Archive for the ‘Operations’ Category

QR Codes – Why You Should Get to Know Them

February 24th, 2011 by Skyla Grimes

I signed up for a QR code about 10 months ago, but never used it. Until now! That’s because I didn’t recognize its value at first. I just got one for the Inn because I was learning as much as possible about all the new social media options and QR codes were among the growing list of things to use to promote your business.  Now that I understand how to use it better, I see what a cool tool it can be.

What is a QR Code?

According to Wikipedia, the technical definition of a QR Code is a two-dimensional barcode, sort of like the barcodes you see on store items that identify what they are and how much they cost when you scan the code into the register. The QR code is shaped like a square and can be encoded with text, data, or in my case, the URL the the Blake House website.  It’s my business’ fingerprint. This is the QR Code for Blake House:

How is a QR Code used?

It is used by the camera function on your smart phone.  First you have to download a FREE QR Code Reader app onto your phone. I have an iPhone so I downloaded the QR Code Reader app from i-nigma. You can use other versions or readers. From your iphone, click the App Store icon and do a search for i-nigma. There is an app for the new iPhone4 and one for the rest of us who still have the iPhone 3GS or lower. Once you download the app, you can start reading QR Codes for any business that has one. It is literally that simple.

You’ll see QR Codes in store windows, on printed material, Facebook Pages, emails, etc.  You may have already seen them, but like me, didn’t know what they were and haven’t paid much attention to them. Now you do.

When you see a business with a QR Code (like the Blake House one shown above), you click the QR Reader app on your phone and it opens your camera.  Hold your camera up so that it sees the QR Code and as soon as it registers the code, it will take you to whatever online information has been programmed into the code.

The Blake House Inn QR Code takes you to the Blake House Inn website. Other QR Codes may be set up to take you to the business’ website or a coupon page or their Facebook Page.

What is the value of the app?

Here are 2 examples:

  1. Let’s say you pick up one of Blake House Inn’s rack cards in the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center, but you haven’t been to our website.  The rack card only has so much information and you think you’ll remember to check out the website when you get home later. Maybe you will, but maybe you’ll forget.  If the rack card has a QR Code on it (mine don’t right now), you can use your phone to very quickly get to my website, just by opening your camera.  And instead of having to wait to look at my business, you can access it immediately.
  2. You’re at a restaurant and you notice they have a QR Code displayed on their menu or in the window. By clicking on it, you find out that they are offering a discount, but only for patrons who reference the promotion on the QR Code.

Of course, there are many other uses for the QR Code, but its greatest purpose is to allow people on-the-spot access to information about the business they are interested in. It can be used for informational purposes only or it can be used to promote specials or promotions for those who access it.

If you own a business, you should consider getting a QR Code (or multiple codes) to help promote your business.

For everyone else, you should start reading QR Codes for the businesses you patronize that have them because you never know what kind of deal you just might score.

4 Reasons to Stay at a B&B Instead of a Hotel When Visiting Asheville, NC

January 15th, 2011 by Skyla Grimes

2011 is shaping up to be a year of ups and downs.  Many things are going up in price, including gas and groceries. Airfare rates and fees are also looking to increase.  On the bright side, the economy appears to be inching slowly into a recovery and people can afford to take vacations this year. As a small B&B owner and local resident of Asheville, I am doing my part to help our guests maintain a reasonable vacation budget.

Room rates at Blake House are not going up this year and all rooms in the main house are $150/night or less (double occupancy).  PLUS, a full gourmet breakfast is included in the nightly rate.

