Blaise Bahara and Bess Giannakakis are the innkeepers of Gateway Guesthouse, a modern B&B located near downtown Austin, Texas. Blaise combines her business background with Bess's professional chef experience to run a successful B&B that's booked up during every event in the city. In today's post, Blaise generously shares tips on how to create and enforce policies as an innkeeper--one of the profession's most confounding challenges. Thanks Blaise!
As with most innkeepers, we have learned about our policies and enforcing them the hard and painful way--the not-zen, not-fun, not-B&B-like way! If I can save even one new innkeeper from making one of our mistakes, it's worth sharing our experiences with you.
I actually do not feel the specifics of the policies matter all that much, as long as they are sane and in line with most standard or regional industry practices. Therefore, I’m not going to bore you with the specifics of our policies. You can view them here if you're interested.
The more important point is how you enforce those polices while maintaining your business and sanity without being a jerk. Every policy situation is different, so we try to enforce our policies using a set of guidelines rather than a strict letter of the law. We take each request and set it up against these guidelines:
1) The answer is yes, but if it’s not possible for us to accommodate the request, we try to find an alternative. For instance:
- Yes, you may leave your bags here on our back deck, but we can’t accommodate an early check-in.
- Yes, we will try to offer you a refund, less the administrative fee, if we’re able to rebook the space.
- Yes, you can invite your friends from Austin or other hotels to hang out with you here at our pool (pictured). But we have a daily usage charge of $75 per person for up to three hours.
- Yes, we can have some scones and coffee available for you after 9 a.m., but not the chef-made breakfast that will be served between 6 a.m.-9 a.m.
2) The request cannot potentially interfere with the happiness of another guest or our neighbors. This comes into play most often with our pool and spa.
3) The request cannot interfere with time we have set aside to be closed,” and therefore, alone. Because of the type of inn we choose to run, it is all about personal attention from us when desired. That means that at some point, every so often, we need down-time or become grumpy bears. For the enjoyment of all our guests, we guard this time.
4) To be 100% honest, the request cannot cost us more money that we feel it will generate in goodwill. It’s basic ROI.
There are truly only a few times we’ve ever just flat-out said no to a request. I can remember all of these instances, and frankly, hated them every time. It is unpleasant for both guest and owner when we have to be strict, but at the end of the day, you know if it is outside the guidelines and is simply not a wise idea to facilitate any other answer than ‘no.’
The final thing I will say is that when a policy is being ignored, without question, the faster you can address the issue, the better. For instance, if you look outside and there are strangers at your pool hanging out with guests, do not delay because you think they’ll leave any minute. They won’t. They are there because your guest told them it was a rockin’ place to hang out, and they are not going anywhere soon. Go out immediately, ask the guest aside, and quietly remind them of the policy. They can then choose how they wish to proceed; hang out elsewhere or pay the day charge.
These are the tough times. They are never fun, and frankly, you might ponder, “Who on earth would think that is OK?” The wise move is to respond calmly, not react. The response is to assess your guidelines and take action as needed, and quickly.
You and your guests will then all be happy campers!
Pictured: Blaise and Bess