If you are an innkeeper anywhere other than the West Coast, you should be seeing the first signs of Spring . . . the snow is melting, the birds are returning with their sweet chirping and the smallest buds are starting to appear on shrubs and trees. Longer and brighter days, warmer temperatures and time to get your bed and breakfast inn ready for the next season of guests!
1. Spring Cleaning
Nationally recognized as occurring the fourth week of March, Spring has historically been the time many homeowners and innkeepers do a deep clean. It dates back to more than 3000 years ago and was called "shaking the house." When we owned our inns, our goal was to do Spring cleaning often throughout the year, and this only intensified with COVID. Areas of concentration for Spring Cleaning include cleaning:
2. Spring Painting - Interior & Exterior
If your inn is a historic structure, it may have narrow hallways and stairwells, which can be challenging for guests and luggage. Touch up all marks on stair risers, banisters, walls, doors, etc. Paint is relatively inexpensive and a little bit makes a big impact.
3. Linen Refreshing
If you aren't already regularly washing your pillow shams, comforters, quilts, blankets, pillow protectors and mattress pads - now is the time! As a matter of routine when we owned our inns we would strip our beds down to the mattress each time a guest checked out to ensure that everything was freshly laundered for every guest. Now is a great time to check pillows for stains that may have seeped through the pillow protectors and sanitize, wash or replace them as needed.
If you don't regularly manage your linen and towel inventory, take the time now to determine what needs replacing or is showing signs of wear.
4. Refrigerator & Freezer Clean Out & Clean Up
Use this time to remove all items from your inn's refrigerators and freezers, and give them a deep clean. Check expiration dates on all items including those in your pantry as well.
5. Systems Ready To Go
If you are not on a regular maintenance plan you may want to have your cooling systems serviced and be sure you are up to date on all fire extinguisher and water suppression system inspections.
6. Organize and Reorganize
During a busy season it is easy for things to end up out of place. Organize housekeeping areas, pantry, food storage and basement areas that are often overlooked during the year.
7. Inventory the Inventory
We found that it could take up to 3 months for shipments of mugs, coasters and other personalized items from our vendors. Inventory your retail items and place orders for the upcoming season.
8. Review Bar Offerings
If you have a full liquor license or a beer and wine license - take the time to review the beverages you offer and decide if it's time for a change.
9. Breakfast Menu Ideas
If March coincides with your inn's quieter season, you may want to take the time to review and consider new breakfast menu items.
10. Curb Appeal
The above list is not all inclusive but designed to give you a starting point for making sure your inn is at it's very best for your guests.
When we owned our inns we believed that curb appeal was critical. Being located in a village setting, travelers would walk past our inn on their way to town. Often they would stop and point to our gardens or flowering window boxes and I would invite them in for a look. We were fortunate to gain several new guests that way. We even developed a Special around that - but that's for another blog.)
Following curb appeal is first impressions. In a matter of minutes most guests decide whether they made the right choice or are slightly disappointed with their inn selection. Having the area by your front door graced by colorful flowers, followed by a warm greeting and tour of a pristine property, you are well on your way to having not just a happy guest but a returning one!
Need more ideas on getting your bed and breakfast inn ready for Spring? Reach out, we would love to work with you.
One of our favorite responsibilities as an innkeeper when we owned our inns and as an Interim Innkeeper is to prepare, cook and serve our favorite meal - breakfast. If you own a bed and breakfast inn, you soon realize that breakfast is one of two main descriptors of your business. So, with that being the case, do you want to serve your guests just any breakfast? Or do you want your Inn's breakfast to be an event - something that is unique, artistic and flavorful . . . something your guests surely won't forget?
In our experiences of creating and operating two bed and breakfast inns, managing a third, and now Inn sitting, we felt breakfast was a show liner. Not only was it a distinguishing element for our business, it was something guests came to the Inn fully looking forward to as they read so many reviews from former guests all talking about the delicious details of the morning meals. Then the anticipation would only grow as the afternoon and evening lead to the morning event, as they often saw us in the kitchen in the evening prepping for the next morning's breakfast. That always made for wonderful aromas and great discussion!
If you are an aspiring innkeeper, then this is just "food" for thought as you dream about how you will design the elements, amenities and services of your future inn. And if you are an innkeeper, who serves a hearty traditional breakfast, and that is what you are known for - then this might not be for you. But if you are open to ideas of how to turn a regular breakfast into something more - read on!