While you can find cheaper places to stay like an area motel or hotel, if you are looking for a complete experience, why not stay at an Asheville B&B?  Blake House is pet- and child-friendly. The perception that B&Bs are exclusive and too expensive is just not true.  Let me list just a few of the things about a B&B that recommend it as an accommodation people need to consider:

  1. Uniqueness – Every B&B is different from every other B&B. In other words, no two B&Bs are alike and no 2 rooms within a B&B are alike.  That’s because the majority of B&Bs are in historic homes where the craftsmanship and quality of construction tend to be better (thus, the reason they are still standing after hundreds of years), making each room a study in history. I have nothing against hotels, but if the walls could talk in a hotel, what do you think they’d say? In a historic B&B, you may very well find out what the walls have said because many are on National and/or Local Historical Registers and much of the historical information has been researched and provided for guests’ entertainment. Also part of the character of an historic house are the quirks and creaks that make it unique. Some houses may even be haunted by past occupants (if you’re into that kind of thing).
  2. Personal Service & Area Knowledge – Some of the best tour guides and keepers of knowledge about all things Asheville are your local innkeepers. Innkeepers are fantastic resources of information on where to go to eat and experience this wonderful city.  They have intimate knowledge of the good, the great, and the avoidable places and they are more than willing to share their opinions and experiences with their guests.  This is an often overlooked benefit for guests, but its priceless when you consider your overall experience.  The average hotel concierge may or may not even live around the hotel where they work and, therefore, may or may not have intimate knowledge of the area.  Hotels tend to refer guests to the big attractions and places where the hotel has a financial interest.  If you really want to have a great time in Asheville, trust your innkeeper to provide personal service with a strong desire for you to enjoy your entire trip.
  3. Home-made Gourmet Breakfasts – While breakfast is also offered at hotels, most are offering breakfast buffets for hundreds of guests. The average B&B is serving breakfast to a much, much smaller group of guests and you know it was made fresh and brought to you straight from the oven and had not been sitting under heat lamps for extended periods of time. Innkeepers are quite adept at working around dietary restrictions (with advance notice) and in a city like Asheville, it is not uncommon to have guests with food restrictions. When you look at breakfast in the context of the overall B&B experience, it becomes a more personal experience as well. Guests get to meet and chat with other guests, sharing their experiences in the city thus far and trading information about where they live, what brought them to Asheville, etc., etc.  Do you ever speak to anyone at a hotel breakfast other than your server?  I have seen so many guests make new acquaintances/friends during breakfast and exchange contact information afterwards. How cool is that? Yeah, MacDonald’s and Denny’s are cheaper, but can they really compare to the B&B breakfast experience?
  4. The Best in Amenities – While historical houses suggest that everything inside is antiquated, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  The majority of B&Bs have been retrofitted and renovated with modern conveniences, including individual bathrooms for each guestroom, central heat and air conditioning, wi-fi, TVs and DVD players, ipod/cd docking stations, and so on.  Yeah, some do it better than others, but in some cases, it’s not possible to totally modernize a centuries-old house without defiling the integrity of the original structure. So, we work around those inconveniences as best as possible. B&Bs also include many freebies that the average hotel/motel does not, including snacks and homemade goodies for the guests, free movies for guests to watch and games for guests to amuse themselves with. Think any of these things are free or even offered at hotels?

So when you consider your next trip, be it for business or pleasure, consider the B&B. They may not be out of your price range. Call and speak to the innkeeper before making your reservation so you can “meet” first and you can get a feel for that particular B&B and whether or not it fits with what you are looking for. Remember that every B&B is different so if one is not to your liking, there are many more to choose from.  Figure out what is most important to you in your stay and find out from the innkeeper if they can fill your needs.

Blake House is located in the city limits of Asheville, but we are not in downtown and while a 15-minute drive to downtown from the Inn doesn’t seem like a lot of time, for some it is and I understand that.  What’s great about South Asheville is that it is building up quickly, having added the Biltmore Square Town Center with a modern movie theater, a handful of restaurants, and boutiques. South Asheville also has several fabulous independent restaurants and some of the downtown restaurants are opening South Asheville locations (Tupelo Honey Cafe and Fiore’s Ristorante Toscana is coming soon).  Before long, South Asheville will be as big as downtown and guests will have to think of reasons to leave our south location. This South Asheville B&B plans to keep its room rates affordable and our guests as happy and comfortable as possible.

