Innkeeping is not for wimps!

35 replies [Last post]
Offline
Joined:
10/07/2008

Wake up and smell the coffee

Input from experienced and seasoned innkeepers on the reality of running a bed and breakfast. 

This list is not to scare you, but to share what innkeeping is really like. If you feel you are ready to take on this challenge please read on...

Innkeepers feel free to add to this list in the comments section.

COMPLETE LIST ON INNTERACTIVE INNS here.

__________________

Gluten free is never free. - Joey Bloggs

 

Offline
Joined:
10/31/2009

Just this weekend, we had seven unexpected bookings because of the flooding on Colorado's front range (we're on the other side of the continental divide, and while it was damp and gloomy at our place, nobody died; though some of the locals who are used to corona-blue skies this time of year wished they were dead because they couldn't hike or climb).

A family reunion that got washed out (literally) of Estes Park, found us. A couple from San Francisco had to evacuate Boulder (he was with the DOE and giving a seminar on "laser safety"; God only knows what that entailed) and a mom/pop with daughter and son-in-law looking at wedding venues.

And here we were, hoping for a week's respite before the place started to fill up for aspen color lookers.

But to point: one of the women in the displaced family reunion looked at me the first night during happy hour and pointedly asked me, "So, are you as happy as you thought you would be when you started this business? (She was from New Jersey and either Italian or Jewish and had bluntness down to a science.)

"Oh," I said, "this business has exceeded our expectations. We have met amazing people from all over the world, some of whom have become good friends. We are happier than we ever expected to be."

Her eyes got wide, and she told me the story of one of her relatives who bought a B&B in New Jersey and hadn't run it for a year before she put it on the market. Evidently, they all came from a self-reliant family whose attitude to unexpected adversity was to "suck it up," which isn't exactly the best customer service attitude to cultivate when one is an innkeeper.

I laughed and told her the story of my wife's and my first PAII convention (before we'd bought our inn), when we both remarked at the number of innkeepers on the convention floor with unhappy expressions on their face. "Damn, girl," I told Julie, "I cook with a lot of buttermilk, but I sure wouldn't want to confront something *that* sour at breakfast." I also mentioned that another innkeeper had shared an (unconfirmed) statistic that the average run of an innkeeper is ten years, after which the innkeepers "begin to hate people."

Regarding compulsive cleaning, whenever possible, we hang our linens out to dry and be whipped by the Colorado "breezes." I tend to "sniff" the blankets and spreads, and if I detect anything when making the bed, the coverings go into the laundry as well as the sheets. My hearing may be going to Hell, but the nose still works.

All told, at the end of our summer season, we still are hoping for a few weeks of minimal occupancy to do some deferred maintenance before ramping up for ski season, but these unexpected September bookings will go a long way to helping us pay the October mortgage. When you're an innkeeper, it's all good!

Tom

Joey Camb's picture
Offline
Joined:
04/02/2010

I think too much of this problem is people don't really know what they are getting into - they think they do but they don't. Mr cambs and I did 30 years + hospitality between us prior to this - did triple shifts, 7 days a week, were on 24 hour call out etc, but the number of people we get who say they have always fancied it makes me laugh

(1) most popular group right now is the we don't have any money group! in the UK its a 55% deposit for hospitality businesses so no fricking chance

 

__________________

Don't mess with me today or I will kill you!!!!

 

Aussie Innkeeper's picture
Offline
Joined:
01/16/2010

When people ask me what innkeeping is like, I ask them if they have kids and if they do, can they remember what having a newborn baby in the house was like.

__________________

Lynne
Queen of Everything!

 

Joey Camb's picture
Offline
Joined:
04/02/2010

only thing is it goes all code-y on interactive inn's

Breakfast Diva's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/26/2009

Oh, it's all so true! I can totally understand why aspirings and non-innkeepers would think this stuff can't possibly be real, but guess again!

Madeleine's picture
Offline
Joined:
09/29/2011

Not all at once, but I have felt many of those things at some time.

And I do think this is a much easier job than being a chef and owning a restaurant.

Odd as it may sound to anyone contemplating this as a livelihood, because how could this possibly even be true, the first summer we were here I did not leave the house for over a month. I will repeat that...I did not step foot outside the building for over a month. (It was more like 6-7 weeks.) Not, I ran to the store but didn't have time to chat. Not, I went to the post office. Not, I could only run to the library to return books. I did not step foot outside the building. Not even to walk the dog.

