Innkeeping is fraught with the potential of getting out of balance in life. One clue to not letting that happen is to block your time off away from the inn and not let anything interfere with that break. You owe it to yourself and your guests to be dedicated to refreshing yourself and refueling your soul. Another way is to set goals, in all areas of your life.
Sitting in my Nanjing hotel on a rainy day, during my third visit to China, I’m struck again by the realization that hospitality is not just the purview of “the hospitality industry” — bed and breakfasts, hotels, resorts, amusement parks, or restaurants. It’s also not culturally dependent, though culture plays a role in making others feel welcome, comfortable and at home. This is the third hotel in which I’ve stayed in as many months, and I have had a wide range of hospitality experiences.
A client recently emailed me a question about a “reservation calendar” for an eleven room inn. This is really a two-pronged question. There are reservation systems, and there are reservation calendars. I’m answering the reservation calendar question in this article.
Hospitality is the key to successful B&B innkeeping. And by hospitality I am referring to the art of making your guests feel happy, welcome and taken care of. Employees benefit from this same attitude. And your marketing is real with this habit of hospitality.
Your reservation procedure is vital to your business success. It’s part of your marketing plan too. We’ve all had reservation experiences; some have been great, and some are outstandingly bad. You can learn more from a bad experience than a good one (though I prefer good ones). Let the personal touch that’s the hallmark of B&Bs lead the way to your business success, starting with your reservation tactics.
The first steps you take toward green operations and green certification go together.
- start with expanding our attitude and knowledge
- baseline your existing usage of energy, water, waste and chemicals
- get staff, vendors and guests involved
- write your green/sustainability plan and policy
- track usage in action areas
- plan your marketing program, including not raising your rates just because you are “green”
- develop education programs for staff, vendor, guests and public
Should a bed and breakfast go through a green certification process or not? I can, and have, argued both sides of that question.
Several of my consulting jobs have revolved around the volatile subject of housekeeping. I’m combining several discussions about cleaning and housekeeping for this article.
Each consulting job I’ve had has taught me how differently everyone approaches their lodging business. You can be sure their approach to greening their properties is unique too. Let me share highlights of various consulting jobs I’ve had. This article covers greening the laundry room.
Consulting jobs always teach me something. And I love that. I guess that’s part of the reason I still consult; each job builds on the last and each subsequent client benefits from the previous ones. My last several consulting jobs have followed the same pattern, but with the economy as it is the situations have been more poignant than usual.
The pause of the potential guest after receiving requested information can be filled by the innkeeper responding to, or inquiring about, their needs. You should answer more than just the asked question — also answer the implied question. This is your first chance to illustrate your inn’s hospitality and style. Don’t blow this chance — you have spent so much money to create your inn’s atmosphere, to advertise your business; you have spent a lot of money getting the phone to ring so don’t waste or throw away that investment!
What is active voice writing and why is it important to you in your B&B business? According to Strunk and White in Elements of Style, active voice is more direct and vigorous than passive voice. To you, active voice means writing in the present tense.
Are you considering operating a restaurant in conjunction with your B&B Inn? If you are operating an isolated inn, it may be necessary to feed your guests, in the country inn style, more than just breakfast. If you are in an urban setting, extra food service not only isn’t necessary, but may be a financial burden because you would be competing with established local restaurants.
There are numerous personality type approaches. Myers-Briggs and DISC are two of the more well-known schools of thought. There are other ones too, like Color, Pattern, Power, VALS, Kingdomality, and of course the Zodiac, some of which innkeepers use exclusively in their hiring practices. Whatever it takes to get a grip on the different types of people who you will interact is good.
It’s an easy trap to fall into to think that running a bed and breakfast is a simple task, not much different from running a home. And with that thought it’s easy to overlook the need for a business approach and attitude about your business. Though there are many advantages of small businesses like B&Bs over large corporations, like Chrysler, there are lessons to be learned from “the big guys” to help make your business stronger. Start with a management plan.
As a manager of several inns I was hampered by the lack of an Operations Manual. Creating the Job Descriptions and Checklists at my first B&B job was as the closest we came to an Operations Manual there. It’s a good thing the owners had so many well-trained, loyal employees to help in case of emergency.
Your job as innkeeper is to keep the inn running smoothly. As the “manager” you have to oversee all tasks so you can’t get too entrenched, as it were, in any one shift task — the trenches. On the other hand, you must be comfortable with each shift task so that you can jump in and do the job if necessary, both so that you can train others to do that job, and so that you know if the job is being done right.
When I first started learning about innkeeping I was shown that the typical organizational structure was like a triangle. The boss is at the top, employees and vendors are in the middle and the clients are at the bottom; you know, it all flows down hill. But the innkeeping organizational structure was an inverted triangle, with the guests at the top and the innkeeper at the bottom. As I taught my early students about the innkeeping structure I realized that was one big reason innkeepers burned out so readily; they were trying to keep a top-heavy structure balanced and they had the weight of the world on their shoulders.
During the Greening of Hospitality Industry conference (GMIC) I attendend in Portland, OR, in February (2007), I was introduced to several high-end hotel properties that are stepping up to being environmentally sound hotels and adopting energy conservation as one of the actions they are taking to preserve the environment, and their budgets.
