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 ‘PAII’

How to Accomodate Travelers With Allergies

May 9th, 2013 by Janet Wolf

Bee Speed!!!

Yes, spring is in the air and so is Ah-choo!

From time to time The B&B Team publishes articles we feel are relevant to the innkeeping community. Innkeepers often share information about their ever increasing number of guests with food allergies. This is a very popular thread on the PAII Forum. But what about guests with air born allergies? The following article by Elise Redmann addresses this issue with some great advise and workable tips. Read on.

It’s allergy season, and the recent surge in hypoallergenic lodging alternatives means that American lodging consumers, already more scrupulous than ever about spending their hard-earned dollars, are also less likely to tolerate anything but pristine conditions. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that 60 million people, or one in five, suffer from one or both conditions, but just one guest sacrificed to dust and mites is too many in any industry as competitive as inn-keeping.

The following tips are some of the easiest, and most necessary, to allergy-proofing your inn. It may be best, however, to contract a professional service Like Pure Solutions or Green Suites Hotel Solutions when hosting severely allergic or asthmatic guests. You can help keep everyone else sniffle-free with the following steps:

Dehumidify: Mold and dust mites are among the most common (not to mention unsightly) allergens, and both thrive in damp conditions. Invest in a dehumidifier and be sure to change the filter regularly, so that the machine itself remains free of potential irritants.


Decimate Dust: Dry dusting merely redistributes accumulated dirt and dust throughout the air; use a damp duster instead. Blinds and shutters are more hygienic than curtains, which trap dust and mites in their folds. Installing or refurbishing hard flooring, whether wood, tile or synthetic, will also make rooms easier to clean and less hospitable for mites; if carpet is inevitable, a vacuum with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter will help cleanse the air of minute particles. Non-HEPA filters can actually trigger allergy and asthma attacks by recirculating dust throughout the room.


Clean Green and Fragrance-Free: Earth-friendly and fragrance-free detergents and cleaning products are far less likely to irritate sensitive skin than conventional products, and green housekeeping is attractive to an increasingly broad market demographic. Just don’t go overboard: flowers and plants themselves can trigger hay fever, and the water necessary for their upkeep humidifies the air.


B0008353 Dust mite

The mitey dust beast

Be Superficial: Encase pillows, mattresses and comforters in hypoallergenic covers made from densely woven microfibers that prevent dust mites from passing from pillow to skin. Launder everything at a minimum temperature of 140° F to kill mites. For a truly pristine environment, bacteriostatic sprays can shield the most sensitive guests from all surface irritants and allergens.


Clear the Air: Severely asthmatic and allergic guests may require medical-grade air purifiers to eliminate all potential pathogens, while heating and cooling systems should be regularly maintained and disinfected. Smoking should be verboten and pets should be forbidden when possible: smoke permeates every surface it touches and lingers far longer than it is visible, and it takes 30 days and other purifying measures to remove all pet dander and pet-born allergens.

Elise Redmann writes about hotel management and hospitality for U.S. News University Connection. You can follow her on twitter @EliseRedmann

Thank you Elise. I believe that innkeepers could easily implement some of these practices. Following through to make sure your guests are informed of your efforts is essential. List your practices on your website, blog, Facebook, confirmation letter, guest information book…spread the word. Clean and green!

Thanks for Listening

Janet Wolf



PAII Innkeeping Conference and Trade Show of Shows

January 21st, 2013 by Janet Wolf


The PAII ‘Rat Packer’ Staff


Jay welcoming us all to Las Vegas, great hair Jay!

Whether this is your first PAII conference or your umpteenth, the upcoming 2013 conference in Las Vegas promises to be be quite entertaining. I know that Jay Karen and the entire staff are gearing up and making last minute plans. Take a look, here they are looking so cool, ready to take over Vegas.

There is a rumor that Jay is planning a very special welcome for this year’s conference attendees. Here is my crazy guess.



Now I know that according to the ad campaign ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ but for innkeepers attending this conference you will be taking some things home with you to your Inns, like knowledge, great ideas to implement, new amenities, media tools and lots of great memories. The B&B Team would like to be a part of the education that you take back with you. Peter and Rick will be presenting sessions as will Dana Moos, one of our newest additions to our team. Scott Bushnell will be in charge of Audio/Visual and room set up as well as presenting at the Aspiring Innkeeper Day. Marilyn Bushnell is heading up the coordination of Food and Beverage for the conference. But wait there is more, our latest addition, Eliot Dalton will also be there swingin with the team. Oh and Peggy Scherman and I will also be there, you’ll find us at the tables…our booth tables of course.

