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Hand on hotel door handle, with door open to light and airy bedroom

What to put in your guest welcome basket

running a bed and breakfast starting up a bed and breakfast Jul 08, 2022

Whenever we go away on holiday to a cottage, hotel or B&B, as soon as I get in the room, I’m busy searching around to see what goodies there are.
Are there nice toiletries? What’s on the tea tray? Are there homemade biscuits and fresh milk? What’s in the welcome folder? Oooh a loofah mitt thingie…

I’m sure I’m not alone in doing this. Unless we’re staying in a utilitarian Premier Inn “bed for the night”, I think most guests like to be surprised with little extras.
In this blog post I discuss:

  1. Should you provide a B&B welcome basket?
  2. What to put in your B&B welcome basket?
  3. Why you should review your welcome basket offering regularly
  4. Is it a good idea to offer different welcome baskets to different “tiers” of guests
  5. Should you charge for B&B welcome basket goodies?

Thank you Clare and Dave at the lovely School House B&B in Chapel Lawn for letting me use on of their B&B rooms for a photoshoot and to John at Shropshire and Beyond for allowing me to use their lovely calendars and postcards.

Should you provide a B&B welcome basket?

When I talk about a welcome basket, it isn't necessarily a basket with everything piled in - though that lots nice and welcoming. I'm really talking about all of the little extras you provide for your guests.

Whether you give your guests a welcome basket or not depends on how much you charge and the type of guests you’re catering to.

The more expensive and luxurious the accommodation, the more attention to detail ( and little treats ) I would expect to see as a guest.

If your B&B is catering to guests who are really just after a bed for the night, then it may be less important to you than a B&B that is looking to attract guests to stay for longer periods of time and who wants to turn them into repeat business.

It's important  to consider your budget and costs, but also think a bit strategically and consider the long term benefits of making your guest feel special. Balance the cost of providing a few extras now with the possibility of turning those guests into repeats, who are booking direct and saving you 15% on OTA fees!

I used to provide a whole lemon drizzle cake and homemade shortbread for each set of arriving guests. There was also fresh milk in the fridge and bottled water and filtered tap water.
I lost count of the number of guests who left a review saying they loved all of the extras. And invariably they came back!

My repeat guests eventually accounted for 70% of my bookings. And I’m pretty confident saying that, having got the B&B basics right, that the lemon drizzle was directly responsible for a lot of those repeat guests!

What should you put in a B&B welcome basket?

What you include in your bed and breakfast welcome basket is going to depend on your time commitments, the type of guests you want to attract, budget and the cost.

A B&B in the countryside, without eating places that guests can visit on foot, may do better offering cake, than a B&B in a town or city centre with lots of tea rooms and cafes.

You might find guests prefer healthier options such as fruit bowl in the room or snack packets of seeds and nuts.

If you're still stuck for ideas on what to offer, check the reviews of successful B&Bs on Tripadvisor or the OTAs and see if you can get some ideas about what their guests love about their visit!

Sweet Treats

In terms of cost, baking your own cakes with the right recipe is relatively cheap to do. Though with the recent news that Lurpak are selling 750g of butter for £9, I may be forced to eat my words!

I buy the cheapest flour I can get and buy butter when it was on special offer. Butter lasts a long time and both flour and butter can be frozen.

What it will cost you is a bit of time. And to do this you need to find the the "right" recipe.  That's important as both a cost and a time saver.

My lemon drizzle cake makes 3 whole loaf cakes at a time - it freezes beautifully. It's an all in one recipe - chuck all the cake ingredients into a mixer, mix on high for 2 minutes and it’s ready to bake.

If you choose a recipe that takes a lot of different steps and only makes one cake, it’s going to take much more time and effort to make it for each set of guests - or I guess you could just give them a slice!
The advantage of giving the guests a whole cake in their room meant I was having to constantly fill up their cake tins - though it wasn’t that rare of an occurrence for guests to eat a whole lemon drizzle on their first evening here…

You can find my lemon drizzle cake recipe here >> Karen's lemon drizzle cake
And my shortbread recipe here >> Karen's shortbread recipe

If you don't want to bake, or got to the effort of providing plates, napkins etc, you could always leave sweets of chocolates in the room.

What to give guests with special dietary requirements

I used to find that guests with special dietary requirements were extra pleased if you made the effort to provide them with goodies suitable for their diets.
A lemon drizzle cake made from gluten free ingredients always took extra time and expense, but it was worth it for the glowing reviews and improved chance of turning them into a repeat guest!

Learn more in this blog post >> How to cater for guests with special dietary requirements

Non Food Goodies

Supplying your guests with toiletries is usually expected today. But offering them particularly nice toiletries and the right choice will give you bonus points. One of my bugbears is conditioning shampoo - extra points from me to any accommodation that provides separate shampoo and conditioner!

