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

Posts Tagged ‘Better Way to Stay’

V is also for VALUE-with a Bed & Breakfast

September 3rd, 2012 by Scott Bushnell

Mark Orwoll, International Editor of Travel + Leisure was interviewed this morning by CBS Morning Show who spoke to the hidden fees that surprise hotel travelers…and often cause that debate with the hotel front clerk that is uncomfortable for the guest and annoying for the clerk.

The Negotiator…”offer a lower price, you mamby-pamby!”

According to Mr. Orwoll, and due to the economy slump starting about 4 years ago, hotels started adding these fees to supplement the deep discounting they have had to do to keep their shares of the traveling market.  Such marketing efforts as Expedia, Priceline, and were reducing room revenues so the hotels resorted to other “hidden” fees to maintain overall revenues such as:

  • Internet fees (as much as $10-$20 per day)
  • Resort fees (what the heck is that?  Why should I pay for the spa and golf course if I am not going to use it?)
  • Mandatory valet fees (Can’t I park my own car and save the $20 per day?)

And we already know that the restaurants and gift shops in a hotel are not a bargain.

Bed & Breakfasts offer the full VALUE of free parking, free we-fi, free gourmet breakfast, newspapers, snacks and drinks, often wine and cheese gatherings, concierge services beyond the expectation in addition to striking up that personal relationship that is so important to the guest.

The lesson here for B&B’s?  Be sure these extras (all a part of the full guest experience) are on your website, on your marketing materials, and your reservation confirmations.  B&B’s have been offering such VALUE for decades and will continue to do so.  So let’s all be sure to take advantage of letting the traveling public know that the full guest experience is also at the best VALUE.  Scott

Guest Complaints:Face to Face or Facebook

June 25th, 2012 by Janet Wolf

complaint dept

Remember William Buckley Jr., the conservative political commentator and author? He had a command for the English language unlike no other. Here is what he wrote in an essay about why people don’t complain face to face.

“…we are all increasingly anxious in America to be unobtrusive, we are reluctant to make our voices heard, hesitant about claiming our right; we are afraid that our cause is unjust, or that if it is not unjust, that it is ambiguous; or if not even that, that it is too trivial to justify the horrors of a confrontation with authority; we will sit in an oven or endure a racking headache before undertaking a head-on, I’m-here-to-tell-you complaint. That tendency to passive compliance, to a heedless endurance, is something to keep one’s eyes on — in sharp focus.” 1961 Essay ‘Why Don’t We Complain’ by William F. Buckley Jr.

Remember this was 1961, decades before social media and all the outlets we have for anonymous complaining. I wonder what he would have thought about Trip Advisor and Facebook?

As consultants, The B&B Team has the opportunity to listen to innkeeper’s stories about guests who have checked out and appear happy as can be. Then a few days go by and they receive an alert about a new review posting. Behold those happy guests were really NOT happy and their complaints get posted and go out there for all to read. It hits you up side of the head and in your gut, right? So why didn’t these folks just tell the innkeepers about their issues during their stay? Most innkeepers would gladly do everything in their power to rectify any negative situation.

Just like Mr. Buckley writes, most people don’t like to complain face to face because it feels confrontational. Is this a bit cowardly? I don’t think so, just human nature. The dis-satisfied guest will leave your inn feeling they have not received a good value for what they have paid for. Remember, true or false, their perception is their reality. Is the complaint legit or an emotional rant?

Let’s go back a few years before the social media phenomenon. A piece of paper in a guest room with a title ‘Guest Questionnaire’. Many innkeepers still provide this outlet, certainly hotels and airlines do. This may not be face to face communication but it is still a more direct guest to innkeeper approach. Your response can also be more direct and personal. Note: This should not take the place of encouraging your guests to post on social media outlets. Those glowing reviews pilling up help your business and help you manage your reputation which can result in bookings. This non tech suggestion is just another way of receiving customer feedback.

