Restore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You for Innkeepers

Stone Bench by a lakeRestore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You = READY

I was talking to one of my innkeeper friends this morning and she said, “It’s funny, we are very depressed because no bookings and everyone has canceled on us for the next few months, not sure how we are going to make it”, but on the bright side, and that I could relate having worked in restaurants for 20 years, this is the first time in 4 years they have had a weekend off.

We ended up talking for a while early this morning and she asked if I could come up with a list of suggestions, not just marketing, but some marketing direction as well as other thoughts, of some things innkeepers could do to be proactive in this very unexpected downtime. 

So here goes…….

Are you READY?

In popular Prepper jargon, we have reached S.H.T.F. status (S.H.T.F: Sh*t hits the fan (alternate: stuff hits the fan)) for the innkeeping industry. 

I would prefer to think of this as W.A.A.I.T.T. (We are all in this together and “wait” as in this to shall pass). 

Well, what to do in downtime? Back in 2012, I had written, Why it pays to sleep around for bed and breakfast owners,  I bring this up because I had wanted to do a follow-up article late last year about a place I had stayed at that was top notch but having the owners/innkeepers/management stay in each room would have taken it up even one more notch. 

Needless to say, it’s one of several hundred blog posts started and life (as an innkeeper you can relate) and work got in the way of writing it fully. But every property can up their game a bit.

Now: Step One, Take a vacation in your own inn, but use it to fix things, observe things, make them better…..

While your inn is either closed to the public or does not have reservations I would challenge innkeepers to pack their bags for a two-night minimum stay including incidentals, i.e. your big bottle of shampoo and can of shaving cream, go ahead and pack it so you are not using the in-room amenities, but also because it’s not like TSA is going to nab you for bringing anything over 3.4 oz. ?

Pack as if you were going on vacation and also as if you were going on a business trip, cell phones, cords, laptops, the works.

With one prerequisite, you need a notepad in the loo and a notepad in the main bedroom and any other rooms (example a suite with sitting area) with writing utensils, and no it’s not in case you run out of toilet paper. ?

Unpack or get comfortable just like you would if going to stay at another B&B. Then observe, REALLY observe. See those small ding marks on the baseboards? You’ve cleaned and dusted them a million times and noticed them but not “really” noticed them, fix it now. 

This is what the notepaper is for, make notes if you can’t fix something right at that very moment and make sure you get back to it and do it this time.

In the bathroom is there room for your makeup case and your partner’s knickknacks on the sink and or shelf? Is the lighting really “that” good? 

When you take a shower, can you reach the towel rack easily and is there a place to hang it to dry that works?

I’ve lost track of places that have hooks galore in the bathroom but oddly enough there seems to be some sort of magnetic polarity between the hook and towel as they never seem to want to stick together…… Make notes, now is the time to move that rack, etc.

Breakfast time. Go make breakfast as if you would for guests, then go BE the guest, sit at every seat and every table and eat and observe.

If you have a purse, bring it, is there a place to put it or can you hang it on a chair? If you are going to go out right after, bring your coat, is there room between chair and next chair to put it comfortably? And observe, observe, observe. 

This reminds me of a friend who had an inn up here in NH, she had glowing reviews but very occasionally an odd one, not bad just a little odd. We did the dining room flow test (i.e. how people move around and spatial distance between tables and chairs to walk as well as check sightlines, one table of two had a viewpoint from a guest’s perspective right into the little bathroom that adjoined the dining room. What do you see? Test every chair and every point of view.

Wait…..before you take a bite of the food you made, whip out your cell phone and take a slew of photos, be one of those obnoxious Instagrammers.

And make a note, is the lighting good enough for decent photos? If not, what can you do to fix? Bonus, now you have extra photos for marketing……..Food Photography Tips for Bed and Breakfasts might be helpful if you want to up the visual game a bit.

Now go clean up…….or don’t, remember you ARE supposed to be on vacation so do it later. Make it a working vacation. Go take a walk around your neighborhood. I don’t know how many innkeepers I’ve talked to that either have never actually walked to what is around them for a several mile radius or they go out and they walk, but just to walk, i.e. go out and get exercise, but don’t actually take a lot of notice of what is around them.

Take your phone with a full charge and go and take A LOT of pictures, make some notes, actually see and observe the lovely things locally to you that you probably never noticed before. The hidden springhouse covered by wisteria, the small park bench hidden behind the bushes. That great little antique shop (now closed because of the crisis but will reopen) but you never knew or noticed because they don’t have a presence online. Take MORE pictures and don’t forget to wave to your neighbors and share a smile.

