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!