Every month, Bed & Breakfast News magazine includes a 'Business Matters' article. Typical topics include marketing, innovations and consumer trends. Being 'armed with the latest information' means that you can focus on making the most of your Unique Selling Points and become inspired to unleash your personal creativity!
Past issues have featured:
Getting the Essentials Right * Networking * First Impressions
Getting the Essentials Right
The words bed and breakfast collocate neatly, much like salt and pepper, black and white, or food and drink. We subconsciously associate and use one with the other without really considering each in its own right. Each element of 'bed and breakfast' accommodation denotes a service provision and consumers will expect a consistent standard across both.
B&B accommodation can be sold as a destination in itself or alternatively as a sort of budget 'stop-gap'; a place to put your head down while visiting an area and its 'attractions', be they your great aunt Phyllis or the peace and beauty of the Yorkshire Dales. Notoriously driven by the seasonal nature of tourism, B&Bs are perceived to be located in quiet, remote areas, boasting a warm and cosy home-style atmosphere best suited to cooler months of the year.
To overcome the off-season shortfall in profits, it is worth operators considering how to broaden the appeal of short UK B&B breaks in all seasons, by educating potential visitors on the array of activities and attractions suitable at various times of the year. Not everyone wants a beach holiday abroad come summer, for example, so operators have the opportunity to cash in on this market and entice custom. It is just knowing how to go about it... Do you want to be a destination B&B?
B&B accommodation has traditionally been viewed as a cost-saving convenience, a homely escape from corporate style hotel rooms and this should be used to an operator's advantage. If a tourist is looking for somewhere to stay, why should they choose your petite, 5-room B&B over the 16-room, £10-a-night-cheaper property a hundred yards up the road?
On the surface you both appear to be offering a clean, comfortable bed for the night and both properties have availability, your competitor offering it at a lower price. Putting the concept of 'bed' aside, the deal clincher here could be in something as simple, but as important as your breakfast offering.
Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day. It kick-starts a sluggish early morning metabolism and injects that sought-after energy fix needed to shake off tiredness and keep us ticking over until lunchtime. So what would you fancy? Coffee and a croissant? Toasted bacon sandwich? Cereal?
Thanks to the likes of Jamie, Delia and Nigella and the influx of culinary-focused television shows, we are witnessing a wide-spread fascination with nutritious, delicious food and as pubs up and down the country go 'gastro' and hotel restaurants up their game to compete on a serious level in the dining market, gone, it seems, are the days when a B&B operator can satisfy hungry travellers with a hearty 'sausage and egg fry up', washed down with a mug of hot instant coffee. Increasingly health-conscious consumers are demanding more and standards are having to rise to accommodate this.
Sustainable practices are appealing to today's consumer, in direct response to media hype surrounding our declining environment. Experiment with a mouth-watering menu, without breaking the bank or losing the traditional home-style warmth B&B accommodation is famous for. Do some research into locally sourced produce and negotiate an affordable price on food that remains fresh from plough to plate. Be remembered by your guests and stand out from your competitors.
If you are intent on keeping breakfast simple with tea and toast, market this on the basis that your bread is home-made or delivered fresh and daily from the local bakery. Don't keep it a secret, shout about your support for third-world producers by serving quality Fairtrade teas and rich-scented filter coffee. Not only is this helping a good cause, it reflects a readiness to respond to consumer trend and conscience.
Loosely categorise your guests into 'destination travellers' (those looking to your accommodation to provide privacy and a relaxing environment) and 'convenience travellers' (those using your B&B as a base from which to explore the surrounding area). Consider rotating the breakfasts you serve based on the purpose of the stay, the time of year and time of day. It may be profitable to lay on two sittings to cater for both category of visitor - the early versus the late risers - which operators could determine upon booking. Destination travellers will certainly be prepared to pay a premium for the option of a lie-in, as it's rare to find a B&B that accommodates beyond the two-hour fixed morning breakfast sitting.
Present the choice of a substantial brunch-style breakfast, serving a selection of hot and cold dishes, from appealing winter warmers, like smoked salmon and Poached Eggs Benedict on warm butter-toasted muffins, to light early morning preferences, like wholesome cereals and croissants. In the summer, when the weather is warmer, you may want to tailor your menu by including healthy 5-a-day, vitamin-packed fresh fruit smoothies. Not everyone wants a greasy Full English fry-up at 7am!
There are a whole host of websites that provide exciting, appetizing variations to the standard breakfast menu (see www.breakfastandbrunch.com) and even some supermarkets have begun to cater for this demand for breakfast recipes. A particularly good website that displays a passion for alternative breakfasts is www.breakfastandbrunch.com
Language is free, so use it to your advantage. Be descriptive and appeal to the senses. Your menu can be a persuasive marketing tool for those who enjoy food, so find creative ways to describe your offerings, as this, teamed with your friendly, enthusiastic delivery could be the decider when presented with your B&B and that cheaper, virtually identical property down the road.
© Sophie Allcock,
Publications and Marketing Co-ordinator, Institute of Hospitality
If you need to know what is going on in your local B&B industry and want to grow your business, there is no better way than talking face-to-face with your competitors, suppliers, existing customers and potential sources of future business. The importance of networking in the hospitality profession cannot be over-emphasised. The scope for learning through networking and making invaluable new business contacts is vast.