There are so many ways to save money in your bed and breakfast without hurting your customer service or hospitality. One goal of developing a hospitality business is to provide the maximum customer service and hospitality while not wasting money. Some money-saving approaches are also environmentally friendly. It’s time to give thought to implementing one in specific: a towel/sheet reuse program.
Part of owning and operating a successful business is knowing what your primary intent is, or your business focus. When the merchants along the main street of Boulder, Colorado, decided to create a pedestrian mall, they first discussed what their purpose was in forming a pedestrian mall. Initially they thought the focus was to create a merchandising center, but with further conversation they realized that they really were creating a place that was safe for people of all walks of life to come together and interact. Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall is one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the country because the merchants understood what they were creating, and have been faithful to that vision during its almost thirty years of existence. Similarly, a B&B inn’s purpose might not simply be “a lodging property,” but rather a place to provide a fun and safe time while at the inn.
Perspective on the industry changes with your longevity in the business. For those who’ve been around awhile now, you’ve seen tremendous changes in the business approach and the guest experience. What has changed and what has stayed the same? You may be surprised by my observations. Even more important, all of us will see lots of changes in the coming years. Having some perspective on the past will help you prepare for the future.
The ADA and Your B&B:
Removing Communication Barriers
Last month we reviewed how your inn needs to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding architectural barriers. The questions asked at the beginning of that article are just as relevant for communication barriers. Let me repeat them: Is your B&B inn ADA compliant? Do you have disabled people using your compliant guestroom(s)? Why do we have such requirements? How can you use this law to attract more guests?
The ADA and Your B&B:
Removing Architectural Barriers
Is your B&B inn ADA compliant? Do you have disabled guests using your accessible guestroom(s)? Do you have non-disabled guests using your accessible guestrooms? And enjoying the rooms? Why do we have such requirements? How can you use this law to attract more guests?
Have you ever wondered how clean “clean enough” is for your B&B inn? The answer to the question seems to be a highly personal one. Your question about cleanliness covers several areas of the inn, including laundry, housekeeping (common areas, guestrooms, bathrooms, and the kitchen), and even air quality.
The B&B industry is a wonderful community that I’ve been part of one way or another for almost 20 years. Through this community I have had first class mentors who have taught me hospitality, have had helpful brainstorming sessions to solve problems, have learned valuable business and marketing tips, made special friends, had sympathetic ears for venting to, and had supportive friends to crow my successes and awards to. As the industry has matured and the community has grown, there have been even more opportunities for these experiences. PAII had its first bi-annual B&B convention in Philadelphia in 1998, and the changes that have happened since then are exciting and invigorating.
I thought it might be interesting and valuable to follow a B&B project from the beginning, as a way of learning how to do a better job at starting a B&B. This is based on an inn I was involved with along the way, so have some insights to share.
In 1987 when the movie “The Princess Bride” came out, I fell in love with a phrase that was used throughout the movie — “as you wish”. I thought it would be wonderful to have people say “as you wish” to my every request. With time I came to realize that was also the perfect phrase for the hospitality industry, if not for every service business.
Last month I started this thread of thought about the “Seven Sins of Innkeeping”. It was spawned from a speech my husband gave several years ago. In review, the classic “Seven Sins” are avarice, lust, envy, pride, sloth, wrath, and gluttony. Last month I covered the first four “sins” in this list, so this month I’ll continue with the last three “sins” and introduce a “new” sin.
Several years ago my husband addressed an annual Mensa meeting, using the theme, the 7 Deadly Sins, for his speech. It was a humorous and well received talk and it planted a seed for this Innfo. As I folded my clean Seven-Sins t-shirt last week I decided it was time to write about how the Seven Sins relate to B&B innkeeping — for both aspiring and perspiring innkeepers.
Dispelling Myths: B&B Innkeeping is Easy
Inn occupancy is a point of conversation among innkeepers and a big question with inn buyers these days. One trend I had observed since 9/11 is that urban inns tended to be suffering a lower occupancy while many rural inns are seeing a stronger occupancy rate. Based on what I had learned in various hospitality and real estate conferences, that is what I expected to see. But for the past few months I’ve been observing conversations among innkeepers which indicate that trend hasn’t held across the board. Why? Lack of, or inconsistent, marketing is my conclusion.
In the last issue we talked about meeting minimum standards of inspections. This month, let’s talk about exceeding your inn’s standards. Your standards are: the style you intend to use in your business; what your guests look for as part of their experience at your inn; how you respond and react to your guests needs and comments. Exceeding your standards ensures you’ll be the best you can be. That is part of your formula for success.
It’s inspection time at your inn. Will you be ready mentally? Will your inn be ready? Let’s talk about getting you and the inn ready so you can make the most of the experience. My credentials for sharing this information are that I am a former innkeeper, an active guest, and a former B&B inspector. I understand this topic from all angles.
As I talk to Innkeepers, Aspiring Innkeepers, and B&B guests alike, I hear about the myths of the innkeeping business — misconceptions that can cut into your bottom line. This is the second in a series exploring some of these myths.
I’d say the largest category of “Myth” I see innkeepers and aspiring innkeepers fall into is the “Authentic B&B” Myth. By that I mean the innkeeper justifies a decision on doing business, designing the inn or furnishing the inn based on what “authentic” inns do/did.
In October, I travelled to Budapest, Hungary, to be initiated as a new member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants. This is a group of senior independent consultants, working in various and diverse areas of the hospitality field. The members work worldwide and represent countries in all corners of the globe.