Income Diversity And Profits At Inns — Basic Income Pillars

This article on basic income pillars your can incorporate into your business affairs covers those businesses that are part of the inn itself. These are simpler opportunities that involve less effort or expense on your part.

Reading the first article in the series, Define Your Purpose First, will be a good springboard to this topic.

Increase Your Income Pillars — Basics
What additional activities fit with and support your inn’s concept? I’ve already mentioned restaurant, bar, and wedding/meeting businesses. There are lots of options for you to consider. Your personality, location, and dreams will help guide which additional income pillars blend with your inn idea. A gift shop, spa, and affiliate programs (like teaming up with a bike shop, gym, carriage-ride service, or even an Uber or Lyft driver) come to mind immediately as additional income pillars that can reasonably be incorporated into your inn’s environment. The opportunities are limited only by your imagination, zoning/licensing, and finances.

  • Gift Shop
    A gift shop is a natural with an inn because your guests may need something they forgot to bring. If their guest experience has been wonderful, they want to take a memento of your inn home with them; a gift shop item fits the bill. I knew an innkeeper years ago who created a guestroom’s worth of income from her gift shop, which occupied a corner of her inn’s kitchen (accessible to her guess). She didn’t have to change the beds or clean rooms for that income; she merely treated her guests well, giving them the experience they sought and she promised, and then let them buy myriad items with the inn’s logo, location and contact information printed on them. What a show of appreciation those purchases were! She considered her gift shop easy money. Guests may love your soap, hand lotion, coffee mugs, bathrobes, and any number of other items in your gift shop. Heck, there are big-chain hotels that offer their sheets, pillows, and even mattresses in their online gift shops. The profit on all these items can be lucrative.
  • Meeting Space
    A meeting or special event space is another great income producer for inns. That space can be rented out to others as requested or used by guests if available. Renting the space to outside groups provides attendees with the chance to see the property and experience the inn’s atmosphere and hospitality. Their experience may lead them to return for a getaway of their own, or booking their own even there, increasing your lodging business and income. The charged rental fee ideally is great enough to not only provide additional income but to also cover the use, utilities, and wear and tear, improving the inn’s bottom line. As long as the meeting space business doesn’t interfere with the lodging business — the common areas promised to the guests — it’s a great income pillar to add.
  • Food Opportunities — Picnics
    Breakfast is a given at a bed and breakfast, but not necessarily at other boutique properties. And what about lunch and dinner at any inn? Providing food opportunities can be a wonderful income pillar. There are numerous simple ways delicious meals can be prepared for overnight guests. Picnic lunches or dinners can be as simple as a bagged or basketed meal. The items you include in a meal should be easy to keep on hand: bottled water/soda/juice/wine/beer, cookies, fruit, and vegetables. For the entree portion, consider a sandwich, quiche, pot pie, cheese and sausage, or hard boiled eggs and caviar with french bread and cheese. Just be sure to avoid the use of Styrofoam and use either durable or compostable containers (to keep a lighter environmental footprint). How you package the meal (whether it’s bagged or basketed) depends on the meal itself, the price you charge.
  • Food Opportunities — Dining
    Providing food service to your guests is a big decision. Running a restaurant is a whole other business dimension than running your inn. That said, dinners can be an easy service that will win your guests’ hearts forever. Dinners served at the inn can be served either in the guest’s room or the dining room, and by prior arrangement. If you don’t have a full kitchen to work from can still arrange for delicious and fresh food to be served. I’ve offered foods that range from fresh pasta to gourmet pot pie to lasagna, served with a vegetable, dessert, and beverage. You could also hire a private chef to cook special meals for your guests, if that’s more your style. This is a profit center you can consider when it’s offered like this, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is something that should be done for your guests only at cost. It’s not necessary to be as gouging as some room service menus are, but it’s not a cheap option for the guest either. This is an additional service being provided for guests, for their convenience, so consider it a viable income pillar.

The next article, Advanced Income Pillars, is the third and final in this series on Income Diversity And Profits At Inns.

