Your first few months before and after opening

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irisevelynn's picture
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 Im hoping to get a few long stories from this Smiling Especially from those whose inn was not already established. How long before opening did you start marketing? After you had your Target Market picked out, what did you do to reach them and convince them to come before you had even opened?

How did those first months go, I would love to hear >read < stories about right after you opened. How did your first guests find you? How long did it take for you to get into the swing of things? And what did you change after being open for a few months?

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

I was a start-up in a city too small to be on most maps. We had planned to open in May. I found out about the State Association and their Conference 3 weeks BEFORE the Conference (for me 3 weeks after is normal). I took that as a sign we were supposed to be. We learned enough at that Conference to delay our opening to July. First of all to get things in place we had not thought of and secondly, by waiting until after July 1 to open, we bought ourselves a year before the taxes for the B & B would kick in.

I had my web site created and up before I had a computer in the house. The company was supposed to call me if I had an e-mail. (It was not long before i had one.)

We officially opened on July 3, 1996 with our first guests that night - it was a All-School High School Reunion and a lady from the church we attend made a reservation for her son and his wife - she had too many children to house all of them. That couple came back about a year later - they liked the freedom being here gave them to visit friends without offending Mama. They were amazed I remembered she could not have feathers near her face.

I laugh now at how excited I got if we had 4 to 6 room nights in a month. Today, I get excited if we have that in January or February but the rest of the year I would be crying. And today, EVERY reservation excites me still.

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Mac another cat story...

We had a guy who checked in all gruff. He was a tough GC (General Contractor, used to working in the elements and telling everyone what to do. He was NOT comfortable being at a B&B in the least, it was his wife's thing. He never even looked me in the eyes at check in nor said one word.

He was told we had a cat (as mentioned we share this online for those cat haters) and he wanted to meet her before breakfast.

Well, as I was in making breakfast he was sitting in the middle of the foyer on the rug with our cat dancing around him and he spoke baby talk to her.

My word, what happened to the hard shell that checked in last night? The next morning (day two) he was downstairs uber early again and crying out her name through the inn. 'Mayyyyyy bellllllllle'

I was in the kitchen laughing and thinking, Oh boy!

He was distraught not to have her there with his morning coffee that day, she snubbed him. NEW guests had come down and were curious about all this 'cat calling' business. It was a memorable morning for me, which is why I am sharing it now.

I enjoy our pet loving guests immensely. Owning a cat and a dog however, I know they like to barf up hairballs and drop their fur everywhere, so they are maintained behind closed doors, unless beckoned. 

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2cat_lady's picture
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09/24/2014

Love those cat people. Our two black beauties are not allowed in any common areas and especially the kitchen. We have a gate that separates our quarters from the kitchen but my Cole is very vocal when he hears a new voice come in that front door. It's at that moment that everyone tells me that they're cat people and they don't mind in the least bit if our cat wander the B&B. I always explain that I couldn't allow that because I respected people who didn't like animals or had allergies, and they're fine with that. As long as I get Cole from behind that gate and let them give him a little nose to nose or a head butt. I even had someone with allergies who wanted a little cuddle so badly. One of my guests said his 'highlight' was when Cole managed to escape and made his way up to his room. Thankfully, no detours along the way but the guest was then putty in our hands!

AussieFarmStay's picture
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Ive lived in the village for 20 yrs, it was my weekender and I totally loved the slow pace, acreage and country lifestyledevil. A few years later I bought the property opposite mine so I could have more horses - I had no idea whatsoever until after purchase that it was one of the original guesthouses of the area ( a little old lady came up to me and said in a frail voice "Did you know it used to be a guesthouse" I thought she was mistaken so I researched in the village history shed). I thought enlightened this is my way out of the high pressure city shops I had owned since 23 yrs old.

