Inn Consultants and Brokers Since 1993

Rick Wolf and Peter Scherman (that’s Rick on the left and Peter on the right) are both experienced speakers who have presented on a range of innkeeping related topics at the state, regional, and national level. They gather and analyze research for the Innkeeping industry and welcome the opportunity to share it with others. Contact Us

The B&B Team

Archive for the ‘Operations’ Category

‘No Problem’ or ‘You’re Welcome’?

August 25th, 2015 by Janet Wolf

no problem or you're welcome

‘No problem’. This catch phrase has not only caught on but has become a rampant virus! Last year at the Maine Innkeepers Association Annual Meeting & Conference the opening seminar speaker was principal and founder of Quality Management Services Judy Z. King. Creating guest loyalty was the topic. The part I recall over all were her comments on the use of the catch phrase ‘no problem’ used more and more often by people in the hospitality industry.

Judy’s problem with ‘no problem’ is that it is a double negative that has replaced the positive  ‘you’re welcome.’ That got my attention. For managers and staff that should be projecting a positive and caring service attitude, a double negative response to a guest’s ‘thank you’ is not a good response.

I love this from CBS contributor Bill Flanagan. “Saturday night, I took my wife to a good restaurant. The waitress asked if we wanted sparkling water, still water, or tap water. I said, “Tap water, please.” She said, “No problem.” I felt like saying, “Why do YOU think I think it would be a problem for you to get me a glass of water?” Luckily, my wife gave me a look that said, “Don’t start.” And of course my wife was right. The waitress didn’t mean to be rude.”

This is true. The people that use this phrase are just repeating what they hear from others. It most likely came about because it sounds less formal than ‘you’re welcome’. Also the phrase sounds a bit hipper. I believe no one is intending to be rude when they respond with ‘no problem’.

We were recently at a hotel where the entire staff (and I mean entire) responded with ‘my pleasure’. Now this response is definitely positive and a nice one to hear. But…it was used so often that after a while it didn’t sound sincere. The staff was obviously coached to the ‘nth’ degree to use this phrase. I personally would have liked a few ‘you’re welcomes’ mixed in.

I learned as an innkeeper to end interactions with guests with; ‘is there anything else I can assist you with’ or ‘are there any other questions you have at this time’. This kind of interaction with the guest projects a caring attitude first but also gives the guest a feeling they can come to you with any questions or possible ‘problem’ at any time during their stay.

So to end this ode to the phase ‘no problem’,  I give you this scenario:

You have just helped a guest plunge their toilet; helped them to the best of your ability remove a red wine stain from a white blouse and…well you name it. The guest thanks you profusely. Do you come back with ‘no problem’ or ‘it was my pleasure’? Now you know what you did for this guest was not a pleasurable experience for either party, so maybe in this case ‘no problem’ is appropriate. Bill Flanagan says in cases like this “It’s a graceful way of telling someone you’ve gone out of your way to help, not to feel indebted.”

I think I will stick with the welcome mat at the entrance and the ‘Thank you for staying with us’ as your guests depart. With the hopeful response of ‘you’re welcome, we had a lovely stay’. Triple positives!

Thanks for Listening,

Janet Wolf

Booking Online or Phone – It’s still 50/50

February 26th, 2015 by Janet Wolf


phone reservations

Phone = Talk

Booking online

Convenient and Immediate

With the popularity and convenience of booking online, the ‘art’ of taking a phone reservation may not seem as important as it once was. Communicating by email, smart phone messaging, twitter, Facebook has reduced actual talking on the phone.  I hear some people say they don’t like talking on the phone anymore! But if you are an innkeeper, you better like it. Taking reservations by phone is still so important and many guests prefer it. The stats are still 50/50, phone vs online. We must keep alive the art of giving good phone.

AAA has their Hospitality Standards. It is part of their Four and Five Diamond service expectations. Reservations Services (in other words, booking by phone) is the first important standard on this long list.