Income Diversity And Profits At Inns — Define Your Purpose First

This is the first of a three-part series about creating a more stable income base and increasing your profits. The first step, and thus the first article in the series, is determining your primary reason to be in business. The next two articles cover basic and more advanced income pillars.

 

The inn, or boutique hotel, market is more competitive today than ever before. A clearly defined market niche is important so your potential guests can examine the promised guest experience at different properties to decide what experience they want this time. A clearly defined market niche helps you target your marketing efforts so the people who want what you are providing can find you in the online marketing noise.

Determining and developing a market niche is as important in the inn industry as it is in corporate branding for the big guys. Differentiation is vital for a your inn’s success. That’s how you stand out from the crowd.

Part of owning and operating a successful inn is knowing what your primary intent is, or your business focus. That’s true for every business, and I think even more so in the highly competitive lodging industry we are experiencing today.

 

Determine Your Primary Purpose
When the merchants on Boulder, Colorado’s, Pearl Street — the main street in town for generations — decided to convert the street to a pedestrian mall, their first discussion was about what their purpose was in forming a pedestrian mall. Initially, they thought the focus was to create a merchandising center, but as the conversation developed and evolved, they realized that they really were creating was a place that was safe for people of all walks of life to come together and interact. Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall is still one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the country, even after over forty years. Why? Because the merchants understood what they were creating, and have been faithful to that vision. Similarly, an inn’s purpose might not simply be a lodging property, but rather a place to that provides a fun and safe environment, as well as a comfortable place to sleep.

Successful innkeepers know what their purpose is and stay faithful to that purpose. Those are the innkeepers that experience the same kind of popularity and success as Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall. I’d like to think that you recognize your purpose as a multi-pillared operation. Start by determining what your primary income pillar is and then consider other income pillars that support your primary pillar and broaden the income opportunities of your property.

What is the primary focus of an inn? The standard way of answering that is guestrooms are the focus and primary purpose. I have seen inns decide that their restaurant, bar, or wedding/meeting business were the primary focus, though. If you keep in mind the Pearl Street Mall success story, then providing place of great experiences and safety is a more important focus and purpose to your inn’s success. It’s my experience that guestrooms have a better profit margin than just about anything else you can do with your inn, so it makes sense they would be the raison d’etre — your primary focus.

 

Ideas for Basic Income Pillars is the second article in the series.

Exceeding Your Standards — Hospitality

This is the third article in a three-part series on being better than you are. The three parts covered are Safety/Security, Cleanliness, and Hospitality. Set your standards high, and then push beyond them. That keeps you on your toes, keeps you striving for better, and satisfying your guests’ expectations.

Start with the first article, Safety/Security. The second article, Cleanliness, follows.

 

Hospitality
Free-hanging wooden hangars are much more luxurious than other options. Provide lots of them in guestroom closets for that extra-caring touch. To make sure guests distinguish your hanger from those they have at home, consider tying a ribbon on the neck, or permanently affixing your inn’s logo on the hangar.

Another subtle oversight is around the placement of hand towels at sinks. They are used at the sink, so place them there, not across the room on the towel rack or by the shower. Help guests dry their hands quickly and easily without dripping on your floor by putting hand towels at the sink. To make the placement feel more special, roll or stack them on the counter or in a basket, or hang them from a towel ring right by the sink.

Have you reviewed your bath amenities? In addition to soap (bar and soft) and shampoo you could offer Q-tips and cotton balls, a makeup removal cloth or towelette, shower cap, emery boards, and even sewing kits. These, of course, are all branded with your inn logo, website address, and contact info. And speaking of soap and shampoo, if you really care about your guests, please provide natural products, not petrochemical based products.

Is your food service adequate or ample? If you have a bed and breakfast option, breakfast, of course, is expected. Do you offer snacks during the day, or even with a 24-hour availability? Do you offer a range of healthy food choices? Those are only the start of gestures you can make as part of your hospitality excellence.

What about options like individual climate control, TV, VCR, sound system, and gas fireplace? Do you have a guest letter that reviews important hours, how to use the phone (if you provide one), a reminder of your gift shop, and a general welcome to your guests? This would be a great place to inform your guest of details on what to do in case of emergency, as well as one more chance to state your policies (which I trust you have stated at reservation time, in the brochure, on the web site, and in your confirmation letter).