To top off the festivities, The B&B Team is celebrating our 20th Anniversary this year and would love to welcome all our old and new innkeeping and vendor friends at our booth on the trade show floor. Stop by and help us celebrate. So get out your bangles and beads, get ready to recharge your batteries and meet us at the Tropicana on January 28-31. Can’t wait!

Thanks for listening,

Janet Wolf


Norman T. Simpson – Country Inns and Back Roads

January 10th, 2013 by Janet Wolf

Back roads lead to the 'perfect inn'

A Perfect Back Road

Once upon a time there was a man by the name of Norman T. Simpson. He travelled the roads of our vast country and wrote of the unique country inns he visited. He talked with the innkeepers and the guests and quoted their words of wisdom and advice. His comments were light hearted and full of witty truisms and local country lore. Each entry in his travel books are a joy to read. If you can get a hold of an old edition it is worth the find. I picked up one in a used book store a few years back for $1. My first thought when rereading some of the entries was what a great blogger he would have been! As many of you may know he was the father of Select Registry. Mr. Simpson died in 1988 at age 69 but what a legacy he left behind. He helped what was then known as a ‘cottage industry’ grow, today the bed and breakfasts and country inns he introduced to the travelling public have flourished under the leadership of Select Registry and PAII, our national organization. The rest as they say is history and the 400 inns he originally recommended have grown into thousands.

I found a wonderful article written in 1982 entitled “America turns ‘in-ward’ and Norman T. Simpson is showing the way”. Simpson was quoted in the article about when he first started his travels and writings in the mid-60’s.

“Finding real inns – as opposed to hotels or motels that call themselves inns – was a problem. Although definitions of inns vary, Simpson and other experts agree there are several common ingredients. Besides a certain distinct ”atmosphere,” derived in part from its antiquity, an inn must ”draw people together” in camaraderie and friendship.”

”You tend to find friendship replacing many of the amenities of a large hotel,” says Wayne Berens, president of Revere Travel Inc. ”The people who like to stay at country inns are also really looking for a kind of tranquility that they may not find in a large glass and steel hotel.”


The man himself!

‘Mr Country Inn’

Thirty-one years ago and many of these quotations could be written about today’s bed and breakfasts and country inns. I am not one to recommend living in the past. The B&B Team is a huge supporter of  ‘A Better Way to Stay’ campaign. Evolving and adhering to today’s traveler’s changing needs and staying in tune with current travel trends is very important and much needed for the health and growth of our industry but… understanding the origins of our small lodging industry is also very important.  Phrases like; ‘distinct atmosphere’ and ‘drawing people together in camaraderie and friendship’ and travelers seeking ‘a kind of tranquility’. Those distinctions are timeless and should never be forgotten.

Later in the article Mr. Simpson was asked which inn was his favorite. Being a gentleman and smart businessman he answered brilliantly and diplomatically.

”I refrain from choosing favorites,” he says. ”Aside from the fact it is not a very good idea, it is also a very difficult question to answer. It depends on your mood and I find in almost every case that where I am is the place I like best – whether it’s up in the Vermont woods or on the California coast.”

For him, finding the ideal country inn is ”a state of mind”. If you bring that state of mind with you, you’re going to find the perfect inn.”

Taking Norman T. Simpson’s lead and inspiration I plan to post some future blogs about some of the back road country inns The B&B Team is representing for sale. Many of which were in the original travel books by Simpson.

First posting will be about Chester Vermont. Stay tuned.

Thanks for listening,

Janet Wolf




Airbnb – In the Air or Your Backyard?

October 9th, 2012 by Janet Wolf

[365] 073

Great experience,NOT.

There was a recent thread on the PAII Forum initiated by Scott Thomas, innkeeper at the Brewster House Bed and Breakfast in Freeport, Maine. Quoting Scott; “Just received a solicitation to become a member of Airbnb (for “free”). …they offered to create a free listing for us, then we could log in and change things.” This really got my attention. I didn’t realize they were soliciting legitimate lodging businesses. What next, door to door solicitation in residential neighborhoods? Here is a bit of background on this groundbreaking ‘collaborative consumption’ business.