I’ve written a blog post all about what essentials to provide in a B&B guests bathroom. You can read it here >> Bed and Breakfast Guest Bathroom Essentials

One thing I used to do that was very popular with guests was to leave a postcard on the bed. It was a postcard I'd made from one of my own photos.
It wasn’t so much the postcard that worked well, but the fact that it had a stamp on it. I also left a note for guests, telling them where the nearest walking distance post box was. It was rare that the postcard wasn’t taken and sent to friends.

Of course it had info about my B&B on it, so the receiving friend now knew about my business!

If you don’t have your own postcards you could always buy them from a local business and then just put a label on them with your business name and website.

You could also pop in blank greeting cards. Or if you know your guests are staying with you for a special occasion, a card from the host is usually appreciated.

Itineraries, maps and guides

Whenever my guests arrived, I’d ask them what they were planning to do during their stay. And I lost count of the people who replied with “We haven’t really got any plans, what would you suggest?”. So I’m a huge fan of providing itineraries for guests - both in advance on your B&B blog or by email, and in the room when they arrive.

Suggested itineraries save you time in repeating the same information to guests over and over, and they are a huge added value item for guests.
You could buy a local guide book or map, and leave it in the room or you could put your own itinerary together.

An itinerary might be a suggestions for a day out, with several places to visit, somewhere nice to stop for lunch including distances and driving times.

If you're catering to a specific market such as dog owners or those with different accessibility requirements, you could put together the perfect itinerary for them.

Bucket Lists

Consider putting a bucket list of local things to do together for your guests - again on your website, in the welcome email and printed off in your room.

Challenges, such as ticking everything off on the bucket list, are hugely popular in the marketing world right now and they are a great way of helping guests explore the area. I'm sure I'm not alone in loving my I Spy books when I was a kid!

You could encourage your guests to share photos or videos of the bucket list items or activities on social media, getting them to tag you in or using a hashtag you've created.

The good thing about a bucket list is the more competitive guests may want to make a return visit to finish ticking items off. I often had guests say to me “We didn’t realise there was so much to do, we’ll be coming back”

You could do nature bucket lists, or seasonal bucket lists.

I’ve included a Canva template for a bucket list with some examples to give you some ideas - get the template here >> Bed and Breakfast Bucket List Examples


Why you should review your welcome basket offer regularly

You may have lots of ideas for what to put in your welcome basket but some items may be of more value to guests than others.

I used to put a sleep set ( mask, ear plugs, aromatherapy sleep spray ), local crisps, local chocolates and a small bottle of wine in the room, alongside the fresh milk, water, cake and shortbread.

Remember if you’re giving guests alcohol, even if it’s provide “FREE” you will need an alcohol licence - you can read more here >> Do you need a licence to sell alcohol at your B&B?

But I found the sleep set chocolates, crisps and wine were NEVER mentioned by guests in reviews. So I decided to stop offering the crisps, chocolate and wine and I put the sleep set into the forget-me-not basket rather than on the bed, and no one ever mentioned to me that they missed them!

That saved me quite a bit per guest stay without affecting the guests’ experience.

So make sure you’re keeping a close eye on what your guests are saying to you and check your reviews carefully and consider removing items if they aren’t mentioned very often.

Consider offering different goodies to different “tiers” of guests

I’m a huge fan of email marketing. You can read why here >> 3 reasons why email marketing is important for a B&B.

But it can be difficult to get people to sign up, so it’s a good idea to offer an incentive to them to join your list.

You could create some type of “club” for email subscribers offering them extras that other guests don’t get. For example:

  • Early check in
  • Late checkout
  • Free platter
  • Free drink ( if you’re licensed )
  • A free copy of a local map, guide book or calendar
  • Extra goodies in the welcome basket

You might also consider doing something similar for your repeat guests, even if they're not on your email list.

One of our favourite small hotels always used to leave a couple of chocolates or a jar of local honey with a welcome back card. Nothing big, but we always appreciated the recognition that we were repeat guests.

Should you charge for welcome basket goodies?

Another of my bugbears is paying a lot of money for a hotel or B&B room, then finding that I have to pay another couple of quid for the mineral water in the room.

We once stayed at a “boutique” B&B on the coast that had a lot of goodies in the room - everything with a price label on it! And they weren’t cheap.

To be honest, I’d rather they’d put the price up by £10 a night and offered us the goodies for free.

It’s getting that balance of creating extra income from an upsell, with creating a special experience for guests and potentially turning them into repeat business.

Probably a better way of doing it is to give your guests something for free, then also offering them for sale.

For example,

  • I offered the lemon drizzle cake and shortbread for free, but if guests wanted a different cake such as a Victoria sponge, they could order that and pay for it as an extra
  • Offer them free cake and biscuits and give them the option of buying additional cakes or biscuits to take home
  • Give your guests a free post or greetings card and then offer additional cards, or calendars for sale
  • Provide free toiletries whilst they stay, but offer them for sale to take home

I hope you've found this blog post useful.

For a comprehensive training on how to run your own B&B, check out my course >> How to set up, run and market your own B&B

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