Mention this blog post when making your reservation and receive $10 off your total, in addition to any other special/discount you may qualify for.

It’s the End of Summer and I Can’t Think!

August 31st, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

I’m not a writer, so I can’t have writer’s block. I’m not a blogger, so I can’t have blogger’s block.  But I’ve definitely been having trouble coming up with the topics and the energy to write anything. I think it all started in June when my dog, Hummer, passed away. Since then, I began working at Eagle’s Nest Foundation and July and August have been pretty busy months at the Inn. Between being depressed about losing my baby and dealing with the summer crush as well as a new job, I feel like I haven’t had the energy or inspiration. You’d think that with all the summer action around here, I’d have no problem coming up with interesting topics.

But I can’t think of ANYTHING that I want to/feel like write about!

I’m sure I could blog about the new piece of flooring in the kitchen I had done last week ($1600 later and it’s only 1/4 of the entire kitchen floor space). Or, I could talk about the Family Reunion Cruise I just returned from (I probably will share that soon). There’s also all the fun summer activities that took place in Asheville or the cool fall lineup, including the Flower Carpet at Biltmore and Octoberfest (another beer festival). There’s a wedding at the Inn this weekend that could inspire me to write and another one the first weekend in October that I’m preparing for. Lastly, I could always talk about my super sister, Jessica, and her admirable battle with breast cancer these past six months (another probably will blog).

There are definitely lots of topics to write about. I just need to find my mojo and get back into the groove.  I’d really love to hear from anyone (professional writer, blogger, or novice) what tips they might like to share with me and the general public about how they deal with the infamous “block” that invariably happens.  What can/do you do to get past it?

Surprising Gifts in the Form of Kind Words

May 4th, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

In today’s world, there is an emphasis on reviews. Many people do or don’t buy or try a product or service based on someone’s personal opinion about that product or service. In my world, the world of travel, hospitality, and tourism, there are many sites out there for people to leave anonymous reviews of me and my B&B. Trip Advisor, Yelp, BedandBreakfast.com, just to name a few. Not to mention someone’s personal blog or website.

Someone has a bad experience or just a bad day and they can ruin a business’s reputation. Or at least make it difficult to overcome. I have received my share of good AND bad reviews. After the initial upset caused, I have been able to take a step back and really look at what the reviewer is saying. In some cases, their issues were totally valid and I have sought to remedy problems. Things like an a/c unit that is not working properly or someone not wanting to share table space with other guests or not liking something I cook are easy enough to fix. Personality conflicts and not liking my style of running the Inn are not so easy to change, but I try my best. As a result, I have definitely seen a change over the past several years in the number of unhappy guests versus happy guests. It’s not that I received a large number of bad reviews, but when you receive one or two a year, it leaves an impression.  The ultimate goal as an innkeeper is to offer a welcoming house for guests and to enhance their lodging experience with a genuinely pleasant and accommodating attitude.

I think I have come a long way from the first 2 years of B&B ownership and a background in Human Resources where policies are policies and you don’t break them and where everything has its place and any deviation caused stress. Taking the review comments from unhappy guests and comments from the happy ones too, I feel so much better now that I listen more and don’t get so worried about the small stuff. If a guest breaks something, I don’t break out into hives anymore; it’s no big deal. It can be replaced. I have gotten rid of some of the fees that I used to charge for things like early check-ins and large group cleaning gratuities. Let the airlines and hotel chains nickel and dime their customers with lots of extra fees.

Many of the changes I have made over the years have come as a result of positive feedback rather than negative feedback. When someone criticizes your way of doing things, it’s easy to ignore their comments or become so defensive that you can’t hear what is being said. But when you have a conversation with a happy guest and they ask if you can change something about your Inn, their room, their breakfast or its operation, it is so much easier to take their words to heart, because you know they are coming from a place of caring about you and your business and because they plan to come back!