Airbnb was born in September ’08 and has grown in leaps and bounds. Just like the concept of Airbnb is troubling to the hospitality industry, its growth is scarier. They are in 192 countries and 24,693 cities. The statistics change daily but the latest from their website claims 10 million nights booked since their conception. Their recent bad publicity, (a host’s property was trashed), is being addressed aggressively. They make it very clear to all about their 1 million dollar insurance guarantee for their renter client’s assurance. It sounds like they are really trying to cover their proverbial derriere big time. Here is a statement from their website. “Please note that Airbnb assumes no responsibility for a host’s compliance with any applicable laws, rules and regulations.” So who is responsible? Who gets blamed when things go wrong?

Here is the problem as I see it and I am sure most innkeepers will agree. Airbnb is getting away with murder. The website is slick and professional and the process of booking is streamline, so nothing appears illegal or problematical on the surface. I hope legitimate bed and breakfasts innkeepers don’t get enticed. Scott Thomas certainly wasn’t. He received a follow up email stating they had created a draft listing for his approval and stated he can edit it at any time and quote:”If you like the listing, we can make it appear in search results allowing people to discover the Brewster House.” Again the process for the host property appears to be slick and streamlined as well.

The legality of Airbnb has been speculated on and addressed by municipalities since its beginning but what is disturbing is that it not only continues to operate but thrives. Cities like San Francisco (where the company’s headquarters are) are actively attempting to deal with the problem. They know that Airbnb represents a loophole and that the owners of the host properties listed on thier site fall under the city’s definition of a bed and breakfast, and thus are breaking the law. From their statement on their website,”…they assume no responsibility for a host’s compliance with any applicable laws.” So again we ask the question, who gets blamed and in turn gets punished? As in many cases when a powerful  phenomenon like Airbnb prevails and prospers the law abiding businesses often suffer. We have seen it happen in New York City. Last May Jay Karen testified on behalf of the B&B industry before the New York State Assembly Committee on Housing with a NYC innkeeper, Vanessa Milando. Like San Francisco NYC is attempting to crack down on the illegal ‘hotels’ operating outside the perimeter of state regulations. All good on the surface but in the process the legitimate B&B’s in the city were fined a very large and punitive amount of money. Please read the press release detailing Jay’s involvement and testimony in this case.

Airbnb claims they will work closely with city and town officials and here is their unbelievable spin on why ‘collaborative consumption’ is good for municipalities and consumers. “Airbnb seamlessly integrates travelers into a neighborhood’s existing infrastructure, relieving congestion in tourist zones and distributing their economic impact to new neighborhood economies – which is a win-win for residents and businesses in those areas.”

Ask any innkeeper and I believe they would love a share of that tourist ‘congestion’ on their reservation books! Also what about the tourist who prefers to stay in a ‘tourist zone’, it is called a destination location. And about the win-win, all on the side of Airbnb in my opinion. So be alert and fasten your seatbelts, there may be a bit of Airbnb turbulance coming.

Recent article on the issue worth reading. Read more on the subject.

Thanks for listening

Janet Wolf

V is for B&B’s for Vets

August 14th, 2012 by Janet Wolf

As many of you already know, over the past few years on Veterans Day, B&B’s and Inns across the US have offered active and retired veterans free lodging for one night. This was started a few years ago as a grass roots program by an innkeeper in West Virginia that has taken off. 2012 should be a zenith year with PAII taking the lead with listing all participating properties on the ‘Better Way to Stay’ website.

Kristie Rosset, the new Chair of the PAII Board of Directors recently commented on the PAII Forum:

“B&B for Vets, is an ever-evolving process. The BWTS campaign is ever-evolving, with new video recently filmed across North America to highlight the diversity of the B&B experience. Where we are today is not the final product–just like our inns. We keep striving to improve and grow!”

Striving to improve by reaching out and connecting to more and more vets each year, thanking them for their service, one inn at a time, doing what innkeepers do best, providing comfort and service with a smile to those folks who really deserve acknowledgment for their service and sacrifice.

Here is a brief story of one vet The B&B Team is proud to be ‘connected’ with.

“I joined the Air Force in my mid-twenties. I was active duty Air Force from 1984 to 1988 and the Air Force Reserve Component from 1988 to 2007. I was on active duty orders from 2002 to 2007 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, assigned to Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. I was instrumental in the development and implementation of Northern Command and in support of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, pre- during and post landfall. During my time with NORTHCOM, I was responsible for numerous officers; their schedules, travel arrangements, lodging, orders and travel vouchers. During the hurricanes, I was responsible for standing up the command post and the outreach of hundreds of local, state, federal and international personnel. During my military career, I have coordinated hundreds of ceremonies and been responsible for coordinating meetings on the commander’s behalf. Among all the things I did in the military I also got to travel to many places around the world.”