Go back to the inn, rinse, repeat for a few days.

Now do a deep clean of the room, wash all linens and suggest bagging them in plastic until the next usage. Document document, document the cleaning of the room so when we get through this and reopen, A. you are all set to go and B. You have proof (take some pictures too) that the room has been deep cleaned and sanitized and that you, the innkeeper were the last person to stay in it.

Now go on vacation in another room, rinse, repeat.

And do some of these other things while you have some downtime in between having weekends off for the first time since you became an innkeeper. I say that tongue in cheek, but I reference what my friend the innkeeper said to me at the start of this post….


  • Work on a cookbook.


  • Do some videos, do A LOT of videos, small 1-2 minute clips, virtual tours are good, do a video walkthrough of your inn with commentary or some videos of the area, with commentary. Learn how to leverage Youtube. A great resource for learning Youtube is Youtube Creator Academy, it’s free and it’s super helpful. 


  • Test some new recipes out, take LOTS of pictures. If you don’t have the ingredients or don’t want to use up food, hey you have to eat anyway, but if you don’t want to experiment now, go research some new ones to try when you are back up and with guests again.

I love to find new recipes or at least in my case, some ideas from:

And many more, both Taste Cooking and Epicurious have great email newsletters with recipe suggestions.

  • Create a marketing plan for the rest of the year and start compiling content and pictures. We hopefully will be over this by midsummer or hopefully sooner, what holiday can you target and get pre-prepared for right now?  

One of the biggest complaints I hear from innkeepers when talking about planning their marketing and social media, is “we don’t have time”. You do now, take advantage of it!

How to Write a Social Media Strategic Plan for Bed and Breakfasts and Planning Ahead for Your Bed and Breakfast Promotions might be helpful.


  • While restaurants and other businesses may be closed or operating in a limited capacity, now is the time to make those good relationships and network, pick up the phone, learn a new skill and try video conferencing. Making those valuable connections and do some deals so that when everything picks back up, your inn and the businesses you and your guests engage with are all ready to rumble.


  • Do a deep clean of the inn, and I know some innkeepers are not able to find cleaning supplies, do some outreach to a local restaurant who may be closed or operating in a limited way, do they have some cleaning supplier (or even food if needed) they want to barter or sell?


  • Put a plan in place for if this happens again or something like it. While it’s too late to get business interruption insurance, for example, investigate who offers it and rates and be prepared. 



  • Take some time and educate yourself so you can better help your business and be more informed and less likely to be snowed by an unscrupulous company Google Analytics Academy for instance is free.


And most of all, while we are all supposed to be practicing social distancing, it doesn’t mean you have to practice social isolation. Reconnect with some old friends online, make some new. Start some virtual networking meetings. An innkeeper told me they are now doing virtual tea parties as well as virtual happy hours, sounds like fun to me!

Coronavirus, threat or opportunity for the B&B Industry?

Image of a SWOT analysisThreat or Opportunity? I’d say a bit of both. People are scared. I’ll admit I am one of those people that has that nagging feeling in the back of my skull going, “pay attention, pay attention!” and I admit we are prepared to go for several weeks if under self (or otherwise) quarantine if need be. But we prepared for that in advance because we have been through situations like being out of power for more than a week in below zero temperatures several times among other life events. It only takes one life learning lesson to forever be ready for this.


Families and businesses need to think about these things, up here in New Hampshire, while we are less likely to have a major earthquake (it could happen) we could have floods, we could have forest fires if we have another severe dry season. A business needs to be prepared. I won’t parrot the hundreds of websites telling you what you should have to stock up on because Google is your best buddy for that, please don’t go and buy up all the toilet paper in the store, others need it to (bonus for innkeepers though you probably already have a pretty good backstock) but regardless of whether the virus scare affects your property or not, this is a good reminder that you should have those supplies in place anyway.


The virus scare if you think about it, isn’t any different from a major tornado, flood, hurricane or earthquake affecting a property. A bit better actually, any of those listed can result in a loss not just of business revenue but of a property itself. At least this is just lost revenue, your property could have washed away in a flood…… Not to make light of this but to put it into perspective.


I think lodging facilities have some opportunities here that they should take advantage of.


One is educating the public about how a B&B is also your home, you as owners/occupiers/innkeepers are good about sanitation over and above a hotel or motel or Airbnb anyway in a normal situation. I’d much rather stay at B&B normally anyway but especially right now rather than a hotel not just by choice but because I’m pretty sure it’s a heck of a lot more sanitary then your average hotel is at the moment.