Many innkeepers provide several food and beverage items as part of their breakfast. Many begin with juice and water, followed by coffee and/or tea and then the entrée which often times is garnished with fresh fruit, breakfast meats and if it is a savory dish, toast. Some innkeepers also provide cereal or yogurt.
If you didn't want to serve any more than you currently serve - a few ways to make your breakfast experience more of an event is in the variety, presentation and setting.
Variety - It's All About Choice
Choice doesn't automatically equate to more cost and/or waste. You can provide options without spending any more money per breakfast. For example, as opposed to offering orange juice start with a selection of 100% juices for your guests to choose from - and don't be afraid to spice it up a bit! In addition to serving orange, add some interesting ones like Strawberry Banana, Peach Mango or Blueberry Pomegranate (all by V-8). At our last inn we had a choice of 17 juices for guest to select daily. Now that may be a bit excessive, but 3 to 5 might be just right!
Same holds true with fresh seasonal berries - if you are offering yogurt with fresh berries, consider giving guests a choice of several to include the standards like strawberries and blueberries but depending on price and availability you might also consider offering pomegranate seeds, raspberries, blackberries and or golden berries. Some of our guests also enjoyed adding dried cut fruit to their cereals and yogurt.
Providing options gives more control to your guest. It ensures their breakfast items are tailored to their preferences. In many ways it results in less waste because they are more likely to eat it all because they selected those items.
Picture Perfect - Presentation
Have you ever noticed when you are at a restaurant, people sometimes catch their wait staff approaching with their food tray and look at every dish they are delivering or look at the plates of food being served to other patrons. We sometimes eat with our eyes first. When food is delivered and presented in a way that is colorful, fun and interesting, we are already expecting it to be delicious. So we already are 50% there!
One way to make food look appetizing is to separate it in courses - so if you are offering cereal and yogurt - make that one of your courses and describe to your guests that you have a two course breakfast. If you are offering granola (which is very easy to make and smells delicious when baking) you can offer it with fresh berries and assorted yogurt and provide choices for both. Or if you are offering slow cooked oats, you can offer local made maple syrup, brown sugar, toasted nuts and cinnamon as accruements. And if you are offering yogurt, it is easy to offer plain Greek, vanilla or berry along with a choice of fresh berries and a small topping of granola if they prefer. At our last inn we began offering vanilla and berry yogurt but then added plain Greek in to the mix and was surprised how many guests took advantage of all three. And of course we always had dairy free yogurt on hand for guests who were intolerant.
Some inns will put fresh fruit on the entrée plate, which fills out the plate and is a practical way to include it in the meal. But sometimes an over-crowded plate isn't as attractive as one that allows you to easily see each food element. Depending upon the fruit you are including on the entrée plate, you may be able to make the fruit stand alone as a course, thus going from a two course breakfast to a three course breakfast. If on your entrée plate you were planning to serve some pineapple and bananas you can instead consider plating those on their own. In the photo above, we rubbed sliced fresh pineapple with brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and then grilled it and stacked it with bananas topping it with a sliced strawberry, garnishing with strawberry coulis and a sprig of fresh mint.
Now this may be a little more than the pineapple and bananas you were planning to include on your entrée plate but the presentation truly makes an impact and it allows guests to enjoy the fruit separate from the meal.
We always think of dinner out as more a romantic meal than breakfast. Often times when we eat breakfast out, it may be in a diner type environment which is wonderful - but not necessarily romantic.
Guests come to bed and breakfast inns to get away from the ordinary and have a romantic and special getaway - so why not make breakfast romantic?
Start with candle light on the tables, lights dimmed. If it is fall and winter and you have fireplaces in your common rooms and/or dining room, have them going. We also used fairy lights on the mantels along with candles to help set the mood. In addition to linen covered tables with candle light, we had fresh flowers and soft music playing in our dining room. We used wireless Sonos speakers throughout our common rooms and dining room but were careful not to have it playing in common rooms that had bedrooms above unless those guests signed up for the earlier breakfast times. Service was relaxed, breakfast was in courses and our guests enjoyed the experience. (Note: If you are looking for affordable and easy to maintain tablecloths, consider InnStyle or Premier Table Linens. Both have lots of options and offer custom sizing.)
Obviously, the approach described in this blog may not work for all bed and breakfast inns but if you are looking to do something a little different, maybe try one or two of the ideas presented above.
Need more guidance on a unique breakfast experience? Reach out, we would love to work with you.
Carolyn & Rick Bentzinger, owners of Getaway Innkeepers, an interim innkeeping service & former owners and managers of three bed and breakfast Inns in the Northeast.