Some suggestions for survey questions:

  • Was check-in prompt and courteous?
  • Was the cleanliness of your room satisfactory?
  • Was the room temperature comfortable and controllable?
  • Was the lighting adequate?
  • Further suggestions welcomed.
  • Would you choose to stay with us again?

After receiving a negative (or positive) comment from a questionnaire you can then email or call and discuss the complaint and then take action. Communication is key. Listen and respond and set emotion aside.

Another author who has a good insight into the subject of complaints is Janelle Barlow. Her book ‘A Complaint is a Gift’ is a classic and great read. A few basics from her:

“You don’t know how to improve your product or service if you don’t know what’s wrong.”

“Complaints can give you valuable information on what is important to people, what they are willing to spend money on.”

In conclusion the reality is there will always be complaints and dis-satisfied customers. This is human nature and the nature of doing business. In general complaints are also a normal part of being in relationships with people. Our bed and breakfast world of the hospitality business is very personal and face to face. The key to success is in the perceptions (there is that word again) of your guests. If you can recognize during their stay any hints of dissatisfaction you can then ask them face to face if there is anything you can do to make their stay better. By understanding them better you can move forward and take action towards an improved and ‘Better Way to Stay’ inn.


B is for Better Way to Stay…for Business Travellers

March 21st, 2012 by Janet Wolf

Weary Business Traveler

This guy needs A Better Way to Stay!

Transparency, Honesty and Value. These are the key words that describe what today’s business traveller wants from their lodging choice. This comes directly from a recent article titled; “Hotels try harder to woo business customers’ These three words best describe what top producing bed and breakfast innkeepers strive hard to provide for their guests, leisure travellers as well as business. B&B’s have never (to my knowledge) thrown in hidden charges, what you see is what you get!

Attracting more Sunday through Thursday business customers has been a continuing challenge for bed and breakfasts. B&B’s are often viewed primarily as the ‘romantic getaway’ venue. The urban inns are the ‘no brainer’ locations for the business customer. For the more remote country B&B’s, you may not have a lot of large corporations or business centers near you that bring travellers to your area. But there may be smaller businesses, colleges, and hospitals in these more isolated areas. Personal calls and face to face ‘greet and meets’ are essential. If they don’t seem receptive at first, don’t give up. Be persistent. Show and tell them the advantages you provide for the business guest. Go out of your way to be more accommodating than the chain properties in your area. Do your homework, find out what your competition offers and offer more value. We know as an industry we are transparent and honest so we must work on the value.

I love lists! Read on.

Marketing Essentials:

  • Mobile Marketing – It is crucial to transform your website into a mobile friendly version. Companies like Show Me Inn will do the work for you and you will get results. Mary White of BnBfinder used this company for her mobile site and recommends them highly. Here is a quote from another satisfied customer: “As a travel-oriented business, it’s important to reach customers on the move. My Show Me Inn website provides directions and an easy phone link to my business – which brings guests to my door,” says Paul Breitenbach, Innkeeper at the Jacob Rohrbach Inn in Sharpsburg, Maryland.
  • SEO – Make sure they can find you easily. Your website must be optimized to help promote your business friendly services and packages to your target market and geographic area. Provide all those helpful links to make their planning seamless.
  • Social Media – Make Facebook and traveller review websites work you. Your content with your business friendly services and packages should be front and center on these sites.


Thoughtful Basic Inn Essentials

  • Desk with comfortable chair.
  • Power consoles, not only in the guest rooms but in public spaces.

