on Thanksgiving," said Nickle. Hotel Grinnell continues to find a way to accommodate and support their guests through building and expanding their relationships with guests through messaging.

Curious about Kipsu? Learn more about how text messaging can enhance your property’s guest experience.

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