Wine and travel go hand-in-hand. For those of us who love a good bottle of our favorite (or maybe an undiscovered favorite!) wine, no journey or evening meal are complete without a glass of the nectar of the gods. So it comes as no surprise that many of your guests also love a great bottle of wine.
Regardless of a traveler's budget, there are great wines out there today from around the world. But this isn't a column about wine, per se, and The B&B Team doesn't recommend (officially) any wine at all. However, we love to talk about service, ingenuity, and personalization in the travel industry, so I enjoyed reading a recent article in the Wine Notes section of the Wall Street Journal called, "Bringing Your Own to Fine-Dining Places." It seems even the toniest restaurants are having to be creative in this challenging economy.
Most people know that if you want to (and are allowed to) take a special bottle of your own wine to a restaurant, you'll pay a (sometimes hefty, even punitive) corkage fee to have the sommelier open it for you. That hasn't completely changed, but there is writing on the wall.
Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher write, "More and more restaurants are offering special deals on wine – 50% off on Mondays, say. But we were looking out for something more – BYOB with no corkage at top-notch places." As it turns out, they found a few experimenting with a range of variations from "corkage-free" specials to discounted wines on otherwise slow nights, or even every night. The goal was to encourage folks who might otherwise stay home or go somewhere less pricey to dine with them and save on the cost of wine. Danny Meyer of the Modern restaurant in Manhattan is quoted saying, "We decided … there would be a graciousness behind it, that you would actually flatter us bringing in something from your cellar to have with our food and hospitality. We decided that if we did this, we have to actually go overboard to demonstrate our appreciation."
Does this sound familiar to innkeepers? It should, because those of you who make your living offering gracious hospitality are experimenting with variations on this theme to generate business. Stay three nights, get the fourth free. Stay with us five times, and your sixth stay is 50%. Book our best room for Friday and Saturday, and we'll include a gift card for our favorite restaurant (or maybe a bottle of your favorite wine). You get the picture.
Creative packaging is all about adding value and personalizing, recognizing that creating an incentive to spend time/money with you can generate win-win scenarios, whether it's no corkage fee for your wine while at a fine dining restaurant or special promotions and add-ons to stimulate the desire to book a night at your bed & breakfast now.
Are there any great restaurants in your area offering a deal on wine or "no corkage Mondays?" Do I hear "weeknight rooms?"
Food for thought — It always frustrates me that our industry’s solution to tought times ALWAYS seems to be DISCOUNTS, RATE REDUCTIONS, ROOM NIGHT, GIVE-AWAYS, etc. As Innkeepers, we are constantly beseiged with Web lodging directories exhorting us to “send in our specials and hot deals”. If only it were that easy! At some point all those hot deals start to wipe out profitability when most inns are already selling rooms at the lowest possible rate. Sure, if we reduce our rate low enough we can be sold out every night. And be flat broke in the process. Supply and demand certainly are real factors that need to be taken into account, but our industry’s tendency to solve all our problems with knee-jerk rate “deals” is nothing new and certainly nothing creative. What’s creative about free room nights? And every 10% rate discount means you need to sell another 20% in rooms to make up for it. Not always possible when your competitors are doing the SAME THING! See the Cornell University Study on this from a few years back and run your own spreadsheet. It is almost like our industry is willing to sell our rooms to the lowest bidder with the ridiculous and false assumption that “a little bit of something is better than nothing” no matter how much money we lose doing it. Creative packaging, in the end, still comes down to rate reductions or added expenses on the part of the innkeeper. I think we all need to be very careful about discounting and “hot deals”. They may come back to bite us in the end if we are not careful.
Thanks for the comment, Leslie. While it may not seem that way, we agree that discounting is not the answer. But there’s a difference between discounting and adding value and/or rewarding “regulars” who are looking for savings in tough economic times. The trick, it seems, is to finds ways to fill rooms without undercutting the value of the stay. Empty rooms are gone forever, and make not a penny in profit, but creatively marketed rooms that start with the premise of a full price, albeit with some perks added or rewards for longevity, simply increase profitability in the long run. It’s the measure of RevPAR above ADR. Let’s hear some more thoughts from innkeepers!