Have you provided extra blankets and pillows in the guestroom? Don’t make your guests ask for them or suffer without them. And provide non-feather pillows for your guests, catering to allergies and general comfort for some guests. There are so many pillow-style preferences it’s easy to understand why some hotels have pillow menus.

Guest refrigerators with individual creamers in the guestrooms are a plus, too. I guess if you are going to place cream in the room refrigerators, providing a way for guests to make coffee, cocoa, and tea is a plus as well. If you don’t offer guest refrigerators, your coffee/tea station can be outfitted with shelf-stable cream and creamers.

Do you have a system for recording your guest’s likes/dislikes, personal details like birthday or anniversary, or their partner’s, children’s, and pet’s names? Being able to track little details so you can use them during exchanges and their visits wins you loyalty and a very satisfied guest. This is the secret sauce of exceedingly great hospitality.

Umbrella stands, with umbrellas by your front door or in the guestrooms, is a helpful service since many people don’t travel with umbrellas. Wet regions even have umbrella bags, like grocery bags, to put wet umbrellas into when guests come in from the rain. Sweet hospitality.

People are increasingly aware of drinking pure water: what about providing a filter in each room? The filter could be at the sink or in a fruit-filled dispenser in the lobby.

Lighting is a big issue, for me and others with less-than-perfect eyesight. Is yours welcoming, especially on cloudy days and at night? Are the bedside lights fitted with 3-way switches and 3-way bulbs? Do you have lights on desks and at reading chairs, too? Is there good lighting in the shower/bath area as well as at the sink? A lighted makeup mirror would be a treat. For mood lighting in the bath, how about a dimmer switch?

What have you done about noise control? Even if you have an older building there are little things you can do to help muffle noises, such as carpet runners on wood floors, not placing headboards against common headboard walls (no two headboards share a wall, at least not at the same spot on the wall), and using solid doors for the guestrooms. If you are renovating or building from scratch, pay attention to insulating water walls, guestroom walls, guestroom floors, and ceilings, too.

There are so many little ways to raise your standards above what you have defined for yourself that will make a big difference in your guests’ enjoyment!

Some of the suggestions I have offered are expensive, but most of them are inexpensive and easy. Are you going to meet or beat your standards? Are you going to meet or beat your income expectations? It’s your choice.

Exceeding Your Standards — Cleanliness

This is the second of a three-part series on your inn’s standards and how to exceed them. Safety/Security, Cleanliness, and Hospitality are the core of your business. You can profit in so many ways by setting high standards and then exceeding even those.

If you didn’t see Part 1, Safety/Security, start there .

Cleanliness
The underlying question is, how clean is clean enough? I believe that your paying guests deserve to see a clean property — that’s part of what they are paying for, after all. Do you clean bathrooms daily? What about dusting and vacuuming the public areas daily? How often do you dust and vacuum all surfaces? Have you set up a schedule to mop floors and clean your wood floors? Your health department will have its own binding opinion here, but I think kitchen floors should be mopped twice daily at the very least — after meals and at the end of the day. Common area wood floors need to be mopped minimally twice a week.

Have you noticed you or your employees using the counter sponge on the floor? If so, that’s a new floor sponge that should never be used on the counter again, at least not until laundered! If you have a jetted tub, do you have a frequent and regular cleaning regime for it? Health departments always have something to say about this issue. I hate getting into tubs and seeing floating scum and hairs, and I’m not fond of feeling grit on the tub floor, either.

How often do you clean the guestroom phones, like the mouthpiece and earpiece? That kind of cleaning removes germs and bacteria from the mouthpiece and perfume and make up from the earpiece. Add that to you turn-over cleaning checklist, at the very least.

Bedspread cleanliness is a nightmare, for guests and innkeepers alike. As an aside, let me point out that one reason bedspreads get so dirty is because there aren’t enough luggage racks in guestrooms, so the bed becomes a luggage rack. Help yourself and your guests by putting two luggage racks in each guestroom. Bedspreads and blankets deserve to be cleaned frequently because of the heavy use they get. If you use bed skirts, those get filthy, too, as people walk up to the bed and scuff their shoes on them; wash them frequently.