Before I reveal who this ‘mystery’ vet is I would like to share a quote. For those of you who follow my blogs, you know I love quotes!

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heros and she-roes!” Maya Angelou

Well our ‘she-roe’s” name is Donna Pearce, new innkeeper of  15 days of the Admiral Peary Inn in Fryeburg Maine.

After retiring from the Air Force to early 2012, Donna’s story continues.

“One weekend I stayed at an inn in Maine and fell in love. Drove to their broker’s office in Kennebunk and met Rick Wolf. I had him put a letter of intent on the property the next day. After negotiating back and forth, the deal was made. UNTIL, a higher bid with no contingencies (like selling my house in Colorado!) was accepted. I sure was disappointed but could not blame the owners one bit. So Rick started searching for me and working with me on different aspects of owning and operating a bed and breakfast. The consultant extraordinaire that he is taught me a lot in a short time. He discovered a place that had been on the market for quite some time and called me. I saw the Admiral Peary House the first time in March 2012. A mere two months later I passed papers on the property and spent my first night in my new inn! Since then I have had several family members and friends, old and new, help with making the inn mine. We took down wallpaper, ripped up carpet, laid new floor, moved furniture around, painted, and tweaked. On August 1st I was issued my license by the state of Maine to open the Admiral Peary Inn. Oh and I must tell you, it is seven rooms, my own living quarters, HUGE kitchen and guest dining area, two acres of land (great for my VERY dog friendly inn), formal dining room, formal living room, great room, game room, three season porch, two decks and a library and a mile from the Saco River.”

So you think Donna will offer free nights at her B&B for Vets on Veterans Day? You bet. She also offers like many innkeepers, specials for vets throughout the year. We love Donna’s story and wish her the best in her efforts to strive, improve and grow as new innkeeper and ‘she-roe’ at the Admiral Peary Inn.

Thanks for listening

Janet Wolf


Donna and Friends

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.




R is for Rates – To raise or not to raise, that is the question

March 5th, 2012 by Janet Wolf

The Gower Memorial - Hamlet Statue in Stratford upon Avon

Prince Hamlet

When it comes to rates, to increase or not has always been a brooding question for innkeepers and a subject of much discussion, especially in tough economic times. In a recent PAII Forum thread the subject of raising rates was introduced and many innkeepers took the time to give their opinions and express their own dilemmas when making this tough decision.

“Travelers don’t buy rate; they buy value.” Neil Salerno – Hotel Marketing Coach

Think about this statement…value over price. Let’s look at what value is and put aside the number crunching for now. There are three key components to consider when looking at your property and determining value. In analyzing your Inn and determining its value, you should include your bed and breakfast location (which cannot be changed), your facility inside and out (which can be changed and will lose value if not maintained) and your competition (which can also change and must never be ignored). All of these components should be honestly scrutinized when making the decision whether to raise your rates or not.

Location – A popular tourist destination will command higher rates. This is a given. A great location needs great marketing to keep its competitive edge. Participating in your Chamber of Commerce, local, state and national (PAII) innkeeper associations and tourist bureau can keep you informed as well as give you the opportunity to help in the marketing of your property’s location. Working within a vacuum is not good for your business. Other location factors to include are close proximity to attractions, restaurants and activities. Water views, mountain tops and other attractive surroundings should also be considered. Your market value will be on the high side if you are in a popular destination in an attractive setting with great marketing.

Facility – Your entire Inn must always be a work in progress. Upkeep, improvements, re-doing guest rooms and baths, keeping up with all sorts of trends, from marketing to décor, the list goes on. If your rates have not been raised in three years and you have done nothing to your Inn in three years then you can’t justify raising your rates, because you have not added any value to your facility. But, if you have consistently made significant ‘value added’ improvements to your property and have communicated them to your potential guests loud and clear, then you are in a much better position to raise rates. Travelers will look at a ‘new and fresh’ guest room and put a higher value to that room in comparison to another room that appears dated and tired. Don’t forget to present these improvements on your website, Facebook and all your social media! Your amenities will also help to determine your individual room’s rates. The more bells and whistles the better.


Curb Appeal - A Cottage Suite at The Inn at Stockbridge, clean and pristine!

