by Pamela Lanier
Every bed and breakfast inn has a particular selling point that goes beyond a simple night’s stay in a guest room. The innkeepers must determine what that selling point is and then assess whether serving food would enhance that selling point. If food service would be an asset to the inn, the innkeeper must decide how to make that enhancement while maintaining profitability. The innkeeper must also be able to market the resulting operation as unique and quaint – without appearing terribly interested in the money.
Perhaps the first decision to be made is the perennial one regarding the innkeeper’s willingness to be in the food-service business (other than breakfast). Most innkeepers concentrate on fine, personal service to guests. If the inn already involves “25-hour” days, every day, the innkeeper probably has no additional personal time to devote to food service.
Innkeepers must determine who will cook, serve, order and receive provisions, handle laundry, and cover the myriad other duties involved in the restaurant business. A business decision of this type should not be made solely on the basis of gut feelings or wishful thinking. The innkeeper should perform a hardheaded break-even analysis of the prospects of the proposed food service.
When making decisions about which meals, type of service and style of food to present to guests or diners, innkeepers much also set policies for meal reservations, handling payments and whether to reserve certain menu items only for guests. With the advent of a commercial kitchen comes the possibility of catering special events, such as weddings, dinner theater or business meetings, in addition to regular food service.
Setting up a dining room and kitchen is a compli cated matter, which is often the province of specialized consultants. Before knocking out walls and buying food service equipment, the innkeeper might find it well worth the expense to hire an efficiency expert who has been involved in the development and management of inn kitchens. In dealing with government agencies, a consultant or attorney skilled in administrative law can be invaluable.
The real bottom line of adding food service to a B&B is that it should enhance the inn’s image and environment, add to the innkeeper’s enjoyment of the business and augment the guest experience. Ironically, it may be a season or two before the innkeeper can assess what has been crafted.
Pamela Lanier is author of The Complete Guide to Bed & Breakfasts, Inns and Guesthouses, presently in its 18th annual edition, host of TravelGuideS.com available on over 7,000 Internet sites and portals, and creator of Bed & Breakfast Club Gazette, e-mail newsletter. When not writing or speaking, Pamela loves to cook for and entertain family and friends.
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