    Belkin Outlet Surge Protector

  • Free WIFi throughout the inn.
  • Flexible check in and check-out times
  • Flexible cancellation policy.
  • Early breakfast. Could be an easier smaller version of your full breakfast, even something they can take with them.
  • Coffee/Tea service 24 hours.
  • Use of a microwave and refrigerator.
  • Online booking.
  • Special midweek business traveller rates.
  • Offer an all-inclusive price for your meeting space package, if applicable, that could include lunch brought in or made on sight, don’t forget your signature dessert that will make them smile and remember you!
  • Flat screen TV with DVD player


Suggested Added Value Extras:

  • Newspaper delivered to their door.
  • Snacks for the evening, with some healthy choices, like fresh fruit. Something welcoming after a long day!
  • Frequent stay reward program
  • Access to fitness center. Partner with the center so you can offer your guest a discount drop in fee.
  • CD/MP3 player
  • Call ahead and on- going concierge service. Call your guest ahead of their stay and arrange for any service (i.e. overnight delivery service, transportation) and/or reservations for dinner/lunch. Also provide links to these services so they can make their own travel plans.
  • Fax and Copy machine available.
  • Safe or safe deposit boxes available.
  • Sleep-Mate ambient “white noise’ machines.
  • Create a ‘meeting tool box’ filled with markers, scissors, stapler, and calculator. Even if you don’t have a meeting room this could be a great help for the single business person.
  • Pillow menu.
  • Use of a common room/dining room for small conferences and meetings. A comfortable atmosphere for these small meetings is a wonderful alternative to the sterile plastic coated hotel conference rooms.

Inviting? You bet. Lookout Point Inn, Hot Springs, AR

Look at your common spaces. Are they inviting and comfortable? Are the seating areas well lit? There is a reason why hotels and some B&B’s are creating areas that resemble ‘lounges’. This doesn’t mean you have to go ‘uber hotel chic’ and serve cosmos, just inviting with seating areas arranged to encourage socialization. I also read in the recent article about attracting the millennial customer that this age group prefers solializing and working in the lobby of hotels rather than in their rooms. They call this ‘isolated togetherness’.

The other kind of ‘togetherness’ is still just as important, the fireplace lit whirlpool tub, champagne and choclate dipped strawberries combo.  Those travelling salesmen/women like romance too! (When they come back for a week-end getaway.)


B is for Fabulous Beds

October 14th, 2011 by Janet Wolf

Jasper Resting in His Nuzzle Bed


The focal point of a guest room is the bed.  I have always proposed that the bed should be the utmost enticement for a weary traveller’s eyes, for it most likely is the first thing they see when entering the room. A major part of the experience you provide for your guest is the sleep experience. What I call the Ahhh factor.  A sagging mattress, tired pillows, wrinkled linens and out of date fabric patterns are not contributing to A Better Way to Stay.

In a recent issue of Hotel Business there was an article about The Benjamin Hotel, a boutique hotel in New York City that recently completed a comprehensive renovation. The general manager said, “When it comes to the guestrooms, everything we do revolves around sleep and a good night’s sleep is all about comfort.”  We all want that and the best innkeepers out there go above and beyond to achieve that high level of comfort. Besides the 500 thread count Egyptian cotton linens and sateen down duvets, this property also offers a ‘Sleep Program’ that includes recommendations for pillows, a sleep-inducing massage and a night time snack. That sounds like an opportunity for a great package to me!

Like so many fashion trends, dressing a bed changes with the times. The mutible decorative pillow look with huge down comforters and lacy canopies was a wonderful look, the important word here is ‘was’. In its place a bed with crisp, clean lines, white or cream linens accented with a splash of color is a look that we see more and more of today.

Take a look at these two examples of beds I believe any guest would love to fall into.








So why should an innkeeper change their look and feel of their beds on a regular basis as well as the overall look and feel of their décor? Guests expectations are constantly changing, whether it is Gen Y or the over 60 crowd. We all like new and fresh. All of us at The B&B Team believes it is very important that innkeepers strive to meet today’s consumer’s needs. A new and fresh design can increase your guests’ intent to stay thus increase your bottom line. That’s reason enough.

By the way, those fabulous beds belong to the Inn at English Meadows and Captain Jefferds Inn. I’m not sure who the cat belongs too, just thought it was a great shot.

Janet Wolf

Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts – The Pendulum Swings

May 4th, 2011 by Janet Wolf

Compeat with Goliath?