Let’s take a look at what they are looking for when they rate a property. I’ve added my comments and recommendations following AAA’s bullet points.


  • Answer the phone within 3 rings. That means not letting the call go to phone messaging unless absolutely necessary.  Call forwarding to your cell when away from the property is a must.


  • Extend an appropriate greeting.  “Good afternoon and thank you for calling The Cheerful Inn, my name is Janet, how may I help you?”


  • Thank caller for contacting the property. (I think I just did this, I’m way ahead of AAA)!


  • Provide an appropriate introduction to guest. Make it personal from the beginning by telling them your name and asking for theirs. Be cheerful and NEVER sound rushed. The caller must not hear that in your voice. Give the potential guest the feeling that you have been anticipating their call all day with delight!


  • Address caller by name as appropriate. This may be a good time to ask them if they have stayed at the Inn before. If yes, you can pull up their name on your system. It is also appropriate to ask the name of their traveling companion. Good idea to know who is staying with you so you can communicate with both parties.


  • Anticipate caller’s needs or offer personalized recommendation. Listen, listen, listen. THEN provide the information you feel they are looking for. Anticipating their needs is also accomplished by asking them questions to determine their needs.


  • Provide rate structure and room availability.  The caller may have this information already from your online reservation system. They also may be calling because they feel they can get a ‘better deal’ by calling direct. If you are comfortable giving them a different rate or upgrading them to a better room, do it. If it is your high season and you know you can book the room at the regular rate, then no. I recall many times when we would stick with our regular rates, and the caller would call back within minutes and book. You can tell when a caller is just ‘rate shopping’ vs ‘inn shopping’.


  • Provide an overview of facilities and services. They like to hear about the extras you provide, that added value but… recommend brevity. You don’t want to over sell.


  • Exhibit competent/accurate knowledge of property and hours of operation. As an innkeeper/owner you would of course have this knowledge and be glad to share it. Important that any staff that you have empowered to take reservations would also be competent and knowledgeable.


  • Review reservation request. So important to repeat all the data that your reservation system requires. Correct any miscommunications before the call ends.


  • Exhibit a sincere desire to comply with all guests requests. And you know there can be many unreasonable requests. The awful two letter word ‘no’ should not be part of your vocabulary at this point. Unless it is a truly impossible request.  This would also be a good time to ask if they have any special dietary needs.


  • Be efficient and sensitive to the manner of the request.


  • Provide an appropriate closing. “Thank you for choosing The Cheerful Bed & Breakfast for your week-end getaway. Is there anything else I can do for you before your visit or any further questions you might have at this time?”


  • Provide follow-up reservation confirmation in advance of arrival. Good reservation systems will have this. You can always add a personal note with the automated email.


  • The guest feels well served.


phone reservations

Not a good technique for taking a reservation Jerry!

Remember the other line from the movie Jerry McGuire, “You had me at ‘hello’?” Think about what this means.  If you don’t give a potential first time guest that  personalized and cheerful greeting from the first ‘hello’ then the room and rate information they really want to hear may fall on deaf ears. You have lost them.  They will go on to the next choice they have on their list.

A personal story to end this post. We had an assistant innkeeper, Steve, who was and still is the most upbeat, cheerful person. Steve spells hospitality. We had a visit from a  travel writer at Yankee Magazine one week-end, and we ended up getting an award from them. Great, right? But we were away that week-end and Steve was running the Inn for us. That is how good he is. At the Inn he works at now there are guests who check-in with one of the owner/innkeepers  and they will look around and ask; “Where is Steve”? He gets you at ‘hello’.

Thanks for Listening,

Janet Wolf

Credit Card Processing – Are You Paying too Much?

June 1st, 2012 by Janet Wolf

Piggy Bank

We all like to save money

At the recent PAII New England Conference we met Cheryl Heldt from International Payment Solutions. She had recently written an article entitled; ‘Eight Mistakes Innkeepers Make – On Their Credit Card Processing’. I would like to pass on some helpful information from this article as well as a few helpful tips from another CC processing specialist. Read on, the following information may just save you some money. And we’d all like to save money and have more cash, except for that snotty (yet cute) baby in the high chair in that frequently aired commercial starring Jimmy Fallon.