I had to do a lot of work and went luxury rather than budget in fittings, large tesselated tile spa bathrooms with antique fitments etc...Loads of proper antiques. I decorated it using a scrapbook cutting up many many country style magazines. So I went shopping for all these 'design board' elements. I had the cash to spend and bought expensive immovable items, I went second hand garage sale for all the little bits as because of shoplifting in the shops I thought they would be pinched (which never happened!)

I have been opened 12 yrs I guess, it was a guesthouse since 1896.

My DA permits were easy as it was a guesthouse in the past. I just had the1 cottage at 1st. I dont live on the property but on another, just across the rd and up the hill behind a tall stand of trees.

Got sooooo busy.... we faced our guesthouse tarrifs rising or expanding.

I sold my city shops and built 2 more 3 bedroom old fashioned cottages with the same features and theme. Unbelieveably the council had a recycling centre and I could buy antiques super cheap, lovely old chandeliers and lovely pieces from the past which in normal antique and collectable places had been so expensive with the first. 

This was problematic as the neighbour's objected - nonetheless we were passed. I used a private town planner to put forth my application.

BUT one particular manic depressive neighbour who couldn't accept we were approved harrassed us - lodging 27 false complaints for the next 4 yrs, until they were declared officially vexatious, even the police came and warned them.

BUT on a business level it was great busy straight awaysmiley. My husband quit his horrible back breaking job and we both do this full time with no staff  at all. I do the bookings and marketing.  Hubbie does the cleans and the physical stuff, and face to face guest assistance.

Marketing.... just as soon as I was ready to take guests and I was approved. BUT I come from cutting edge (sink or swim) retail so my marketing is a natural talent, I enjoy it. I even wrote a recipe book to be on display at the cottages last year of all the exciting different breakfasts that guests can make with their supplied breakfast hamper.

My first guest was a solicitor with a family, he was nice traveling from Melbourne. I was so nervous, I cleaned the place and recleaned and rearranged the ornaments many times!!!!

We learnt from this very first guest to not wait for them with the key as they came 2 hrs late, so we altered and tweaked how we did this to be 'key in letterbox' style entry.

I continually tweak policies and signage. We LISTEN to our guests suggestions, and look at what they need help with, discarding some concepts and incorporating others.

We started as country accommodation with chooks and my horses in the paddocks, but slowly we became popular as a farm stay, so I added more variety of animals (my passion) and marketed more towards this indeed even changing the name to incorporate farm in the wording.

Each morning my husband and I have a meeting in the hot tub and discuss guests, ideas, bookings etc....

Other than some total d---heads, (I try to cull most before they come) we love our lifestyle.... just marvelous! We have a young family and we both have watched every step and stage, we could take them to school, pick them up when sick, and now we are home when they come home on the school bus. 

 

irisevelynn's picture
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Thank you, I loved reading that! How does your breakfast hamper work? What do you have in it?

Morticia's picture
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05/22/2008

"Officially vexatious". I love that. Also like the part where you discuss your day in the hot tub.

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Mac
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How long before opening did you start marketing? Our marketing consists of a FaceBook page and a website, which we started about the same time we announced we were open. At that time we also invited a couple we vaguely knew from another town to "be our guests" for a free weekend. Then we gave them a pencil and paper and asked for suggestions. They have returned several times...as paying customers, and have sent several guests our way.

After you had your Target Market picked out, what did you do to reach them and convince them to come before you had even opened? We let several other B&B's know we were open and would take their overflow on busy weekends "to help them out". We got a big break when one of those B&B's had customers needing a king bed, which they didn't have. Those same guests have been faithful, loyal customers ever since. So needless to say, we think king beds are important!

How did those first months go? We knew our market was A&M University visitors so we weren't surprised when we only got two people a month March through June. Then football season hit the city and people went wild. Everybody was booked but us newbies so we got very busy. Those same customers return again and again.