We subscribe to a publication called Hotel Business. This and other sources are a great way to keep abreast of the hotel business, the trends, the predictions and in general what they are thinking. Some interesting observations recently came from the Luxury Management Executive Roundtable Series. This is a yearly gathering of big hitters including; Rock Resorts International, Destination Hotels & Resorts and Vail Resorts Hospitality and more. The number crunchers at the roundtable reported a strong come back in the luxury market in 2010 and the segment is rebounding very quickly for 2011.

Here are some highlights from the discussions. I think they will sound familiar. After the numbered quotes I have made comments relating to the small lodging industry, our side of the hospitality pendulum.

1.“We see individuals willing to buy a bit more for a memory or emotion now.”

2. “Thank god for the transient (hotel talk for the non- business customer). They have stuck with luxury. The future is bright.”

  • Talking with some innkeepers who own luxury properties, they have expressed an increase in bookings for spring and early summer. One property is up 48% from last year. Are they coming back because they recall the memory and emotion and want to relive the experience? I think yes.


3. “These guests (transients again) are more of a mix than in years past. Now it is all about the experience. It’s all about culture and authenticity.”

  • Properties that are branded well and offer an authentic experience have and will do well. Marketing this experience is all important and always will be. Check out Rick’s blog, ‘Build Your Brand’.


4. “The whole mindset of people from the tech industry with money is all about experience. They are very intellectual, and want no pretense, but they do want a great experience.”

  • It isn’t just the ‘people from the tech industry with money,’ but all tech savvy people with expendable income who want no pretense and want a great experience. The B&B Team refers to this group as the i-Guest™, who is informed, intelligent, independent, imaginative, interested, internet-savvy and identified. Some of you may have heard Rick and Peter speak on this subject at PAII national and regional conferences as well as state association conferences since 2009!


5. “Green programs are a big draw for luxury guests. Green is part of the new luxury.”


6. Today we need to look at the core lifestyle elements that represent the customer. We need to give people what they really want.”

  • The core lifestyle of our customers is also changing and we do need to become aware of these changes. This has been the message of PAII’s Better Way to Stay campaign from the beginning. The Gen X & Y lifestyle is different from the boomers. We need to be aware, not fearful and judiciously change to attract them.


7. “Amenities and features always come up. But if we ask what they want versus what they’ll pay for, it’s different. We have to understand what they’ll pay for and offer that.”

  • Amenities we offer also change. It is not just ‘what is hot and what’s not’ but what guests are looking for and expect today. Remember when nobody had TV’s in their guest rooms. It was thought of as a hotel/motel amenity. Luxury double showers are now a real draw today.


8. “Customers are always looking for value. It’s what you build into your room rate. They aren’t as rate sensitive, as they are sensitive to what’s included in that rate with value-adds.”

  • Our guests are looking for value and good innkeepers provide great value. The challenge is communicating the value we provide. This is also an area the Better Way to Stay campaign promises to address, getting the message out to a wider customer base.


9. “At the end of the day, what sets properties apart aren’t amenities, but service. It’s 95% service and 5% product that differentiates hotels. You have to have a perfect service delivery.”

  • Service, another main stay of our industry. It is not just 95% service and 5% product but great personalized service and individualized tailored products and amenities that differentiate the small lodging industry from hotels.


Every one of these comments and observations speaks to the core values of innkeepers. They speak to what good innkeepers strive for, work for and struggle with every day. Can we compete with Goliath? I think the answer is yes.  We are the Better Way to Stay but not if we exist in a vacuum and don’t stay aware of what the hotel industry is up to and more important what guests expect and are seeking today. A pendulum won’t swing without a bit of a push, so when it comes our way we better be ready to grab it.

The B&B Team has been talking about many of these points when we speak blog and consult with current innkeepers and with aspiring innkeeper groups in our seminars. (I just wish we got the big bucks that I know those hotel CEO’s do!) For further reading on this subject, read Scott Bushnell‘s blog, ‘Do You Know What the B&B Industry’s Competition Is?

Janet Wolf