Competition – Positioning yourself properly within your marketplace is key. Knowledge of your competition will help you position yourself and determine whether your rate structure is competitive. Look at the rates of properties in your marketplace area that you determine are comparable to yours. If their rates are generally lower than yours, look deeper. What do they offer, i.e. smaller rooms and baths that appear dated, a property location that is not as attractive as yours, an inferior breakfast offering. Also look at the properties that have higher rates, again look deeper, are they offering more luxury amenities, and are they AAA Four Diamond or Select Registry? All of these offerings are perceived as having a higher value. If a potential guest determines there is value in what you offer then they will book even at a slightly higher price than your competitor.

There is also the consideration that the rates you and your competitors are currently offering are at the highest your market will bear. So if you don’t believe you can raise your rates at this time, what can you do to raise revenues? Creating and promoting special packages is a good way to accomplish this. “Packaging allows you to mask actual room rates with features which add benefits (value!) to staying at your Inn.” (Another quote from Mr. Salerno). The B&B Team is a firm believer in packaging as a great tool to increase your bottom line.

What next? Homework. Look at the three components and make lists of your strengths, your weaknesses and your opportunities in these three areas. This should give you an idea of the areas you need to work on and then make a ‘To do priority list’. Increasing the value of your Inn will eventually enable you to prudently raise your rates. When your occupancy starts to climb, when your revenue starts to climb from packaging and specials and better marketing of your Inn, these are clues that you are creating a demand and good value to your guests. When you are confident about the quality and value of the product you offer, then raising rates becomes any easy decision. No need to brood and ponder like Prince Hamlet. Determine your worth and take action.

Janet Wolf


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

Living Social Interview II

June 29th, 2011 by Janet Wolf

The Lakehouse Inn & Winery

The Lakehouse Inn & Winery

The Lakehouse Inn & Winery in Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio is the subject of our second interview with innkeepers who have used Living Social or another of the social commerce sites available. The opportunity for innkeepers to take advantage of these sites to pump up the volume of their business in the off seasons have become more and more prevalent. Is it here to stay? That will depend on the public and the experiences they receive. Let’s hear what innkeeper Andrea Bushweiller has to say about her experience and her guest’s comments on their experience.
Q What was your motivation for using Living Social?
I first heard about Living Social at the PAII conference in January and after speaking with a representative from the company decided it would be a good way to generate business mid-week during the winter months when business is usually very slow.  I also thought it would be a great way to reach consumers that did not know about our facility and the extra business would keep my staff busy.
Q What did your package include?
The package includes 2 nights lodging in a traditional B&B room or cottage (Sunday-Thursday), a full breakfast each morning, 2 wine tasting trays, a bottle of Lakehouse Inn wine and 2 souvenir wine glasses.
Q What kind of feedback have you gotten from the participating guests?
Overall, the guest comments were positive-many of them had never been to our area or our Inn before and many said they would return again.  Some people were disappointed that there was not a lot to do in the area (it was the off season) and many complained about the weather (nothing I could do about that!).  Also, many people did not read the restrictions before they purchased it so we had to spend time explaining to guests that it was only valid in the winter and why they could not use it during the summer.
Q Would you do it again?
Yes, I would do another Living Social for a similar time period (mid-week during the winter months)
Q What advice would you want to pass on to innkeepers who are considering putting a package on a social commerce site?
1.) Be prepared for your phone to ring like crazy the first 48 hours.  Even though we were told to be prepared we were not ready for the 100+ phone calls we received each of those days.
2.) We had to extend the dates of our offer. All of the dates for the last month (May) booked up in the first few weeks.  We then had numerous guests call us in mid-April/May wanting to make reservations and we no longer had dates available so we had to extend the offer for the end of October-mid-December.
3.) If you are going to offer a deal from Living social or a similar site think carefully before you choose the dates that you want to the package to be valid for and only offer dates that would normally be empty.
Thank you Andrea.
For more information on the subject PAII CEO Jay Karen has recorded a video entitled “Social Buying: Craze or Just Crazy?,” which is one of PAII’s webinars available to members. He has teamed up with innkeepers like Andrea who have used social buying. They discuss everything from the successes to the challenges. Worth looking into? Any information available to help innkeepers attain a higher degree of marketing success is definitely worth looking into. The video is available for purchase or free depending on your membership level.  Also check out the PAII Forum for the occasional thread on innkeeper’s experiences and questions concerning social commerce.
One of the best and most informative blogs on social buying was written by The B&B Team affiliate and braniac Scott Bushnell. If you haven’t read this already, read it and read it again! What’s all this Stuff about Living Social and Groupon? Among other information Scott explains the financial process innkeepers should consider to help them understand the variable costs involved when creating a package. This information is most valuable. We believe that before you proceed with social buying as a provider the more research and preparation you do, the more successful you will be.
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