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.
Let’s talk a minute about what amenities are. In my lingo, they are the extra touches one adds to a B&B guest room to augment the guest experience. I’m including fireplaces, jetted tubs, soaps (along with various other hygiene items), snacks, adequate lighting, phones, TVs and VCRs, and even light bulbs. Now let’s talk about how amenities can be part of the B&B myth.
Some amenities are as much for guest comfort as for Inn advertising. Hence, don’t be stingy with them. Place a bar of soap in the shower and at the sink.
- Consider pump soap at the same places, giving guests options.
- Other hygiene items, like shampoo, conditioner, sun screen, lip balm, and nail files, can be arranged nicely for guest use and promotion of your hospitality.
- Private labeled bottled water, wine,and chocolates are examples of other items you can use to increase guest comfort and enjoyment while at the same time giving your B&B additional exposure.
I observe some innkeepers act as if these are expenses rather than promotion. Avoid the trap of looking cheap by skimping on the promotion amenities you choose to use. This helps put the word on the grapevine is that your hospitality is generous.
Other amenities are for the guests’ creature comforts. These are the things you do to augment the basics of your hospitality. These are the things that highlight your market niche and show your guests you understand their needs. The myth is that B&B inns are someone’s private home and the guest has to fit into and be part of that home situation. Here are some amenities that combat that myth:
- Snacks fill time and stomachs and can be a great opportunity for guests to interact with each other. Wine and cheese, or tea time, a cookie jar, dessert bars, or even just a community fruit bowl are worth considering for your guests because they say that you understand hunger and socializing are important to your guests.
- Bathrooms with deluxe features truly treat guests to pampering and/or romantic interludes. Providing jetted tubs or fireplaces in the guest room adds to the appeal a guest room holds. [Yellow Brick Road publishes a guest survey (one I highly recommend you buy) that shows these features not only raise the desirability of a room in the guests’ eyes but also will let the innkeeper charge more for that room.]
- Plush towels and robes provide quality in ways that other amenities can’t since these items wrap your guests in warmth and a tactile experience beyond food or tubs.
- Quality linens are as important as towels and robes since they create the sleeping cocoon for your guests.
- Do you have comfortable reading chairs? They allow a private recess for guests, letting them unwind from the day or research their activities for the evening or next day without being in the common areas, which they might not find as relaxing. I recently stayed in a B&B which had a pair of glider rockers in each guest room, with a table and reading lamp between them. It made the evening very cozy and comfortable for us as we rocked and read together.
- A reading lamp with strong enough bulb for comfortable reading is vital to this experience.
- Is a work area part of the guest experience you are offering? Then ample desks with desk chairs are important, and of course strong lighting. When catering the business travellers as part of your niche definition, in-room phone lines (at the very least) are a must. For the upscale business traveler, a high-speed Internet connection will help you compete with full-service hotels, where Ethernet hookups are becoming the norm.
- Private baths are in demand by the traveling public. I hear people say they don’t want to go to B&Bs because they don’t want a shared bath situation. If your market niche is for the upscale traveler then a private bath is not even an option for you, it’s a must. It’s vital to your business to make a clear statement about your bathroom situation so your guests can sort through the list of options easily.
- Have you considered in-room coffee pots with setups for coffee, tea, cocoa, cider? Perhaps hot water dispensers rather than a coffee pot so your guests can prepare a hot beverage at their convenience?
- Irons and ironing boards are easy to provide so your guests can rid their travel clothes of telltale wrinkles.
- In-room refrigerators are super. Where do guests put wine, juice, or restaurant leftovers if they don’t have a refrigerator? Where do you put cream, cheese, or fruit for your guests if there’s no in-room refrigerator?
- Then there’s the question of “entertainment machines” like TV, radio, CD player with CDs, and VCRs. Why not give your guests the option of what entertainment, diversion, or noise they want for themselves? All of these items are so easy, and getting more affordable by the day. The myth is that only upscale hotels offer most of these amenities. Breaking that myth can only help your bottom line.
And yet some amenities are so basic they shouldn’t be considered an amenity any more than the bed or door should be considered an amenity. The innkeeper myth is that this is your home that you are sharing with your guests; reality is that once you open your home to the public it’s not just a private home anymore. Another innkeeper myth is that guests don’t need ample light for reading. Wrong. Have you put 3-way light bulbs (greater than 60W capability) in lamps with 3-way switches? It’s a must for guest comfort when reading. It also allows you to set a quiet mood for the guests’ return when you do turn-down service.
- Installing door locks and security locks is critical for guest comfort and sense of security. Your comfort level with your home and community isn’t the issue; it’s the guests’ comfort that’s the issue. Initially a guest, not knowing your home and community, will feel safer if they can lock their door as they come and go from their room. Inevitably they will lose their discomfort as they grow to know your home, but they deserve to have the option of securing their room. (Adequate window coverings fit into this conversation too. You should allow your guests to darken their room or close curtains to create the atmosphere that makes them comfortable.)
- Full length mirrors are simple to provide and once again give the guest the chance to take care of themselves. This is your home but it’s also your hospitality business.
- Do you offer ample, fresh breakfasts? Do you concern yourself with your guests’ dietary restrictions and needs by asking if they need anything special from you? You will boost your image with your guests if you pay attention to those details, and possibly save yourself extra work and aggravation.
- Are wastebaskets in the bathroom and in the sleeping room, and by the desk if you have one? Make it easy for guests to dispose of waste products. If you don’t want “it” flushed down the toilet or left on the floor or desk top, place waste baskets where guests have easy access to them. “It” could be feminine hygiene products, used tissue, or even office paper.
- Placing tissues in various places of the room adds to guest comfort too; bathroom, bedside, and at the desk or reading chair are great locations for extra tissues!
The public has perceptions about what B&B inns offer, like shared or private baths, that affect their decision to become or stay B&B travelers. Amenities truly are part of your marketing plan; take care with them so you send the message you mean to. And make sure the message you send is one that will garner you more business with return and word-of-mouth guests.