Starting a Bed and Breakfast - Guest room extras that your customers will loveMar 01, 2021
When someone suggested the other day that I stopped “Sweating the small stuff’, I replied “But that’s my job!” One of my many roles as a B&B owner is to care about the small stuff and get the details right for my guests.
You don’t need to spend long reading a highly rated Bed and Breakfast’s reviews before spotting the phrase “attention to detail”; lemon drizzle cake, shortbread, & fresh milk are often mentioned.
And it’s all those little touches that add up to creating an experience that has guests writing rave reviews and becoming repeat guests.
For this week's blog I’ve gone out to the Facebook Group for Course Attendees to ask them what their guests love. And, whilst cake gets mentioned a lot, attention to detail is about much more than a tin of shortbread in the room!
As part of the online course, you’ll get a Room Design Checklist which covers all of the basics, essentials and little extras you could put in a room.
Starting a bed and breakfast - the little extras that your guests will love
When starting a bed and breakfast, many people focus on the location, decoration and furnishings. And getting all of those basics right are very important.
But it’s that attention to detail, the little extras that your guests will love, that are the icing on the cake. These are the elements that will have guests writing rave reviews, recommending you to friends and becoming repeat customers.
The great thing about most of these ideas is they aren’t expensive, or necessarily time consuming, they just need a bit of thought and planning.
I have a friend, who loves running a bed and breakfast, but who really hates tea trays in B&B bedrooms with a passion. She asks her guests what time they’d like their morning tea and takes it to their room at their preferred time.
I'm all for making my life as easy as possible, whilst creating the best possible experience for my Bed and Breakfast guests. I think having a refreshments tray in the guest bedrooms gives you the opportunity to wow your guests, whilst reducing effort for you.
However, the beauty of running a bed and breakfast is that you get to run it the way you want to run it. So, if you don't want a tea tray, then don't have one. You could offer alternatives such as room service like my friend or have a public area with drink making facilities ( bear in mind that this shared approach may be more difficult during current COVID times )
One thing that most guests really appreciate is having the option for fresh milk in their room.
As Gill of Number 6, Whitby says “Fresh milk is a big hit”!
How to provide fresh milk and keep it fresh can be a bit of a logistical problem.
The ideal solution is an in room silent fridge, but not every B&B has the space or budget for one. Before I got my room fridges, I used to serve the milk in a small thermos flask.
Other bed and breakfasts offer a communal fridge on a landing in a dining room for guests to use.
I have 40 litre silent fridges in my B&B rooms. You do have to make sure that they are silent. Some fridges are sold as mini room fridges without being the silent variety! You can buy silent room fridges at Amazon
As Julie Dell of Morlea Bed and Breakfast, Drumnadroicht, says, “Homemade Cake is usually a big winner!”
Many of the B&Bs in the group offer some sort of sweet homemade treats.
Guests arriving at my own B&B get a whole lemon drizzle cake in a tin, with plates, knife and napkins and a Kilner jar with homemade shortbread. And it’s nearly always mentioned in my reviews. You can find the Kilner jars I Use along with a few of my other favourite B&B essentials in this blog here
Here's the link to my lemon drizzle cake recipe, The beauty of this recipe is that it makes 3 cakes at a time, which freeze beautifully. So it ticks my boxes as far as minimising effort is concerned!
Shortbread is very popular as a B&B biscuit. At the Old Parsonage, Boscastle, run by Delyth and Jon, you’ll find homemade lemon shortbread in the rooms with a different slice of cake every day. And at Pengelly Farmhouse B&B, in Cornwall you’ll enjoy homemade rosemary and clotted cream shortbread biscuits.
You could go even further and offer afternoon tea on arrival
Joanna Bowery of Brunswick House, Teignmouth says
“I offer guests a Cream tea (freshly baked scones, clotted cream, jam) and a cup of tea on arrival, which goes down well.”
Another element of good customer service is understanding guests’ specific dietary requirements and offering vegan, gluten free etc treats.
If I have a guest who is gluten free staying, I’ll make a gluten free lemon drizzle cake and put on extra options at breakfast for vegan guests.
You can read more about catering for special diets and dietary requirements here.
Bed and Breakfast Guest Room Essentials
Sometimes the little extras that guests appreciate can be something as simple as putting tissues in the room.
Fiona Dodds of The Rumblie in Scotland tells me that
"Guests often compliment us on "our attention to detail" and then sometimes expand to say...having facial tissues, the homemade shortbread, flowers in the room...it really is those little things that do make the difference to people”
One great idea, especially if you’re in the countryside so it’s not so easy to pop out if they’ve forgotten a toothbrush is a forget me not box.
Alyson The Old Stables B&B, Somerset finds that
“It’s the little box of items you may have forgotten to bring with you that gets a comment from 9 out of 10 guests. They love it!”
I’ve seen these done in different ways. Either offering it to guests free, charging them per item or asking for a charity donation.
The Crossways Guest House in Cheltenham has a pair of small scissors on the room tray so that guests can easily open sachets - genius!
Another really simple idea, costing next to nothing but something that guests really appreciate is from Bridget of The Swan Country House B&B in mid Wales. Bridget leaves brown paper bags for guests to use to take away pastries after breakfast. The beauty of this is that it's being generous in offering guests the choice to take away goodies from the buffet table, without feeling guilty about doing so!
Room Design and Layout
It’s probably something that most guests will take for granted, but designing your room to be easy to use for guests is very important.
