It seems that Guests often chose to stay at a B&B over a hotel for a special occasion, for much needed relaxation or perhaps for something like reconnecting with each other. Since it is usually planned for something more than for just an overnight stay, I have been surprised by how some people spend so little effort on planning once the decision has been made to make a reservation. It is extremely important to us that everyone is happy with their experience, and that is the reason that I decided to write this blog. The tips are very simple and some seem obvious. But since they are often missed I hope readers find it helpful!
- RESEARCH THE PRODUCT. On the first page of our web site, I have conveyed what we are not. Because if the Guest booking with us wants a typical Virginia bed & breakfast, they are going to be gravely disappointed. Although it seldom happens because most people find out about us from friends, I have told Guests that we are not the best fit for them over the phone just by listening to their wants for the stay. More often than not, they have thanked me for my honesty and hopefully they understand that it is more for their benefit than ours.
- READ! Read the policies. Read your confirmation and check the dates and important details. If the B&B is pro-active in sending out a reminder e-mail, at a minimum read the information on this, as it probably contains what people miss the most. And along with this, if there is something you don’t understand or you are uncertain about, ask questions before your stay. I don’t know a single innkeeper who wouldn’t be happy to talk to you about your stay. In general, we are all in the people business and a lot of us love to talk! I have had Guests show up on the wrong date, I have had Guests thinking they booked a different room, I have had Guests expect all kinds of things that could have been alleviated if they had taken the time to read the confirmation.
- B&B = bed and breakfast. Know the difference between a bed & breakfast and a hotel, and make sure you are okay with it. To me, it is undoubtedly the better way to stay, but on rare occasion I have come across the person who was probably better off staying at a hotel. In our case, we run the business as a family, and with love. We feel like we are welcoming you into our home, and we now have so many Guests who have become like family, with some we get to see as often as every month! Understand that your innkeeper, depending on the size, probably wears many hats. It is because of this unique job description, that I feel I am able to deliver excellent service. But for the Guest who is accustomed to the bellman following them with their luggage, they may find it inconvenient that I wasn’t able to get their suit case because I was checking in another Guest and maybe Mom happened to pick up the phone so she couldn’t help with the bags either, (I try to whenever possible, by the way). The old connotation of a B&B has been grumpy old people opening their smelly home with lots of rules. B&B’s have come a long way, are run by all age groups and many cater to the millennial generation. Some, such as ours have a unique niche and are all about providing an experience, and not just a place to stay. In fact, if people call me off of the highway looking for accommodations, I do my best to discourage them, as we are about providing a unique cultural memory and not just lodging. Most do have some rules, probably more than a hotel would, but they are most likely there for a good reason. Your experience may be enhanced because you go along with it. For example, we have our Guests chose the time that they want to have breakfast. Unlike a hotel where you may get a buffet style continental breakfast, we are making your (salmon) to order. If you let us know you are coming to breakfast at 9:00 and you decide to show up at 10:00, the quality of your meal may not be so great. See the salmon on this plate? I want it to be moist when you bite into it!
- BE UPFRONT. I’m not going to think you are high maintenance. I will have a clear understanding about your expectations, and therefore I will be able to deliver what you want. Communication is key! Because people are not upfront, I now ask about dietary restrictions during the reservation process. We always want to deliver, but there may be times that we know we will not be able to, and it’s best to know this before the commitment of your reservation has been made. I’ll never forget something that happened last year…it was 7:30 and our Guests had not yet arrived. So I called, and they said they were running late. As Chef immediately runs to put the first course back into refrigeration, the Guest tells me, “By the way, I cannot eat any grains or anything in the grain family, no gluten, no soy, no beans, no eggs, no soy, no sugar.” I politely responded, “We will do our best.” But my heart was sinking as I took this list of things that the Guest cannot eat to the Chef for the meal he had already planned out and prepped most of. As I witnessed him struggle to get through the rest of the meal service, the Guest explained to me that it was not a medical condition, but a special diet she decided to start, and I realized that once again, they think we are like a restaurant or a hotel, and not a B&B. Most hotels are serving more than ten people at a meal service, are able to offer a menu with choices and have a kitchen staff. With a B&B as small and as remote as ours, we may not be able to make last minute changes, and so if you go back to tip number one and read your confirmation where it asks for dietary restrictions again, just respond to the request. It will make your stay so much better!
- PLAN AHEAD. There’s a lot to be said for being spontaneous and some of your agenda may be contingent on the weather, but even just one action of advanced inquiry may behoove you. I cannot get massage therapists here at the last minute because we are not a spa. Again, this predicament is avoided by reading, but I know most people don’t read the confirmation. I can’t tell you how many Guests try to book a massage after they arrive, and most of them are disappointed because it is too late.
I won’t list it as a tip, but can we try to be positive? It seems that when staying at a B&B, since many people don’t know what to expect, they are overwhelmed with their pre-conceived expectations and sometimes emotions get in the way. It’s as if the stay is a Wedding! If the internet isn’t working, breathe and take a walk. If we underestimated the coffee we need and we are out, try a green tea for a change and know that fresh coffee is on its way! Maybe you are there for your anniversary, maybe you are there to spend quality time with your loved one, maybe you are there on your own and you are reconnecting with yourself. If you sweat the small stuff, you will lose sight of why you booked the B&B to begin with. I often speak with people on the phone that seem abrasive but I assume that they are stressed in their lives. One of the biggest rewards of this job is seeing a different person leave on a Sunday, the one that is smiling and relaxed, than the anxious one I met on Friday. Ah, job accomplished!