If you still use coffee pots in your rooms, be sure to put the filter basket through your dishwasher frequently to remove the coffee oils that build up on them, giving fresh water to the tea drinkers staying with you. And coffee pots need the same dishwasher treatment pretty frequently. The stories I hear about how they are used for cleaning nylons and underwear make me never want to use another hotel coffee pot!

One oversight I have noticed at inns, as well as fine restaurants, is not changing the flower vase water frequently enough. Depending on your sense of smell and stomach strength, that can ruin your stay or meal. I’ve seen science projects with less gunk growing than I’ve seen in some flower vase water!

 

The third part of this series is on Hospitality, tying up the basics of having high standards to support and growing inn business.

Exceeding Your Standards — Safety and Security

The standards you set for your inn make the difference between success and failure, profit and loss, or just getting by. The American standard of hospitality is a good standard to aim for, though setting your sights higher will bring you better ratings and all that goes with that; be the best of whatever category you desire. Standards of safety and security, cleanliness, and your overall hospitality are under discussion in this article.

I’m going to be a bit controversial here and suggest you exceed your inn’s standards. Your standards are: the style you intend to use in your business; what your guests look for as part of their experience at your inn; how you respond and react to your guests needs and comments. Exceeding your standards ensures you’ll be the best you can be. That is part of your formula for success.

Why would you want to exceed your own standards, as opposed to just meeting them? So you can shine in the category you have defined as your level of business and service. If you want to be a three-diamond or -star establishment you need to not only adopt the requirements for that category of service, but also incorporate some of the suggestions for a higher rating. You will stand out in the crowd and that will improve your business and reputation.

I’m look at explore this topic from three angles: exceed your standards from the perspectives of Safety/Security, Cleanliness, and Hospitality. Each angle will be covered in a separate article, so be sure to read all three.

Safety/Security
Do your guestroom doors have locking knobs and privacy locks? It’s a requirement of many licensing bureaus and associations, and it’s pure common sense. I feel it’s very important to offer the option of locking the door regardless of which side of it a guest is on. Guests have a right to protect their belongings and themselves. It’s fine if a guest chooses not to lock their door, but it’s a shame if they want to and can’t. Not having the choice decreases their comfort, and thus their impression of your inn. Not giving guests the option to lock the door as they come and go also raises your liability.

Are there night lights in the guest rooms and the common areas? If so, have you considered equipping them with light sensors so you don’t waste electricity during the day or have to remember to turn them on when the light gets dim? Take care that the light isn’t so bright or positioned such that it shines in the guests’ eyes as they sleep, detracting from their sleep comfort. This is just the sort of thing you should be looking for when you periodically spend a night in your rooms.

Is there emergency lighting in your rooms, whether public and private, halls, or stairways? Flashlights don’t qualify as emergency lighting because they don’t automatically come on. There are plug-in emergency lights that come on when power is lost and can act as a flashlight to help the guests evacuate if required. Do your guests know how to contact you if they have an emergency, day or night?

Speaking of emergencies, what are you doing about fire extinguishers around the inn? You just never know what’s going to burst into flame that makes an extinguisher handy to have close by. Even when you don’t allow combustibles in your guest rooms, guests sometimes take rules into their own hands. Be prepared for the unexpected.

Evacuation maps are another great safety feature. I have seen variations on the evacuation maps we have all seen in hotels — a floor plan/map of the inn and grounds, showing egress options, as well as innkeeper location, fire extinguishers, pathways, fountains and other important items (some not even emergency items, like cookie jars).

How well lit are your parking areas, and do you have lighted walkways to the inn? How do you secure your guestroom and front door keys? Is there a phone in the inn that’s available to your guests 24 hours a day? Providing a pay phone outside is the next best thing to a phone in the inn, but lacking in class and consideration. Even in the day of the omnipresent cell phone, sometimes a wired land line is a good safety measure to take.

 

As promised, Part 2 covers Cleanliness