Monthly Archive: April 2017

Not Just Breakfast: Using Food to Get More Business for Your Inn

Hotel Breakfast

Every B&B focuses on serving a great breakfast, of course, but could you leverage gastronomy to better market your inn? Whether or not they operate a full-service restaurant, many innkeepers have enjoyed success by using food to keep their guests coming back.

Promote Your Inn’s Cuisine

The obvious place to start is with your own in-house restaurant, if you have one. At Private Hotel + Pure Food in Ithaca, New York, Michael Casper draws on decades of experience as a chef to set an exacting standard for the food, décor and ambiance of his inn. Visitors to Ithaca — whether they come for the scenery, or to visit Ithaca College or Cornell University — enjoy beautiful accommodations in a bucolic setting, as well as extraordinary cuisine that consistently exceeds guest expectations.

Celeste Borel of L’Auberge Provençale in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley set out to attract younger foodies to her property by creating a separate website and marketing campaign for the inn’s restaurant, La Table Provençale. Both sites for the inn and restaurant feature lush photography meant to appeal to the target demographic.

Highlight Existing Local Food Attractions

What if you don’t have an in-house restaurant? Many innkeepers develop referral relationships, formal or informal, with superior local restaurants. If you can point visitors to a lovely place for dinner that’s just down the street, you’ll improve the overall quality of their stay. Even better, you might arrange a discount for your guests with the restaurateur, who will be happy to have a steady stream of diners referred from you.

Cast your net wider, to the food-themed attractions in your area. Angela Skiadas of the Greystone Manor B&B in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, has partnered with a local craft brewery to create a special package that includes a brewery tour. The inn and brewery have offered the package as a Living Social promotion and drew hundreds of younger adults to the area.

Borel went a step further and built a wine-tour business to complement L’Auberge Provençale; this attracted even more foodies from the D.C. area and beyond. “People love the fact that they are driven by a sommelier or wine director and not just a chauffeur,” she says. Additionally, the wineries involved are making more of an effort to promote the inn and the local wine dinners it hosts.

Create Your Own Food Attractions

Even if you’re not a chef and don’t have wineries or breweries in your area, you can still use food to draw people in. Some innkeepers offer cooking classes as a special activity to increase the appeal of their B&Bs. Nancy Douglas of Auberge de Seattle in Washington has spent years building up the French Specialty Cooking School she runs on the property of her inn; now it attracts more than 200 people per month. She says that her goal in creating the school was not only to bring in more revenue for the inn — which it has — but also to give visitors to the area an experience they will not forget.

Running a cooking school, like running a full restaurant, is a major endeavor. Maybe the easiest place to start is with great photos of food — of your own breakfasts or of food from local festivals — that you share via social media. That’s been one of the many ways that Elisse Goldstein-Clark (whom we profiled here) has attracted the attention of foodies who might like to stay at the Elkhorn Inn in West Virginia.

Clearly, putting a focus on food can help you earn more money from each guest. But it also gives people an excellent reason to become guests in the first place, and to refer their friends to you.

Lastly, make sure you have your inn equipped with all the necessary materials that will make your guests and clients’ stay a smooth experience such as having an iPad PoS or even a simple restaurant point of sale will do.

What can YOU do to increase the food appeal of your inn?

The Benefits of Moving to a Point-of-Sale (POS) System


Buying a point-of-sale (POS) system may seem like a hassle and an unnecessary expense, but if you look closer, you’ll find clear gains.

There are two main types of systems: for retail stores; and for restaurants and hotels, also known as the hospitality category. To understand the different requirements for the hospitality industry, read Tips on Buying POS for Restaurants.

The benefits of point-of-sale systems are:

  • Accuracy: Scanning is more accurate than punching in numbers from a sticker, or expecting the cashier to remember what each item costs.
  • Analysis: POS systems let you manage inventory, flag items for reorder, and analyze sales patterns.

A point-of-sale system is, at heart, a cash register — but because it’s based on a PC, it opens up a new world of data about your business.

A point-of-sale (POS) terminal can be networked to other terminals, and to a server in the back room or at another location. It can be expanded with handheld devices wirelessly linked to the main system. You can use it to can track a number of operations in useful ways and customize it as your needs change over time.

The main advantage of a computerized POS system over a cash box or a cash register is the sophisticated and detailed sales reports it provides. The software lets you analyze sales in different ways, such as by SKU (item sold), time periods, promotions, by store if you have more than one, or even by sales clerk. It will help your inventory manager buy in the right number of cartons of tissue paper with improved timing, and help your chef calculate how much cheese to order for the coming week, taking into account an upcoming holiday. It can also help reduce employee shrinkage.

But that’s only the start. Once your sales are computerized, you can plug that computer into a network, and the network into a back-office computer system that downloads results from all your registers, consolidating and monitoring the information in a variety of ways. If you bite the bullet and pay the costs, you can integrate all this into your accounting and inventory software systems.

Expect to pay anywhere from $3000 to $6000 per station, including software, scanners, printers, installation, training, and support, plus costs for integrating into your back-end system. (For an explanation of the hardware and software components of a POS system, read Understanding POS Components. But once you grow in size — as you approach a million dollars in annual sales, and especially as you add retail outlets or restaurant locations — computerized POS will not only pay for itself in improved efficiencies, it will become critical just to know what is going on.

The added and more immediate flow of detailed information about your sales will help you come up with better competitive ideas and then evaluate their effectiveness.

How to use social media for marketing your B&B

Many successful innkeepers, especially in out-of-the-way places, have used social media with great success for promoting their B&Bs. In this post, we lay out key principles for using social media effectively; in a separate post, we take you through some of the specifics of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social networks.