How long did it take for you to get into the swing of things? Not long. Streamlining the cleaning made things easier. Having a good paper booking system in place was good. We found our target market likes the personal touch of speaking with us, but then we only have three suites to fill.  My website is by Go Daddy, which I can do myself, and it had only a slight learning curve. Our son does websites for huge companies, including one overseas, and he encouraged me to realize that simple is more. People don't need to be blown away with the website. They don't want to be intimidated by it; they just want a nice room. Website keywords are VERY important.

And what did you change after being open for a few months? At first I thought fancy bedspreads and pillow covers with coordinating colored towels were important. That changed to washable items only and white towels and washcloths. We also put a fancy gate in the hall from the Great Room to the suites to keeps our dogs out of the guest area but not the guests out of the Great Room. Oh, and we always inform guests when they book that we have dogs (no one has every cared). At that time we also ask them if they have any food allergies.

Good luck with your venture!

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Mac
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LOL! Just when I say "nobody cares" about our dogs, we get this review on Tripadvisor:

Hospitality abounds at this B&B's peaceful country park-like setting. The facilities are immaculate, comfortable and easily accessible. Your own private entrance is a plus. The breakfast was a good simple home cooked breakfast of melon balls, over-easy eggs, hash browns, bacon, biscuits and jam. We enjoyed seeing the many white-tailed deer. If you are allergic to dogs they do have 3, but they are well behaved and not allowed in the guest bedroom area. However they are allowed in the common areas... the great room and breakfast area. (I made the font bold!)

On my reservation sheet I have a place to mark off that they were told we had dogs in the house. Oh, well. Overall it was a good review.

 

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5 bubbles from a reviewer of 62 reviews? That is magic right there, be proud of yourself Mac!

Morticia's picture
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05/22/2008

Dogs are allowed in the breakfast area? 

We are always surprised when a guest puts something in the review that was covered extensively beforehand and that they make sound like a surprise or 'warn' other guests about like it's a secret only they were told.

Lee2014's picture
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12/11/2014

  A good review is a step forward.  Congratulations!

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Have a great day!

 

Mac
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12/03/2014

Thanks, Duff. With over half the review taken up with the "simple" breakfast and dogs, it just didn't feel like that good of a review. But can't get better than a five, I guess!

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Mac wrote:

Thanks, Duff. With over half the review taken up with the "simple" breakfast and dogs, it just didn't feel like that good of a review. But can't get better than a five, I guess!

Are you upset they mentioned the dogs? I ask as if it is something that is a definite - there will be dogs - then I think they did you a huge favor.

Shall I go into my many stories of cats... okay just one, er maybe two...

Nervous Newlyweds

She jumps up from the table screaming like a banshee runs upstairs. I race into the dining room, what? what happened? Is someone hurt?

He tells me "You said there are no cats and we saw a cat! My wife is petrified of cats"

I reply "Who? Emmo, our full figure black fella? The big chubby floor mop walking past the window going to get a few kibbles?"

Apparently, any cat that may possibly be seen was a no no.

Second story:

They check in for two nights, they check right back out

"YOU SAID THERE WERE NO CATS HERE!" 

I reply, I cannot be responsible for a neighborhood cat who wanders down the side walk. (This is what they saw, sitting on the porch a cat walked down the street, yes really - and btw we do have them come up on the porch to say hello from time to time! Not the past couple years, but year 2 and 3 we did then the cat moved)

And I actually did not say there were no cats, as we have a cat, and we love our cat and we hold and cuddle our cat. I spell that out on the website clearly. I do say there are no cats in the guest areas.

LOSS OF REVENUE is what I am saying. You want to be very clear what they will see there. You don't want the animal haters or scaredy-cats (haha) showing up and ruining what you have, it is not worth it.

 

Mac
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Thanks, Joey and Morticia. Guess I forget not everybody loves our animals like we do. At least it said they were well behaved. One little approached the woman and my husband told her the hand signal to send him on his way. None of the dogs even looked at them again. They ain't stupid!!! But they are used to being fawned over by guests, especially since one boy is a certified therapy dog.

Really, I was just plain surprised someone had left a review. Our repeaters don't review. They don't want the competition for the beds!!