The B&B Team has had a relationship with Tom Weiskotton of TrustOne for many years. Tom has been in the credit card processing business for 16+ years and specializes in the lodging business. Quoting Tom; “While the credit card processing business is a simple concept, the devil is in the details.” The B&B Team believes in options. There are options for innkeepers when it comes to selecting your CC processor. Let’s take a look at some of those devilish details.

Local Banks – “In the past, your local bank was the only place to get started with processing. They were your friends, and you were assured of getting a good deal because banks handled the processing in-house. This is no longer the case. Most banks have now farmed out that portion of their services to another company. Yes, you can still sign up for processing, but now there is an added middle man who handles the actual processing, and who also gets a slice of the pie. What this means is that your cost is increased. Your bank may be your friend, but they are no longer able to give you the best deal possible.” Cheryl Heldt

Termination Fees – “The first thing you need to watch out for is termination fees. Our position is that if it cost you to get out of a contract, you’ve got a problem. For example, your sales rep quotes you an irresistible rate! Wonderful! But in six months down the road, that rate disappears, or worse, it never appeared in the first place. You call the company and what do they say? You can leave but it’ll cost you $500 or more! Never sign a contract that includes a termination or lost profit penalty.” Cheryl Heldt

Monthly Minimums – “The company may expect to make a certain amount of money from you no matter what the season you’re in. Even if you didn’t have guests in February, you still have to pay a minimum of $25 or more because the company expects to make a profit from you on or off season. Avoid contracts with monthly minimums.” Cheryl Heldt

Rates – This is where we get down to the real nitty gritty. “All companies have the same basic cost in offering credit card processing. This cost is Interchange, Dues and Assessments. Pricing begins with Interchange. The difference between the rates you pay and Interchange is profit for the provider of your services. And those providers have great flexibility in how they set your rates. For example, if you’re on a retail pan (where you see Qualified, Mid-Qualified and Non-Qualified rates) they can decide which cards fall into what category. So how do you know where you stand? First, you need to know what you are paying. To find your effective rate, take the amount of dollars collected (i.e. $233.48 divided by $7,485.58 = 3.1%). This is your effective rate. (And this is an example of extremely high rate). So now, if somebody comes along and offers you a 1.59%, it sounds good, right? Not likely. You need to know what else to ask. Your first question is where will the Rewards and WordCards fall? If they say 1.59%, does that mean an additional 1.59% or total of 3.18%? Because the cost (Interchange) of most Rewards cards starts at 1.75% and goes higher. As you see there are a lot of pitfalls and unanswered questions.” Cheryl Heldt

PCI Compliance – “The Industry moved to prevent CC breaches and the answer was PCI Compliance. At minimum, every merchant has to submit a survey (SAQ) which answers basic questions about how they are taking credit cards. Most of you are using terminals through a phone line. Since no information is stored or retained in your terminal, you are not breach able and therefore PCI Compliant. If you are processing through the Internet, then you must submit to quarterly scans of your IP address to insure safety of your site. Another thing you must not do is store your client’s CC information on your computer.” Cheryl Heldt

“A system called EMV, (Euro-pay, MasterCard, Visa), will use new technology to further encrypt credit card information in an attempt to lessen the responsibility of losses due to fraud. This system, once active, will place the responsibility for losses on the “weakest link” in the processing system. That could mean the merchant could be responsible if he/she is not up to date on their processing system. It could also mean new fees. There is a misconception that PCI Compliance Fees are “mandatory” in the industry. Not true. They are only mandatory for the individual processor charging them…there are processors that do NOT charge PCI fees! Will there be new fees associated with the EMV program? There may be but I can almost guarantee that many processors will use this as an opportunity to increase their profit at the merchant’s expense! Trust your rep…and if you can’t…find a new one!” Tom Weiskotten