Two, yes revenue may and probably will go down for the next few months as travelers are canceling vacations and business trips, but this presents a unique opportunity to capture eyeballs online. If I had to self-quarantine and I could not work at home for whatever reason, I will be in the category of what are most people going to be doing and spending time on if stuck at home or elsewhere? On Social Media of course.


The average innkeeper does not have a ton of time to leverage social media because they are working 24/7, think of this as mud season in New England, it’s the slow time of year when you can get caught up with things. Funny enough and lucky enough at least for New Englanders its almost mud season, so the timing could be a lot worse.


Use this opportunity to start pre-writing posts, take more pictures of your breakfast and your property and planning out some marketing for the rest of the year. When and I will stick with “when” everything is sorted out, people will want to get out and resume normal activities, including putting those vacation plans that got canceled back into consideration. Getting in front of their eyeballs when they are literally a captive audience is a great opportunity.


If you don’t know how to use a social media platform, Google is your friend, but so are the channels themselves, there are so many free resources out there to help a business owner better leverage themselves online. Take the opportunity to educate yourself a bit more instead of letting stress overwhelm you, as that doesn’t accomplish anything (aside from weakening your immune system) so one more reason to keep yourself occupied. Again not trying to make light of the situation but being realistic.


So what happens if it doesn’t blow over, what if we have a major pandemic? I don’t know, no one can know but isn’t it better to be proactive for when it does blow over rather than saying if it doesn’t?


There has been a lot of articles reiterating the same thing, wash your hands, sanitize, etc, yes please do all of those but not many articles out there as yet with actual good suggestions on how and what to do to weather this situation. Here are two recent ones of note that I would suggest a read through though because I think they had some good ideas for innkeepers to take note of:


How Can Hotels Survive the Coronavirus? Some good advice if your property is concerned: Six lessons emerge. All of her touchpoints are important but I think Be wary of broad-scale discounting and Don’t cut your marketing budget (and I’ll add to this, even if you are not spending money, the marketing budget is your own time, it’s ROTI, Return on Time Investment, boost that, not cut it) are two things to take special note of.


Does Your Property Have A Coronavirus Strategy? Is another suggested read. Of note here (and he also recommends staying away from the deep discounting) Mandate a “single voice policy” for all employees and departments (yourself) and Provide honest and up-to-date information regarding the situation in the hotel location/destination are both important for a property to note.


ALP has published several blog posts with resources and we will continue to keep it updated with new articles and resources as well.

What else can you do in the interim, I personally love the Beechmere Inn’s approach to this, educating their guests about what the facility is doing to help protect guests, but I also had a question raised by an innkeeper client of mine, “Well what happens if you still have a guest catch the virus (at your inn) or a guest infects others?” Will I get sued?” “Americans are so sue happy, what do you think?”. I’ll be honest I don’t know if someone came to stay at an inn and they were sick with any kind of issue and infected others the impetuous should be on them, but I am not a lawyer.


If you did everything you could to protect guests you did all you could. I’ll take a recent example of the first case diagnosed in New Hampshire for this. The person was told to stay home, he did not and went out and went to a private event and infected at least one if not more (news developing apparently) people, the facility this happened at is handling this well and being proactive. But that kind of thing is just stupidity at its finest and you can only do what you can do.


I don’t believe in fear-mongering and I don’t think it helps if innkeepers are posting all over the place about this, but I don’t think it hurts to help educate guests now and in the future about the safety of your facility, it can be done in a polite and in a no scare tactic way manner.


When life goes back to normal, people are probably still going to stay fairly local, so if you have not yet invested time into researching and targeting the staycation/localcation market, now is a good time to spiff up on that as well. Use this as an opportunity to get your property out there. Run a SWOT analysis on what your B&B can do to mitigate and potentially profit from this long term when we recover from this, and I’ll stick with the “when” not the “if”. In the famous words of Yoda (if he was a marketing guru) “Marketing Never Stop”.

And as an additional note (updated 3/11/2020) I take this very seriously, my own business along with many others besides just the hospitality industry is, and will continue to be, affected. Having several large projects put on hold for an indefinite period of time IS very concerning, but I am going to use this as an opportunity to learn and increase my knowledge of things that can help myself and my clients in the future. If we go down the rabbit hole of depression and inaction, when recovery time comes around, it makes it that much harder to rebound when it’s time.