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B&B Marketer of the Year AwardBe Relevant

For social media to work well, it needs to be relevant — to your business and to your audience. When innkeepers ask “Which social networks should I use?” the real answer is “Where are the people you want to reach?” If your guests are foodies who love Pinterest, by all means get on Pinterest to share pictures of the great food you serve, and post recipes and photos on your blog and Facebook page as well.
By contrast, if you want to reach travel writers and other journalists who might cover your B&B or the tourist attractions in your area, you’re more likely to interact with them on Twitter. Fish where the fish are.

Be Timely

If you’re going to be on social media, be timely about it. That doesn’t mean you need to post on every single network every single day, but you should figure out the rhythm of the social networks that are relevant for your B&B and then invest the time to keep up with them. Elisse Goldstein-Clark of the Elkhorn Inn in West Virginia, who has used social media extensively to promote her rural B&B, emphasizes the importance of timely posts: “Using social media effectively means constantly — ‘You’re only as good as your last post’ is no lie!”
If you’re not going to keep a live presence on a given network, you’d be better served not to use it at all. You don’t want someone to visit, say, your Instagram account and see that you’ve posted only three pictures, with the most recent one coming two years ago.

Be Engaging

The biggest reason to be timely is so that you can be genuinely engaging with people who might take an interest in your B&B. If someone posts a comment or asks a question on your Facebook page, it makes for a bad conversation if you take a week to reply to them.
As for how to engage: you want to spend your time talking with people about their interests, not broadcasting at them about your inn and your area. Remember that, while it is “media,” it must be truly social to be effective and welcoming for your potential guests.

Be Helpful

Like other innkeepers who have used social media effectively, Goldstein-Clark emphasizes the importance of being genuinely helpful. Even when she’s promoting her inn, she says, she’s “always giving something of value, such as photos or event information or recipes.” It’s no different than any other social setting: if you’re always talking only about yourself or asking for business, people will think of you as selfish. If, instead, you aim to provide them with useful information that will help them have a great trip, they’ll like you better.

Be Methodical

If you want to have success with social media, you have to keep at it. You can build a meaningful presence online using the social networks that are right for your inn, but not if your participation in those networks is haphazard. Social media need not take over your life, but you should make it a regular part of your work. Consistently dedicating 10 or 15 minutes at a time, a few times per day, can make a huge difference in how effective social media is for you.

Measure, Learn, and Adapt

Social media is constantly evolving, and platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have made it easy for small businesses to analyze their traffic and the impact of any advertising they run there. As with anything else in your business, it makes sense to experiment with different approaches on social media, measure the impact of your efforts, and then continue to pursue the parts that work best for your inn.

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First Timer’s Guide to Bed and Breakfast Etiquette

Warm, personalized service and mingling among guests are part of the appeal of bed and breakfasts. But hospitality goes both ways. Depending on the property, you might be staying in someone’s private home, sharing common rooms, or dining with fellow travelers. At B&Bs, as in life, communication and common courtesy are key.

We asked some innkeepers for advice on basic B&B etiquette. If it’s your first time at a B&B, the following simple tips will help you have a smooth, relaxing stay. Here’s everything you need to know about being the best guest ever.

What are some things that guests should tell hosts in advance?

Many B&Bs offer services and amenities specially tailored to the needs of individual guests. But because policies can vary from inn to inn, it’s crucial to communicate your needs and expectations before your stay.

Tell your hosts about any dietary restrictions, food allergies, room preferences, and special requests you might have. If you have physical limitations, ask if your room is handicap-accessible. When traveling with kids, make sure your B&B is child-friendly. You may want to disclose your arrival and departure times too, especially at smaller properties where innkeepers personally welcome arriving guests.

Do I have to eat breakfast with other guests?

A home-cooked breakfast shared with fellow travelers is a much-loved perk of the B&B experience. It may seem like breakfast is a must—after all, it’s usually included in the price of your stay—but the reality is a lot more flexible. If you want to try a local restaurant, or if you’d like to skip breakfast and sleep until noon (a wonderful idea), go for it. It’s your vacation, and innkeepers understand that.

Is it rude to take breakfast to go or to eat breakfast in my room?

It depends on the property, but many B&B owners are happy to accommodate guests who’d like to grab breakfast and go. For example, at Snow Goose Bed and Breakfast in Keene Valley, New York, the innkeepers are happy to pack a healthy to-go breakfast for guests hoping to hike the Adirondacks trail routes the morning. Not all inns and B&Bs offer takeaway breakfast, of course, so get in touch with your innkeepers first.

What if I’m late for check-in?

Flights get delayed. Traffic jams happen. Busses break down. Innkeepers are well aware of the uncertainties of travel. It’s okay if you’re late for check-in, but the important thing is to touch base with your hosts when there’s a change in plans.

May I bring my pet?

Each B&B has its own rules about pets. Some are perfect for them, while others are strictly humans-only. If you’re traveling with a four-footed companion or two, ask your inn about its pet policy before you book.

Any advice for conversation topics around the breakfast table?

According to Eric Huenneke, owner of Prospect Place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “Part of the adventure with breakfast conversation is to see what happens with the combination of guests.” Have fun getting to know your fellow travelers—you never know what you might learn. A few of the innkeepers we talked to advised staying away from religion and politics as early-morning conversation topics with strangers.

May I ask my hosts for trip-planning advice or ideas on what to see in the area?

One of the best B&B benefits is the personalized travel advice on offer from extremely knowledgeable innkeepers. Few people know their home base better than B&B owners, and they can provide an insider’s know-how combined with years of experience helping travelers explore their surroundings.

—written by Caroline Costello

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