I was up until midnight every night ironing sheets. I was cleaning rooms, serving breakfast, taking reservations, chatting with guests.

How bad was it? A GUEST weeded my garden because it was so overgrown. Because I did not step foot outside the building for over a month.

THAT is something to look back on and see the complete folly of getting so involved that I never went outside. To be so burdened down by the business that I did not feel I had 20 minutes to myself to even go outside to weed the garden.

Ditched the all-cotton, excessively wrinkly sheets that winter and swore I would never chain myself to the house again.

__________________

Everyday, for good or ill, we intersect with some else's story and become a part of it.

 

Offline
Joined:
05/22/2008

surprise

Arks's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/22/2010

For the second time this week, a post on this forum has left me speechless, except to say that there's nothing wrong with being untanned. For lightskinned folk, sun is an evil to be avoided!

__________________

All saints can do miracles, but few of them can keep hotel. ~ Mark Twain

 

Offline
Joined:
10/07/2008

INNKEEPING IS NOT FOR WIMPS

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE
Things they never told you about being an innkeeper
When people are thinking of taking their first steps toward innkeeping, many around them are quick to give advice. They will warn of the toil involved, the strength of character and the stamina that are needed, the long hours... But however much warning is given, one is always quick to disregard it and shrug one's shoulders because really, how hard can it be?

After years of innkeeping, we have seen hundreds come and go, many who lose it all in the transaction, from marriages to financial ruin; eager at the start but quickly disenchanted and just as eager to get out. But you cannot just walk away, the investment is too large. Only a small percentage of people who walk into the world of innkeeping stay there once faced with this harsh environment.
Below is a list that we compiled of all the realities of day to day life as an innkeeper, based on our own experiences. This is AFTER you own the inn, not the process leading up to it!

What you can expect from making a living as an innkeeper:
1. You'll almost always have a false smile on your face, to welcome guests who are happily on vacation (even when exhausted, sick or worse).
2. You'll always meet new people but have few friendships, because your social life deteriorates into non-existence.
3. You'll find it hard to start relationships because alone time will become a precious thing.
4. Your sense of humour will degrade into the politically correct and socially acceptable as you have to watch your p’s and q’s all the time.
5. You'll eventually start swearing like a sailor in the privacy of the kitchen when dealing with difficult people on a regular basis.
6. You'll turn into an anorak/monomaniac and always turn all conversations back to the inn, as this is what people want to ask you about.
7. You'll earn a pittance for years/decades, if you earn anything at all.
8. You'll gain a vast amount of weight, as in the freshman 15 as you can’t see beautiful food wasted, so whatever is left from afternoon refreshments you eat.
9. You'll never ever have a tan ever again, you only go outside to go shopping or business chores.
10. You will spend every waking hour marketing your inn.
11. You will learn all social media, because you have to, not because you like it.
12. Your knees will get destroyed.
13. You'll live in a constant state of sleep deprivation, indefinitely.
14. You'll have to ask your friends to plan everything around your schedule, which is in complete opposition with their availability, because you work every weekend, and every day.
15. You'll become of a very highly strung nature, quick to have an answer for everything, as that is expected of you.
16. You'll become more prone to temper flare ups with those you love.
17. Your awareness of other people's lack of efficiency and common sense will increase and your tolerance of it will decrease. A GPS is not the best thing since sliced bread!
18. You'll spend the largest part of your life cooped up in a small, undecorated room with poor ventilation, high temperatures, other people’s noise, humidity, no natural light and no windows, with a strangers who will become your only social interactions.
19. You’ll soon feel like Dr Phil when guests pour out their lives traumas to you, without asking them.

COMPLETE LIST ON INNTERACTIVE INNS here.

 

Thank you to Kloii for Wake up and smell the cake here.

"50 things they never told you about being a chef"

which was the inspiration for our INNKEEPING IS NOT FOR WIMPS tribute.

Skamokawa's picture
Offline
Joined:
08/24/2008

"You will meet and form strong bonds with types of people whom you'd previously never even have imagined sharing conversations with. An online forum will become your fix."

  Love my coffee breaks with the forum.