Maybe they were cat people. LOL.

Morticia's picture
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Mac wrote:

Guess I forget not everybody loves our animals like we do. 

Never forget this.

Our dog used to visit when guests asked. She trailed us around the house until she could no longer handle the stairs.

She was a peach, but that means nothing when the health dept finds her in the dining room or a guest doesn't like animals at all or a guest is offended by animals near their food.

Our repeat guests don't leave reviews, either. Must retrain them.

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Mac wrote:

Thanks, Joey and Morticia. Guess I forget not everybody loves our animals like we do. At least it said they were well behaved. One little approached the woman and my husband told her the hand signal to send him on his way. None of the dogs even looked at them again. They ain't stupid!!! But they are used to being fawned over by guests, especially since one boy is a certified therapy dog.

Really, I was just plain surprised someone had left a review. Our repeaters don't review. They don't want the competition for the beds!!

Maybe they were cat people. LOL.

Well in that case send them on over...

haha just kidding.

Lee2014's picture
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12/11/2014

  You're welcome!

seashanty's picture
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06/02/2008

i put up my website and started taking reservations about 6 months before we officially opened. i felt like i was pretending at first.

i was terrified as we had to get our permits all in place and i was scared something wouldn't be approved and i'd have to cancel guests.  (it was fine) - BE NICE to anyone who does any kind of inspection.  i didn't have a working stove in place when the inspector showed up as the order was delayed.  he took it on faith that i'd have one.  i mean, i had to have a stove, right?  

 wink

my first guests were 2 couples that the small hotel across the street brought over.  they had no room for them.  i was stressed out making and serving just four breakfasts that morning.  a few months later, i could do 21 breakfasts each morning without worrying.  it was just tiring.  usually it was 16.  it gets easier with repetition.  i have always cooked for lots of family and that's how it felt to me. like i had house guests i was serving.  unless they were PITA's .. don't get me started!

i discovered that i needed a lot more help than i had and was always searching for reliable chambermaids. 

i tried to make friends with everyone. i invited all my vendors in for coffee when they were making their rounds.  i always made more than i needed of regular and decaf and they'd come in and get coffee, maybe a muffin.  such a small kindness.  the laundry service truck driver, egg man, trash pick up guy.  they became friends.  my favorite was my eggman whose picture i featured on the website, holding two flats of fresh eggs.  i'd carry a carafe of coffee over to the art gallery in the barn on the property for them.  

my target market was those who were coming to see the lighthouse and were taking the ferry to a nearby island.  everywhere those places were featured, i tried to have some kind of presence.  i had rack cards printed up and i brought them around to the small local businesses along with homemade blueberry muffins or chocolate chip cookies about every six weeks  ... the ferry ticket office, the ferry gift shop, the general store, the restaurants the gift shops, the antique shop, the art gallery, the lobster pound. and i'd offer to take their brochures or whatever they might have, back to the b&b.  it was a small harbor.  

 

Arks's picture
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05/22/2010

How long before opening did you start marketing?

Put up the website about a year before opening, and blogged about the weekly progress ( gutted an old building and rebuilt the inside, and restored the outside to its 1902 appearance. 

After you had your Target Market picked out, what did you do to reach them and convince them to come before you had even opened?

The local newspaper did a feature article on the project, and I bought a half-page ad when I opened. Most of my first guests were people coming to town to visit relatives, for funerals, reunions, etc. About half found me through referrals, the other half found the website. TripAdvisor helps, once you have a few reviews (assuming they are good reviews).

How did those first months go

I was fairly busy from the first. As busy as I wanted to be, at least.

How long did it take for you to get into the swing of things?

By the third guests I was in the swing, had the cleaning routine down, and it has slowly gotten faster.

And what did you change after being open for a few months?

A few policies. Backed off the 2-night minimum and put a $20 surcharge for people who want to come a single night. Constant tweaking of policies and the website.

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

 

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