Terminal Upgrades – “We’ve found that a lot of you are getting calls from your sales rep saying that you have to upgrade your terminal because of PCI Compliance. Most times this isn’t true. You may need to have your Pin Pad re-encrypted, or if your terminal is very old, it may not contain enough memory to hold new programming. These are reasons you may have to upgrade, NOT PCI Compliance.” Cheryl Heldt

Leases – “Never, ever, ever, ever, under any circumstances lease a CC terminal or other equipment. You will end up paying thousands of dollars for a piece of equipment that you can buy outright for a few hundred dollars. I can’t emphasize this enough.” Cheryl Heldt

“I strongly urge anyone in the business to make sure they have trust in their merchant processing rep because there are some things coming down the pike that could open up many merchants to purchasing/leasing un-needed equipment and/or excessive fees.” Tom Weiskotten

Factoring – “This is probably a word you aren’t familiar with, but some of you may be doing it! The only cards that can pass through your terminal are for purchases from your business. You cannot run a card for your neighbor for their business. If found out, you and your neighbor could be banned from taking cards ever again.” Cheryl Heldt

Just like The B&B Team, Tom and Cheryl believe in educating their customers so they can make the best possible decisions for their business. They are there for you and will answer your questions personally. They want to help you understand the process of processing in laymen’s terms. Hope these explanations have helped and may result in reducing your costs.




Take the Fear Out of Learning Innkeeping

May 7th, 2012 by Scott Bushnell

The Class of 2012, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, graduated from the “Better Way to Learn Innkeeping” aspiring innkeeping workshop yesterday.  Held at The Inn at Turkey Hill, six attendees spent 3 days at this seminar designed to help those with the innkeeping dream to investigate the path to inn ownership which is often laden with speed bumps, roadblocks and u-turns.

Class of 2012-Bloomsburg, PA

A different mix of attendees, however.  Two of the couples already own the property for their inn (one was purchased recently with the purpose of conversion to an inn and the other couple intend to turn their existing home into an inn).  A third couple were the more traditional attendees who intend to purchase an existing inn.

Because of this different mix which included folks about ready to open their inns, we adapted the typical agenda to also include a more intensive focus on the operations and marketing aspects…info these innkeepers will be using soon.

A thanks to Andrew Pruden, owner and innkeeper at The Inn and the great staff for their service and welcome.  If you get a chance to visit Bloomsburg, the recently opened Pub and Grille was fabulous and their  micro-brews and menu were a welcome Friday night treat.

Lots of laughs…lots of strong interaction…and lots of appreciated feedback on the effectiveness of the workshop.  But one attendee made a comment that I am still thinking about a few days later.  “I’m not afraid anymore, Scott”.  I think this just became another goal of these workshops for me.    Scott



Best Apps for Marketing Your B&B

April 26th, 2012 by Peter Scherman

5 tools that use word-of-mouth marketing to entice new customers
Guest Post by Jane Johnson

Bed and breakfasts (or B&Bs and BnBs) offer a quaint, intimate, and less expensive alternative to larger hotels for the North American traveler. However, if you run a bed and breakfast or guesthouse, your time is likely largely consumed by making sure your inn is spotless, your meals are fresh, and your guests are comfortable. Apart from cooking meals, meeting guests’ needs, and cleaning, you probably don’t have a lot of time to think about how to market your accommodations, improve your online reputation, and grow your business within your local community.

Luckily, using smart phone apps to help build your bed and breakfast marketing plan can help you focus your efforts so that when visitors plan to travel to your area—your B&B automatically pops up on their radar.