I do think that most of the items on the list apply to any mom and pop type business.  The majority of businesses in our area require the same kind of hours and commitment to staffing, taxes and banking and advertising.  Social media has certainly muddied the waters, but at least it doesn't have to break the bank, we learn ourselves how to best target our campaigns instead of paying someone else to do it.

__________________

Twin Gables Inn
On the Lower Columbia Water Trail

 

white pine's picture
Offline
Joined:
02/02/2010

From my experience so far this seems about right. 

Granted we are not open on the b&b portion yet, but just the motel.  Eight rooms, 16 beds.  Last year we could find no housekeeping help.  DH and I did all the grounds maintenance (5 acres of lawn, beach to rake, dock to wash, boats to bail), laundry, and office work.  On top of that DH had his consulting business. We also had remodeling going on at the lodge.

 I also felt the need (as b&b training)  to at least put out homemade muffins or rolls and coffee for all in the mornings.  Up at 5, bed about 11.  I washed all linnens, including bedspreads, blankets and mattress pads between every guest.   Oh yes, chat nicely with the guests. Yikes, were we burnt out by Oct.

This year, I am determined to find help.  I am going to contact service agencies and see if they will come on a daily basis if I can't find someone local, even tho they are an hour away.  I am going to set some hours for the office.... 

And oddly, I am anxious to get started again.

__________________

"Only philosophers and fools try to know the unknowable" Nero Wolfe

 

Offline
Joined:
06/24/2008

I am exhausted just reading this - no wonder we didn't hear from you last season! 

 

white pine's picture
Offline
Joined:
02/02/2010

 I did some rough totals year end....1400 loads of laundry, 1500 muffins and 300 pots of coffee consumed...some things best not counted!  And you guys do this year round!!!!    Don't want to guess your numbers!!

Madeleine's picture
Offline
Joined:
09/29/2011

Every year I do these sorts of tallies and tell the guests. They get a kick out of how many pounds of blueberries we go thru, who came from the farthest away, how many pounds of coffee, who was the oldest and the youngest. Basically a top 10 list.

It's a blog idea...

Offline
Joined:
09/16/2013

I've started compiling a list of the different countries represented by our guests, just since we started last Halloween. It hit 50 by April 1.

__________________

No, we're not the Ritz. If you want the Ritz, please stay at the Ritz.

 

Breakfast Diva's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/26/2009

Yikes, I'd hate to know how many pounds of butter and cheese I go through in a year!

Offline
Joined:
06/24/2008

Breakfast Diva wrote:

Yikes, I'd hate to know how many pounds of butter and cheese I go through in a year!

I don't even want to add up the pounds I consume!!surprise

Joey Camb's picture
Offline
Joined:
04/02/2010

give up washing the mattress pads and spreads every time - with the volume of numbers it just isnt practical - maybe think about runners

http://www.yorkshirelinen.com/heat-seal-natural-bed-runner.html

will save you a fortune on washing and less bother in the summer - think about duvets which just need covers changing and not blankets

I am surprised you wern't dead! plus i know how much other work you have to do with the renovations etc plus you will wear out all your stuff in double quick time.

 

white pine's picture
Offline
Joined:
02/02/2010

I know I wash too often, but I just can't NOT.

  At this point, I just feel that I thrash about and know I come into contact with all the linens, and I figure I would like them fresh, so I figure everyone else would too.  I even air them on the line after drying in the dryer if I get a chance. 

I have some very light spreads that wash and dry well--faster than changing duvets.     I A lot of wear and tear I know, but .....

And you are one to talk about not being dead with all you have on your plate! Smiling

Madeleine's picture
Offline
Joined:
09/29/2011

white pine wrote:

I know I wash too often, but I just can't NOT.

 

Believe me I do the squirmy dance whenever I hear an innkeeper tell me they don't have time to wash anything but sheets and towels except maybe once/year. Ewww. That is hotel stuff.

And just to make it totally ewww, what is it with people lately and the boogers everywhere? On the wall? The quilts? The bedskirts? People- there are tissues RIGHT THERE on the nightstand.

Sorry, that is still with me after last weekend, had to let it out.

Joey Camb's picture
Offline
Joined:
04/02/2010

I wash my runners or quits about once a week  simply due to tiny marks - will be glad to be more into summer (we have had snow this week) cos then I change all beds to runners! lot less washing!

