Experiencing Bed &Breakfast Inns From The Nose To The Toes
by Maxine Pinson
A smiling innkeeper opens the front door, and I smell the aroma of something wonderful wafting from an unseen kitchen. Minding my manners, I return the innkeeper's smile and exchange pleasantries. But, it isn't long before I ask: "What's cooking? It smells divine." It's a sneaky way of finding out if I will receive a sampling of the mystery dish later.
As I am escorted to my room, I am soothed by soft music I hear playing in the background. Once unpacked, I settle into a comfortable chair situated beneath an overhead fan. I feel caressed by the soft circulation of air generated by revolving blades. The attention-to-detail I see, throughout my room, delights me. I spot a plate of goodies, and I yield to temptation. Taking a bite of an irresistible treat, I taste home-baked goodness all the way down to my toes. I have only been a guest at the inn for less than an hour, yet each of my senses has been stimulated either individually or concurrently. At this point, my sixth sense becomes aroused and speaks for the other five: "This place is going to be an all-time favorite!"
Whether consciously or unconsciously, we are in a constant state of perceiving our environment through our five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, touch. By becoming ever mindful of the powerful impact these vibes impart, innkeepers benefit by incorporating as many of them as possible into the atmosphere of their inn. It makes good sense to stir the senses in a variety of creative ways.
In this article, the first of a two-part series, I address ways innkeepers may "inn-hance" the sense through which the most options are available: the sense of sight. Consider some of the ideas listed below through which sight may be enticed. Devise new approaches guests will identify exclusively with your inn. The novelty touches suggested are primarily ones I have seen used by innovative innkeepers of inns I have experienced and enjoyed. The other sharings come directly from "yours truly."
- A "Welcome" message, including names of individual guests, written with colorful chalk, on a decorative chalkboard at the inn's entrance; a personalized message, tacked onto a grapevine wreath, hung upon the door of a private cottage or cabin, with an initialed wax seal attached to the flap of the envelope.
- An inventive sign (consider different shapes and materials) identifying clever or meaningful names of guest rooms. Numbered rooms are motel-ish and lack the personal touch for which B & B's are famous.
- Towels and washcloths uniquely folded or fanned (i.e., towels folded to "pocket" washcloths) or rolled and placed in a large basket. Monogrammed towels add a touch of elegance. Some inns monogram their towels and robes in-house.
- A non-working fireplace filled with a candle-filled fireplace candelabra. A long-handled fire lighter and candle snuffer are thoughtful extras. With sufficient lighting, live, leafy plants enliven a non-functional fireplace.
- Always remember to blacken candle wicks on all candles, whether they are used or simply decorative.
- Order an embosser, with your inn's logo, and emboss toilet paper points or a gold seal holding the point in place; twist and loop hanging toilet paper end into a dangling rosette.
- Type special instructions (i.e., how to use a whirlpool) in calligraphy, frame, and place where it will be seen when applicable or needed.
- Post the breakfast menu, the night before, on a chalkboard (especially clever when perched on a tray held by a carved wooden "butler") in hall area.
- At turn-down, leave a "Sweet Dreams" note, printed in a pretty script and including a sketch of your inn, on your guests' pillows.
- Supply pre-stamped postcards, featuring a photograph or sketch of your inn, for guests to send to friends and relatives. Indicate your willingness to mail the cards.
Possibilities for "sight stimulators" are as infinite as one's imagination. But, take care not to get so carried away with the novel that you overlook the must-have basics: a true representation, with lots of photographs, of your inn online; tasteful color coordination in room décor; compatibility of furniture styles; clutter-free rooms; hidden electrical cords; attractive brochures of inn, with photographs of rooms, available at outside entrance; fresh flowers/healthy plants; dust-free furniture (inside and on porches); touched-up water stains/wall marrings/chipped woodwork; good lighting (interior and exterior--automatic lighting in parking areas and walkways), artistically garnished breakfast; an attractively set breakfast table (no syrup bottles or jelly jars, please!) and food arranged for eye-appeal. Ideas for continuing this inntriguing dance through sweet smells, soothing sounds, tantalizing tastes, and titillating touch will be presented in the Winter 2002 edition of The B & B and Country Inn Market-place Guide. If you have related ideas you would like to share, please e-mail them to me. In the meanwhile, try guessing which of these four senses has the most enduring impact. The answer will be revealed in the next commentary.
Maxine Pinson is publisher/editor of The INNside Scoop, a bi-annual B & B newsletter. The on-line edition of the newsletter may be accessed at www.the-innside-scoop.com/marketguide.html. A resident of Savannah, Georgia, Maxine may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.