Courtesy of the Bureau County Republican
Thursday, September 20, 2012
The “inns” and “outs” of innkeeping: Playing the Amenity Game
The most requested amenity made by potential guests calling to inquire about reservations for any bed and breakfast is also the one that gets the least amount of use. Can you figure out what it might be? If you said Jacuzzi tub, you’d be correct. Everyone thinks it would be great to have one, but when push comes to shove, they end up not using it. We of course have antique ceramic tubs from the 1920’s that we would never replace because of their historical value, so that amenity in our case is “out.” So what’s “inn”? Read on.
The amenities game is a big question mark in the bed and breakfast industry. If you were to look at a list of every possible configuration of amenities you could offer the list would boggle your mind (and put you “out” of business). No one inn could ever offer them all so each innkeeper must decide what fits the identity of their inns and their personalities. What are you selling? It is a marketing game that you have to constantly play with in order to maximize appeal.
We decided early on that our primary amenities would revolve around our identity as a “foodies bed and breakfast.” These included home baked goodies, chocolates in all the rooms, beverages including a gourmet assortment of loose leaf teas, full hot breakfast and of course our four-course fixed price dinners. In addition we felt that enjoying a nice glass of wine or a beer with a meal was important to creating a gourmet ambiance so we bit the bullet and got a liquor license which most bed and breakfasts do not have.
In addition to the “foodie” theme, we also had a few specific items we knew we needed to focus on as far as amenities go. First off, why do so many hotels, even high end ones, skimp on the quality of the toilet paper they use? It may sound bizarre to say, but Jeff and I felt that it was important to have nice toilet paper and not that single ply stuff that feels like sandpaper. And believe it or not, guests notice. We have had many comments on it.
Second, and perhaps one of the most important amenities because it is in the name of our business, is the bed. We actually spent several hours with a mattress expert going over the pros and cons of beds and trying to identify what kind would be ideal across the board for everyone. We ended up deciding upon a Simmons Beautyrest single coil mattresses as opposed to the Tempurpedic mattresses because the Tempurpedics tend to sleep hot and that can make things uncomfortable for some.
The third important amenity to consider was the bedding. You can have a great mattress but if the bedding isn’t soft and the pillows aren’t plush, it won’t matter a bit. It took us a long time to find the sheets we love which are soft and wash well and we recently upgraded all our pillows to those “My Pillow” pillows you see on TV. Yes, they work. A couple of additional items we like to have in our rooms include signature toiletries, robes and bottles of water.
This next amenity is more about our personalities than anything else, but we decided that media was something we wanted to focus on. Business clients must have Wi-FI and most men won’t go to a bed and breakfast if there is no television available. That being said, we ended up getting satellite TV and put VCR/DVD combos in all the rooms along with a list of approximately 1000 movie titles they can choose from to watch while they are here. Jeff and I are huge movie buffs so honestly, it was an excuse for us to get a bunch of movies under the guise of an amenity for the inn.
Finally, it was important for us to maintain nice gardens, including a vegetable and herb garden that guests could enjoy. We keep our patio manicured and lush looking so guests can sit outside with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. We will never, however, get a pool or a Jacuzzi tub because of the potential liability involved with the combination of a liquor license and drowning.
The bottom line is that if you are planning a trip to a bed and breakfast, you should decide what specific amenities are important to you and then do your homework before deciding upon a property. All of them have websites and they generally outline clearly what they do and do not offer so you can make an educated decision as to what fits you perfectly.
Courtesy of the Bureau County Republican