Offline
Joined:
06/24/2008

Madeleine wrote:

white pine wrote:

I know I wash too often, but I just can't NOT.

 

Believe me I do the squirmy dance whenever I hear an innkeeper tell me they don't have time to wash anything but sheets and towels except maybe once/year. Ewww. That is hotel stuff.

And just to make it totally ewww, what is it with people lately and the boogers everywhere? On the wall? The quilts? The bedskirts? People- there are tissues RIGHT THERE on the nightstand.

Sorry, that is still with me after last weekend, had to let it out.

  EWWWW  - I get bothered by the tissue on the floor beside the bed, etc.  Now I consider myself blessed....  TY.   Ewwww

Madeleine's picture
Offline
Joined:
09/29/2011

Personally? Unless those guests are extremely sloppy or staying 2 weeks at a time, I would not wash everything you are washing as often as you are washing it. In season, I do wash everything you mentioned every 2 weeks. But not after every guest. Sorry, I know there's stuff I can't see but I won't tie myself down again.

We went one year with no help, too. The year from hell. We vowed we would limit bookings if we couldn't get help again. It's just too much. However, I do know innkeepers who only clean rooms after check-outs so they don't hire anyone for inside work. Which is an option if we don't get help again.

If you can, bake those muffins at night while trying to sit down and relax. And bake a lot of them and freeze them.

If nothing else, get a lawn mowing service in! That has saved our sanity many times over.

(There I go again offering unsolicited advice! Yeesh!)

white pine's picture
Offline
Joined:
02/02/2010

Last year was the year from hell in terms of too much to do...we did turn down bookings a couple of times.  We do have someone local who will mow, but DH prefers to do it when guests are out.  The local mowed our wild blueberry patch!

I did resort to frozen danish a couple of times for back-up, this year I will use the freezer more.

  We do save the "left-over" muffins for the earliest risers, but it is so nice to take the fresh hot baked muffins out on the porch with the steaming coffee and watch the morning come. 

Wish I could share that with you all!  My one bit of peace before the madness kicks in. 

Offline
Joined:
05/30/2008

If I had that view....I would never want to leave....

__________________

People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy.
~ Anton Chekhov

 

Silverspoon's picture
Offline
Joined:
10/16/2011

What a fabulous place...and the picture is a knockout!  I can just picture you sitting on that porch at 6 am with a cup of joe!  I guess the ability to actually live in such a beautiful place is the main incentive for doing all the work the B+B requires.  I know that it keeps us going...even when we think that we will slow down, we never do!

__________________

Gardens are not made by singing "Oh, how beautiful" and sitting in the shade.
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

 

Breakfast Diva's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/26/2009

Beautiful! I wish I were there too!!

Offline
Joined:
10/07/2008

Wow! That porch is amazing, that water view awesome!!! 

white pine's picture
Offline
Joined:
02/02/2010

Wish you all could come, put your feet up, drink some coffee and have this morning chat there!

Madeleine's picture
Offline
Joined:
09/29/2011

Gorgeous!

Generic's picture
Offline
Joined:
02/24/2011

Got to use that freezer to save your sanity. Did you you you can set the muffins up for baking in the tray, freeze the tray, remove them from the tray to store and then when you need them, defrost overnight and bake from the fridge. They actually should rise higher.

__________________

Permission to quote in whole or in part, other than usage on this forum, is entirely forbidden.

 

Joey Camb's picture
Offline
Joined:
04/02/2010

this is why this forum is invaluable!

white pine's picture
Offline
Joined:
02/02/2010

I didn't know that.  Thanks, I'll give it a try!

 

Breakfast Diva's picture
Offline
Joined:
05/26/2009

white pine wrote:

And oddly, I am anxious to get started again.

And that's the strange things about this profession! We had an extremely slow winter and I couldn't wait to get the guests here again!

Madeleine's picture
Offline
Joined:
09/29/2011

Breakfast Diva wrote:

white pine wrote:

And oddly, I am anxious to get started again.

And that's the strange things about this profession! We had an extremely slow winter and I couldn't wait to get the guests here again!

I feel really sorry for the 'first' guests after the winter break. I am Chatty Cathy when we have guests in late winter and early spring. I shut right up in the summer, tho!

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.