Thanks to a proliferation of devices, competitive pricing and innovate wireless internet products like T-Mobile mobile broadband services, more people than ever connecting to the web on-the-go. These five popular apps will help market your bed and breakfast or guesthouse wherever internet service is available:

1. Yelp for Mobile (Free – for BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android)

The Yelp for Mobile app is made up of reviews from an active community of locals in the know! So it’s your prerogative to make sure your B&B is listed on Yelp. In fact, whenever I make travel plans for out of town business or vacation, I read the user reviews for hotels, B&Bs, resorts, restaurants, and tourist attractions on Yelp before I pull out my credit card. Yelp is the traveler best ally—it offers up thousands of results for places to eat, stay, shop, drink, relax and play. Users can use this tool to search for a variety of businesses according to geographical location, category, business type, or even by deal. B&B owners can list their contact information (including address, email, website, Facebook profile, directions, and phone number), and even offer special deals via the Yelp app in order to entice and introduce new customers to your accommodations.

2. foursquare (Free – for BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android)

Fifteen million people can’t be wrong! That’s how many potential customers you can draw by listing your bed and breakfast with the foursquare application. Not only is this an excellent business directory, foursquare also works as a viral word-of-mouth marketing tool. Users can use the app to see what restaurants, stores, accommodations, products, services and entertainment their friends recommend or they can use the app to browse local business by category to discover what’s nearby. This app is built on personalized recommendations from clients—if you gain enough, your business will be placed on a list of the best spots to go, stay, see, or do and shared with foursquare’s audience of 15-million!

3. Yellow Pages Mobile (Free – for BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, and Android)

Join over eighty-million listings and include your business on the Yellow Pages Mobile app—the leader in local mobile search. This app offers users tons of customer ratings and reviews on a variety of businesses and services according to geographical location. Plus, the unique turn-by-turn voice GPS navigation tool (only for the iPhone) will ensure visitors can search for your establishment by voice, user rating, or deal (when you feature discounts in the Deal Section).

4. Urbanspoon Mobile (Free – for BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android)

Urbanspoon is ideal for users who need some help deciding where to eat and where to stay (if you’re B&B offers dining). This app works like a dining slot machine—users just shake their smart phone to make the app spin, and they will view a collection of nearby restaurants with good user ratings. If you list your B&B with Urbanspoon, potential clients will be able to search for you according to neighborhood, cuisine, or price, and they can also use their current location to identify the nearest dining options to their current location.

5. Groupon (Free – for BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, and Android)

For B&Bs who want to appear on the list of the very best stuff to do, see, eat, stay, and buy within 500 cities around the globe—Groupon is the app for you! This app offers businesses the option to entice new clientele by offering spectacular discounts between 50% and 90% of the regular price! Groupon is renowned for handpicking every deal they deliver to customers’ smart phones, so if listed, your business is automatically viewed with confidence. Offer a deal to draw new customers, and users can easily redeem deals directly from their mobile phones.

Bio: Jane Johnson is a freelance writer for BBGeeks, a popular site that provides BlackBerry news, commentary, reviews and beginner BlackBerry tips for BB newbies.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The B&B Team®.

K is for the 5 Keys to a Strong Business at your Bed and Breakfast

February 28th, 2012 by Scott Bushnell

Marilyn and I had the good fortune this past weekend to work with 9 excited aspiring innkeepers at our A Better Way to Learn InnkeepingTM  seminar held at the Wayside Inn B&B in Ellicott City, Maryland.  What a great group!  We laughed and networked with Bill and Charlotte Schmickle of the Flag House in Annapolis but the real focus was on the KEYS to a strong business at your inn.

  1. Location, Location, Location
  2. Understanding WHO will be coming to your inn
  3. Wrapping your inn AROUND those guests
  4. Think Sunday-Thursday
  5. Being the Best

Each of these Keys can be put on a continuum numbered, say, from 1-10 with 10 being the strongest.  Let’s look at each one:

  1. Location, Location, Location:  This has been the buzzword for any real estate purchase but for a Bed & Breakfast EACH word has a separate meaning:  The first definition is the Macro-location…is the inn located near major metropolitan areas from which to pull guests?  The more population close at hand (gas is getting more expensive!), the higher on the continuum the rating.  For the Wayside Inn, being located nicely in the Baltimore-DC corridor, this inn ranks high on this Location…perhaps a 9.  The second definition of Location includes the area attractions in that region which will draw guests to the area.  And the broader the diversity of attractions (historical, antiquing, entertainment, soft adventures, etc.), the higher the likelihood of drawing folks out of the nearby metropolitan populations.  The third definition of Location is the Inn itself…its attractive location in the town, its curb appeal and its accessibility.
  2. The second KEY is identifying the guests who will be coming to those area attractions…and what their needs would be.  If the attraction is an amusement park or college, children will be coming.  If there are businesses in the area, corporate travelers have particular needs as well.
  3. Wrapping your Inn around those guests’ needs is the next KEY.  Room features, amenities and services must satisfy the needs of those identified guests.  Business travelers need desks, Wi-Fi, multiple outlets, a forgiving cancellation policy, early breakfasts, and NO advanced deposits.
  4. The fourth KEY can often be a difficult one…Thinking Sunday through Thursday.  Any inn can fill up on the weekend, but that is only 28% of the week…an occupancy not high enough to pay all the bills.  Marketing to corporate guests, elder-travelers, quilting and scrap booking groups, or offering discounts to weekenders to encourage them to stay an extra day or two becomes a high priority targeted activity.
  5. Being the Best.  This KEY is what will keep your parking lot full while the inn across the street wonders how you do it.  Investigate what the competition is doing (and NOT doing!) and Beat Them!  Have the best breakfast in town, offer a welcoming warmth that guests enjoy, and make their experience complete.

This dynamic group of aspiring innkeepers heard this important message and are currently defining the profiles of the inns that are RIGHT for them.  Congratulations to all of them as they continue their journey into the world of inn ownership!      Scott


T is for Trust…Especially Between an Inn Seller and Buyer

January 11th, 2012 by Scott Bushnell

Just yesterday I received a call from an innkeeper with whom I have had a relationship who was considering selling his inn, a 7 room bed and breakfast inn in a nearby state.  Just what we do!  Thanks for the call!   We opened up a dialog about the inn, its size, its location, discussed the process, and then I suggested he send me a copy of his 2010 and 2011 financials.  You would have thought I was asking for his FBC (first born child).  “I just will not get into the hassles of trying to explain my financials and business with ANYBODY.  Just sell my inn!”  He was adamant and fixed in his stubbornness.

My antennae went up like a dog’s ears at suppertime.  After failing to convince him that this is an important step to understanding the revenue and net operating income of the inn (to help establish its value), we closed our conversation that perhaps the best way to sell his property is as a residence through the local MLS system since a buyer would never be able to get a commercial loan on that property without the bank seeing the financials.  He was satisfied with that…I guess.

But the point is trust.  I lost trust with him.  Was he cheating the IRS and did not want to let anybody discover it?  Were his numbers so poor that I would be trying to sell his inn only on its potential?  Does he even have records?  All kinds of distrustful thoughts went through my head.  I hope all them are wrong.  If a seller, perhaps even unwittingly, withholds information from a buyer, trust is jeopardized, and with the limited number of buyers and the huge inventory of inns for sale, buyers will look elsewhere.  Building Buyer/Seller trust is critical.  So how is it done?

Like a good Boy Scout…Be Prepared!

  • Having complete and accurate records (including taxes…they will be scrutinized during a buyer’s due diligence period)
  • Track occupancy by month from year to year.  A buyer wants to see the seasonal nature of the inn (especially to understand what happens in the slow season).
  • Have a complete Inclusion/Exclusion list of the furniture and fixtures will transfer with the property and what will go with the sellers.
  • For a smaller inn, have a property condition disclosure (available from any real estate agent) prepared.  This is required in many states anyway.
  • For larger inns, consider a Seller’s Inspection completed BEFORE a buyer’s inspector finds any defects (and they WILL find the problems!),  This inspection demonstrates full disclosure of the condition of the inn, provides a report accuracy defense in the event the buyer’s inspector overinflates the seriousness of a deficiency, and leads to a corrective plan to defuse emotions and begin negotiations.
  • Keep your gift certificate log current
  • Open and honest conversations about marketing, buyer’s opportunities, and full disclosure.

