The Logic Behind Inn Policies Part Three

Policy Explanation #3: Hindsight is 20/20 When It Comes to Group Reservations

I’ll never forget one of my biggest rookie mistakes in this business. We were preparing for our first summer season at our original bed and breakfast, the Carriage House, and the bookings were starting to pour in. Every time we filled another week, we did a victory dance and celebrated with a fairly cheap bottle of champagne (we had just blown all our money on the inn). So when we got a call from a family who wanted us to host their family reunion for a week in July meaning they would book all six rooms, we were ecstatic. In fact, I think I offered them something like a 15% discount and waived all third person in the room fees to ensure they would book with us. At first glance, this may seem like a fantastic booking – it did to me. But as a veteran of the business, I can now admit that taking this booking was actually a mistake. A big one.

Don’t get me wrong – the family was pleasant enough. But when booking a group who’s going to reserve the entire inn, the business logistics are a nightmare. First off, all six rooms are going to check in and out on the same day. This means that in order to maximize occupancy, we needed to find six guests who would all be checking out on the group’s check-in day and another six guests who were looking to check in on the group’s check out day. Not only is it highly unlikely that this will happen, but if it does, think of the housekeeping involved. With six guestrooms, we employed one housekeeper who would single-handedly have to flip all six rooms between the hours of check out and check in (a four hour window). At an hour a room, this is mathematically impossible and the end result is an unhappy guest on my doorstep at 3:00 expecting his room to be ready and it’s not. Also, consider breakfast – a group booking typically implies group activities, which means everyone meets up for breakfast at 8:30 before heading off to Nantucket for the day. So, instead of six rooms coming in at staggered times during our breakfast window, we had all six rooms sitting down at once while I frantically raced around fetching drinks and taking orders and James tried to cook 30 flapjacks on a griddle the size of a Monopoly box and refrained from cursing too loudly.

That said, if the group had wanted to book a week in say, March, one of our slowest months, I’d break out a bottle of champagne (a slightly higher end one these days) and celebrate the booking. But in the height of the busy season, when rooms can be filled with individual reservations that are staggered, my advice to all you aspiring innkeepers out there is – go that route.

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