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?

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