When Marilyn and I were looking for our inn long ago (the Dead Sea was only sick back then), the owner of one of our candidate inns pulled me aside and said “Don’t worry about the numbers, Scott.  I put two kids through college on this inn!”.  We left never to return.  If he was willing to cheat the IRS, he was willing to cheat us.

Innkeepers…think about the “surprises” that made YOU angry when you bought your inn.  We’ve all been there.  Think like the buyer of your inn.  What roadblocks can be removed now to build Trust and not jeopardize the chances of a timely and financially rewarding transfer.

Anybody have any trust surprises when you bought your inn?  We would love to hear about them and what could have been done differently.   Scott

C is for Cost of Doing Business

September 27th, 2011 by Janet Wolf

HangersHangersJay Karen’s Video Blog and the following posts on the PAII Forum got my brain a racin’. Like Jay we at The B&B Team visit many Inns and are also a witness to the good, the great and the not so terrific.  On the subject of hangers let me first reveal a story from my innkeeping days. We had a ‘Housekeeping Checklist’ that included two check points, one to check to see if all six wooden hangers were present and two, to bring all wire/plastic hangers left by the guests down to the laundry room.  When I would do the daily guest room checks I would sometimes find an ‘evil’ wire hanger and recall a scene in the biographical film about Joan Crawford, ‘Mommy Dearest’. The scene reveals Joan, a compulsively clean housekeeper, finding a wire hanger in her daughter’s closet, she then commences to beat the daughter with the hanger while screaming, “NO WIRE HANGERS!” Now understand, I did not beat my housekeepers but would on occasion perform my best Joan Crawford imitation for my housekeepers, just for comic relief.

Now we know that those wooden hangers do disappear on occasion but replacing them falls under the category of the cost of doing business, CODB. This term is generic for ‘expenses that covers all monetary expenditures necessary to operate your business on a day to day basis’. The fixed costs are your mortgage, utilities, insurance, wages, payroll taxes, etc.  Any incidental materials you provide for your guests in the process of doing business in which you really can’t charge extra for have to be absorbed and covered by your profit margins.

We all want to control our costs and price comparing online has become the best way to help keep costs down. I googled ‘wood hangers’ and the best price I found was from A case of 50 nicely finished wooden hangers cost $39. The cost per hanger comes to $.78. I am sure you could find a better price with a little more digging.

 We must always remind ourselves, it is all about the guest. The simple offering of a set of wooden hangers neatly placed in your closets shows you desire to provide for your guests a thoughtful guest room experience.

Now as for the subject of laundry bags, I believe this offering is also very thoughtful. They are standard in hotels, why not B&B’s?  A few innkeepers on the PAII Forum explained they did not want to use plastic bags because of the environmental impact.  I found biodegradable plastic laundry bags on usfi greenworks. A drawback is the minimum purchase is 500 at $.49 per bag. This may present the opportunity to contact your neighbor B&B and share the cost.

Sometimes the simple little offerings innkeepers provide turn out to be very big in the eyes of an appreciative guest. It is all about them.

Janet Wolf

Sustainable Tourism’s New Travel Care Code

June 2nd, 2011 by Janet Wolf

Memorial Day serves as the official kick off of the busy summer travel season. The B&B Team hopes you all had a successful start to the season! There are more than 1.5 billion ‘person trips’ made in the US for leisure each year. That is a lot of individuals making an impact on your destination location’s environment.