The term networking still concerns many of us, no matter what part we play in the industry. There are so many who feel they can’t be themselves or play-up to the part of salesperson, or simply those that feel uncomfortable taking the plunge and walking straight up to someone and to start talking. Perhaps there are still some of us who find it difficult to find a mutual topic or those who haven’t really thought about what they wish to get out of their networking experience.
Networking is, in my view, rightly interpreted by business commentators as being a strategic activity which should be linked to specific business objectives. It is certainly an approach that requires careful planning and execution. The key to good networking is to make it as effective as possible, and this requires you to do your homework before taking advantage of a networking opportunity:
- work-out what you want to achieve from the people you wish to meet
- choose your targets carefully – remembering what you want to achieve from the exercise
- choose the right event which will enable you to meet your targeted people – try to get a copy of the guest-list and seating-plan in advance
- thoroughly research the backgrounds of the targeted people, so you know something about them in advance, therefore making it is easier to find common-ground for striking up a conversation
- ensure that when you meet an individual, it is not a one-sided conversation and not for your benefit only – an effective piece of networking must hold mutual benefits for both parties
- Don’t try and ‘over-sell’, make sure the conversation is casual and not a sales pitch, you’ll get much more out of the experience if you relax and talk about areas of interest.
Overall, it is paramount that we network as professionals. Quantifying our investment in both time and money to enhance our individual development and in turn business performance can be a void many dare to enter for fear of the result, which is why there are so many organisations developing tips and forums for effective networking. Interaction is what makes us tick and without informal events to explore new ideas, share information and debate topical issues we will lack the freedom to express ourselves and see what others are doing in the Industry.
© Petra Clayton MIH,
Institute of Hospitality Director of Marketing and Communications
First Impressions do last
In 2005, one of our Guest Speakers at the HCIMA Annual Lunch - Frances Bodington, President of The Federation of Image Consultants - explained that judgements are made in the first seven seconds of meeting someone. If this is true, how are we making these judgements and are they a true reflection of an individual? Frances concluded that we don’t actually judge appearances in the first 7 seconds, but the first three seconds which is a very alarming thought!
First impressions are about our faces, our manner, the way we walk and what we say and over 90% of the first impressions we make are based on non-verbal communication.
It is, therefore, vital to get it right when interacting with customers - whether it’s the moment they make a call to your establishment, or step into your bed and breakfast for the first time. In both cases, they are building their own, almost instant, picture about your service, staff and delivery.
Today’s increasingly discerning customers are no longer satisfied to book a room then just sleep, eat and depart - they are looking for an experience and the “added value” that has become an expectation rather than a bonus.
So how do you ensure that the right impression is being created? What can be done that is low cost, but creates maximum impact on customers, and, more importantly, guarantees that your guests will want to return?
Here are a few simple reminders:
- Understand who your customer is -not just where they are from, gender and age, but why they are staying at your establishment. Once you understand the reasons, then you will be able to target individuals more effectively. Find out, for instance if they are celebrating a birthday or whether they are on business? Every enquiry or comment should be logged into a database.
- If you have employees, ensure they are aware of the importance of gathering guest information and knowledge – responsibility for this doesn’t just rest with the individual who takes the booking or greets the customer. Ensure information can be fed-back easily by everyone to a central point.
- Constantly monitor your customers’ experiences. The best way to know what your guests are experiencing is to do it yourself. Check-in to your bed and breakfast - sleep in a room, watch the TV, use the shower, dine in the restaurant, and make tea in the room. Do everything your guests would do. Remember customers don’t always tell you when something doesn’t work – so create a routine of inspection and don’t leave it to chance.
- Do something different to enhance comfort. I recently stayed in a bed and breakfast where I was asked to choose the type of pillow I would like on my bed. It’s something I will always remember, even if I didn’t take advantage of it.
- Ensure your service delivery is carried out across your establishment from beginning to end. There is no point having a choice of pillows if you can’t answer the reception phone in a reasonable time-frame.
- Be proud of your promise. Include your promise on everything – your brochures, rooms, website, business cards, stationery and advertising. If you say what you are about and reinforce this message, people will believe it, and your staff will see the value in shouting about what you do well.
- Use your website. Your website should not be treated as an online brochure. This is one of your strongest forms of communication -no longer just an information point, but an interaction with your customers. Make sure your site is up to date, use high quality graphics and imagery and keep the functionality simple. If your organisation is about outstanding service, make sure your site is doing the same. Update your technology, offer online bookings, incentives, local information, and bookings for third parties. Your customers will be disappointed to find that they can’t book online or make payments using a secure server.
- Encourage feedback the whole way through the experience. Whether its feedback forms, simple questions when booking, or just being aware to pick up useful information. Always give customers a reason to come back.
© Petra Clayton MIH,
Institute of Hospitality Director of Marketing and Communications
The above article is just one of the excellent features published every month in Bed & Breakfast News…Subscribe to Bed & Breakfast News now to ensure you receive the latest Business Matters articles!