Picture this scenario: you call an inn wanting to book their most expensive suite for a Saturday night during their high season. It’s your 25th wedding anniversary, so you’re splurging for the best, but when the innkeeper informs you there is a four night minimum on the date you’ve requested, your plans are shattered. Why on earth would a business turn away the $500 you’re willing to fork over now versus holding out for a possible longer booking? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve ruined someone’s vacation plans because they did not meet our minimum requirements. I honestly hate being the bearer of this bad news and have actually been called selfish, money hungry, and stupid for not taking a booking during tough times in the economy. While I appreciate the name calling and unsolicited business advice, there is good reason for this policy and quite frankly, I wouldn’t be in business if I didn’t adhere to it.
Here’s the thing – the high season is our bread and butter, so we’ve got to maximize our occupancy during that time. This often reminds me of a puzzle in which booking reservations back to back in the same room is key. Sometimes, this means we can take a one or two night stay because it is a perfect squeeze between two standing reservations. For this reason, we try to keep the wording on our minimum stay requirement policy fairly vague – after all, filling those gaps between reservations is the difference between achieving 98% occupancy and 100% occupancy – a feat we have managed the last two Augusts in a row.
In general, though, weekends in the summer, for us, are like gold. We can sell Saturday nights 20 times over that same day, let alone four months in advance. Bottom line is, we’re not worried about selling our Saturday nights and we’ve got to hold onto them for the guests whose stays will spill over to the weekdays. We’ve also got to keep in mind that the longer a guest stays, the less man hours are required. To illustrate my point, here’s what goes into flipping a room from start to finish:
1. Previous guest checks out (about five to ten minutes).
2. Room gets stripped so a set of sheets, towels, and robes go into the laundry (believe me, on days when we have a lot of check outs, the laundry room is a scary place!).
3. Housekeeping staff cleans room (about an hour).
4. Once room is clean, housekeeping marks off that room is finished and one of our interns goes over the room with an extensive checklist to make sure it is properly stocked, the temperature is comfortable, lights and music are on, etc. (about 15 minutes)
5. The intern initials that the room has been checked so the whole staff knows the room is ready for check-in.
6. Once the new guest arrives, a member of staff gives a brief tour pointing out all the amenities and common areas, walks the guest to his or her room, assists with bags if necessary, and checks off that the guest has arrived. (about 15 minutes)
7. Also, bear in mind that taking and processing each reservation takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several half hour phone conversations.
Therefore, with all that’s involved, it is important to stagger arrivals and departures so we don’t have all sixteen rooms checking in and out on say, a Sunday, which is what would happen if we were to sell our Saturday nights in advance. Perhaps this makes me “selfish, stupid and money hungry,” but as an innkeeper, I’ve got to remember that my inn is my livelihood which would not survive without sensible policies like this.