The Center for Sustainable Tourism is an organization based in East Carolina University in North Carolina. One of their many goals is to ‘offer solutions to challenges facing the tourism industry and destination communities as they balance economic viability with socio-cultural and environmental enhancement and equity.’ What? That is a real mouthful of environmentally correct words. Thankfully the group recently came out with a Travel Care Code which includes 10 simple practical suggestions for tourists. I also thought the suggestions could be helpful for innkeepers. Here is a sampling of the 10 points for tourists followed with my comments:

  •  Don’t Leave Your Good Habits at Home. If your guests practice good recycling habits at home than they would like to do the same when they travel. I have recently seen many innkeepers provide recycling containers in their guest rooms as well as in the public pantry and outside seating areas. This makes it real easy for your guests.
  •  Learn About Your Destination. Innkeepers are the best when educating their guests about the environment, culture and history that make each destination unique. This education is best when it starts on your website on a good destination page and of course your blog.
  •  Support Locals. The money your guests spend helps support local artisans, farmers and business owners whose livelihood depends on tourism. Innkeepers are also the best when it comes to recommending their favorite independent local businesses. From local art on your walls to selling local maple syrup, you do it all and guests really appreciate it.

The complete Travel Care Code is available to republish under the terms of their free license. I believe this would be a great list to publish on your website and display in your inn. Some of you of a certain age may remember the slogan and campaign that started in the 60’;’ Every Litter Bit Helps’?  I think we have come a long way environmentally from simply picking up litter, but it is still a challenge and this latest tool may help us all meet the challenge.

Janet Wolf


Inn Tune-Up – Better Way to Improve

April 15th, 2011 by Janet Wolf

If you check out your Thesaurus (thanks to Microsoft Word it is just a few clicks away) the word ‘better’ offers a few similar adjectives and one is ‘Improved’. Innkeepers are constantly improving their properties, at least they should be. In Jay Karen’s recent Key Notes article in the Winter IQ magazine he boldly and justly spoke of the below average B&B’s. It is unfortunate but oh so true when he said…”there are a lot of B&B’s out there that might not be a better way to stay.”  The Inns that are not constantly searching for ways to improve usually end up on the below average list.

In my research for this writing I decided to read reviews on Trip Advisor from a random choice of Inns. I wanted to come up with the top 10 complaints.  I didn’t have to go very far before I realized the complaints were the same ones we see and talk about all the time. No need for a list of 10.

No.1 complaint is still lack of cleanliness!

 No. 2 complaint is still inhospitable innkeepers!

 Another complaint is outdated décor which usually is accompanied with phrases like, ‘run down’,’ worn carpets’ and one I really thought was revealing , ‘…antique bureau drawers were hard to open and impossible to close’.  The outdated décor is usually not the real issue; it is the underlying fact that the décor is old, tired and not well kept.

The B&B Team has been consulting with innkeepers on how to improve their overall business for years. Recently we decided to put a title to what we do. We call it our ‘Inn Tune-up’. We created a very extensive check-list that starts with the property’s first impression when you drive up and continues through the Inn looking at guest rooms, marketing, and operations.  We have outlined over 250 check points. The final analysis comes with a report with suggestions for improvements.  We strive to be honest and forthright (oh I just checked out the word forthright and the adjective’ blunt’ came up). Many innkeepers we have worked with have thanked us for being blunt! They have told us they just needed another set of eyes. The old saying, ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’, we believe we can look up, down and around those trees and give innkeepers a complete picture of their valued forest.

The B&B Team realistically visits dozens and dozens of properties nationaly a year. That would include all six of us on the team. I believe this gives us a good perspective from which to work  when doing our ‘Inn Tune-up’. We believe we can offer innkeepers a Better Way to Improve.

To conclude I would like to make another observation from a review I read for an Inn with new owners that had recently completed an entire makeover. A quote from the review was…”we were looking for an experience, not just a bed. The living room was more like a lobby”. I found this comment very telling, because one can go too far opposite  from broken antique bureaus and dusty doilies. Decor can be minimalist with clean lines but not at the expense of becoming stark and cold. Again quoting Jay, “…we are posing ourselves to tell the world that B&Bs are better than hotels.”  A hotel lobby look is not what B&B’s need either.

So thanks Jay for being blunt and for your continued care and upkeep of our industry. We all need a new set of eyes and a good ‘kick in the gas’ with a tune-up once in a while. Ha!

Janet Wolf