As Gill of Number 6 Whitby says ... "we have had loads of comments about the way we have thought about the positioning of power points, mirrors etc for ease of use and anticipating guests needs"
When you are designing your rooms consider some of the following:
- Are there power sockets next to the bed for people to charge phones and near a mirror for people drying their hair.?
- Is the lighting near mirrors good for people applying make up?
- Is there enough storage in the bathroom? Are the lamps next to the bed strong enough to read by?
The room design checklist available with the online course has a checklist for you to go through to make sure you have all this covered. Find out more about the online course here.
It’s not just about what you physically provide, but also how you present things:
“...And earplugs. It's also about how things are presented - like tying the bath robe cord and tucking the sleeves in the pocket, keeping the toiletries bottles clean and tidy, where you place things on the breakfast table so that you don't have to reach too far across to take items away, not necessarily obvious stuff but it all adds up.”
One thing I always do at my B&B is ensure that the toiletries are refilled and that there are brand new toilet rolls for each set of arriving guests. All of the half used toilet rolls go into our own family bathroom by the way!
The Personal Touch
Many people choose to stay at a bed and breakfast over a hotel because of the personal touches a smaller property can offer.
As Melanie of Longmead House in Lynton says
“I would agree that the personal touch remembering guests names and small details about them is always what stands out for people .Treating them all as individual friends rather than just paying guests!”
One of my biggest bugbears when I visit a small hotel, that we’ve stayed at more times than I can remember, is that they always ask if we’ve stayed with them before. Compared to a similar hotel who always welcome us with “Welcome back” at reception
Many guests appreciate the personal recommendations that B&B owners can offer.
Fiona of Gwaenynog Bed and Breakfast near Welshpool tells me that her guests "...appreciate “local knowledge for guidance on things to do (it still amazes me that people book to go away without looking at what's to do!!!)”
As Gill of Number 6 Whitby says
“Local knowledge and recommendations; provision of postcodes for places they want to visit (like National Trust properties or particular shops/restaurants in neigbouring towns and villages)”
During these covid times Ben on Pengelly Farmhouse says that the local knowledge is even more important:
“Most importantly local knowledge tips for non touristy spots to visit, little out of the way hidden gems which make their stay special and individual - all the more important in the current times.”
Providing useful information
Having a comprehensive guest room book will provide guests with information which makes their stay less stressful, more comfortable and enjoyable.
It will also potentially save you a lot of time, answering questions.
Mark of the Crossways Guest House in Cheltenham tell me his guidebook gets good comments, listing things like all of the Freeview Channels
Other room extras that guests might appreciate are hot water bottles, magazines and books, mineral water, ear plugs, sewing kits, sleep masks, maps, thermos flasks, wine glasses, corkscrews and plates and cutlery.
Steph of the Spurwing Guesthouse in Dorset says "Some guests like our SmartTVs and being able to sign into their accounts on Netflix or Amazon PrimeLuxury Add-ons"
You might consider putting plants, fresh flowers, high quality toiletries, fruit or champagne in the room.
Just be aware that some guests may have hay fever or allergies. If you’re going to put flowers in the room make sure this is clear in your room description.
You should also make it clear if you’re leaving alcohol in the room. Guests may be teetotal or have children. And you will need to be licensed even if you’re giving it away for free.
The type of breakfast you offer will depend on the type of B&B you run. But a little bit of extra attention to detail here can make all of the difference.
Melanie of Longmead House, Lynton
“..homemade bread every day at breakfast. Individualising the guests experience. Which means investing in time to talk and understand your guests needs. Bespoke veggie vegan breakfast offers”
You can read more about how to make home made bread easily in this blog post here.
One aspect of breakfast that a lot of my guests comment on is that I offer freshly squeezed orange juice and loose leaf tea.
As Isabel of The Old Rectory, Shropshire says.
Her guests really appreciate “every possible tea I can think of plus really good coffee including decaff, afternoon tea on arrival.”
Providing homemade preserves, either made by your or locally sourced, is very popular with guests at breakfast. Learn how to make your own marmalade here
Catering to Specific Markets
If you welcome specific markets at your B&B such as being dog or child friendly, then catering to their needs and providing little extras are usually greatly appreciated by guests.
Kate of the Maple Bank Guest in Keswick welcomes dogs at her bed and breakfast “And if have a dog love the dog towels, fleeces in bed so don’t feel guilty, and sausages for breakfast”
Bridget of The Swan Country House B&B in Mid Wales offers a doggie welcome basket and provides toys for visiting children to play with.
Lucy of Hir Kemmyns, Cornwall is right on the coast
“guests love the fact we put out beach towels and picnic blankets for beach days.”
When you’re thinking about the extras in the room do keep in mind the following:
- Will you need to get extra licenses to stay within the law, for example if you provide alcohol or offer blu rays for guests to borrow?
- Is something that you put in the room likely to upset a potential guest or cause issues with allergies? In which case make sure that it’s clearly described on your website.
- Will there be an additional cost? If so, make sure your bed and breakfast prices reflect what is being offered
- Is it in keeping with the style of your B&B?
- Will it create a lot of extra work for you? For example making homemade bread or squeezing orange juice. And will you be able to keep offering it during busy times
- Will it increase the amount of time you have to spend cleaning?
Taking my online course takes the guesswork out of running a bed and breakfast and gives you access to am amazing supportive community of other bed and breakfast owners. Find out more here
Note that some of the product links in this blog post are affiliate links. I get a small commission if you purchase through the link as no extra cost to you.
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