My suggestion to anyone getting ready to rip into a business via an anonymous review would be to try speaking to the owner, innkeeper, or manager first. You may find that a few kind words go further than a scathing post on everything you hated about your experience or the product. If that doesn’t work (sometimes a request is out of the control of even the person in charge), then a post with objective information and suggestions for improvement will still probably go further than nothing but negative comments. Even humor goes a long way.

I wanted to share a couple of cards from guests I received recently. How many people sit down and spend a few minutes writing a card to another person, a business? And to receive two cards, one in March & one in April, was so touching that I felt the need to share with my readers and guests how much I appreciate them once they leave the Inn. This is the reason why people looking for a personal experience should consider staying at a B&B versus a hotel. We WANT to establish relationships with our guests.

The first card was sent just before Easter from guests who have been to the Inn 4-5 times over the past couple of years. I had not seen them since the fall so to receive an Easter card was thrilling. The guests wrote: “Thanks so much for remembering us with a gift certificate! That was so thoughtful of you and sweet! Spring has finally come to Indiana; February was our cold, snowy month. We just love you and Blake House and are looking forward to coming down to Asheville again in 2010.”

The second card was sent mid-April from a guest who had stayed here a couple of years ago and had come back to visit family in the area. She wrote, “Dear Leslie, Thanks for launching me into Spring 2010 in royal style.  Loved my stay at your beautiful inn. I’ve tormented many with tales of your fabulous breakfasts. (The only attempt I’ve made at imitating was the baked grapefruit.) A success! Best regards. P.S. I’ll be back!”

As an innkeeper, I meet a lot of people; some are just passing through Asheville for one night and some stay for several days. My hope is that everyone enjoys their stay, no matter the amount of time. But if you don’t, you can talk to me and I will listen. If you do, I thank you most ardently for any kind words you say or write, whether you choose to share them with others via online review sites, or if you only share them with me in a sweet card or email.

I love Asheville! I love this Inn! And I love everyone who shares part of their life with me and this old house.

5 Reasons Why a Bed & Breakfast is a Great Option for Business Travelers

March 21st, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

Very few business travelers consider staying at a bed & breakfast when traveling for work and they are really missing out! The average B&B offers so much more than a place to sleep and breakfast the next morning. More and more, they are expanding their offerings to include hosting events, fundraisers, cooking classes, and to entice the mid-week business traveler. Following is a list of five reasons why businesses should consider sending their employees to a bed and breakfast for their next trip:

  1. According to the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), 94% of B&Bs have private bathrooms for each room. It used to be that many times, guests had to share a bathroom with other guests which could not only be inconvenient, but embarrassing. Not so anymore. Innkeepers have recognized the need to offer private bathrooms along with private bedrooms so the instances of shared bathrooms are few and very far between. As an innkeeper, I am still surprised at the number of calls I receive where the caller is asking if my rooms have shared or private bathrooms. This is obviously a perception that can be laid to rest for the most part, but if the traveler has any concerns, most B&Bs have websites with room photos and descriptions which should indicate if a bathroom is private or shared.
  2. The 2009 PAII B&B Industry Study also indicates that 93% of bed & breakfasts offer FREE high speed (wireless) internet access. Many hotels still charge for internet access, but I don’t know of one bed & breakfast that does. At a hotel, if you want free internet, you have to wait in a line to use one of the few, highly-sought-after computers down in the lobby, sometimes floors and floors away from your room. How convenient is that?
  3. Not every business traveler is looking to hang out in the hotel bar when not working. For that person, the average bed & breakfast offers not only internet access in common areas, but games, free movies, a guest refrigerator with either free or reduced drinks, free snacks, magazines, and books. These personal touches in the bed and breakfast really go a long way to making the traveler feel welcome and valued during their stay. In many cases, special requests for something can and will be handled free of charge by the innkeeper.
  4. When traveling in an unfamiliar city, it can be nerve-wracking and time consuming to figure out where things are.  The average innkeeper is intimately invested in the city and is happy to speak with the traveler and point out favorite restaurants and attractions. They carry a large selection of brochures and maps and in many cases can give personal recommendations on must-see places. At a hotel, good luck getting recommendations on anything. There’s a good chance that the front desk personnel aren’t even familiar with the immediate area because they live no where close to the hotel.
  5. Finally, let’s talk about breakfast. As the second part of the bed and breakfast equation, the breakfast part is quite important. Every business traveler has different needs when it comes to breakfast and every B&B can work around those needs. Although every B&B has a different set up and schedule for their breakfast, just because the full breakfast is served at 9 am doesn’t mean that the business traveler has to miss out.  Speaking for my Inn, some business travelers can stay for the 9:00 breakfast, but many have to leave before then. I would never send a guest away hungry unless that is their preference. I keep a breakfast room stocked with continental breakfast items including oatmeal, milk/cereal, fresh fruit, bagels/cream cheese, and coffee. Not only is there a one-cup coffee maker upstairs for guests to help themselves to 24 hours a day, but there is a second coffee pot downstairs in the Breakfast Room with 24 hours access. In addition, I always ask my guests who are leaving early if there is anything special I can have for them to take like muffins, OJ, etc. Most B&Bs will offer the same type of option as well.

While I covered just 5 reasons for business travelers to stay at a bed and breakfast, there are more. Consider the fact that parking at a B&B is most likely more convenient than a hotel.  A B&B may even have space for small meetings. Invite your business comrades over to the B&B to get away from the office. The Innkeeper maybe able to set up a catered lunch for your group. I definitely recommend coordinating any onsite meetings with the Innkeeper first, but what a nice way to get out of the office for a couple of hours without distractions and noise. Lastly, many B&Bs offer access to or assistance with sending faxes and making copies (small quantities). Check with the Innkeeper to see what business services they offer. Most are FREE of charge, unlike the average hotel.

The average nightly rate at a B&B is around $150/night, but that varies widely by location, time of year, and room. Bed and Breakfasts WANT mid-week travelers and may offer a corporate discount or some other type of business traveler perk. Don’t assume out of hand that the bed & breakfast is too expensive because you will be surprised with the value you get for the cost. By the time the hotel has nickel and dimed you, you will probably have just paid as much as you would have by staying at the local B&B. However, you would not have gotten the friendly, knowledgeable service you would have received from the small historical house around the corner.

All Lodging Establishments Are Not Created Equal

March 14th, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

Just because that cute little bed and breakfast with the cheap rate has a website doesn’t mean it’s a legitimate business.

I was talking to some guests the other day and they were commenting on the large number of B&Bs in Asheville (somewhere between 40-50 in the Asheville area).  I happened to mention that there are even more if you count the illegal B&Bs and vacation rental properties. Well, that started a round of questions.

What do you mean illegal B&Bs? How is that possible? How can we tell? And so on. So we talked for the next 20 minutes about ways to spot a legal versus illegal establishment. So for anyone else who might be wondering, keep these things in mind:

  • Legal lodging establishments comply with local, state and federal requirements including obtaining and displaying a business license and Health Department Inspection certificate. We all must display these in an area where guests can see them. Before you book with a place, ask them if they are licensed and inspected. Legitimate places will have no problem answering that question. And once you arrive, look for those certificates to make sure they are up to date. Remember that a health inspection means that the establishment is cleaning the property/dishes and storing food in the proper manner. They also check the guestrooms to make sure certain standards are met in cleanliness and room safety.
  • A legitimate establishment with 5 or more rooms is collecting and paying occupancy and sales taxes. If you are not being charged taxes, ask why not? If you are purchasing a package, ask if the taxes have been figured into the package price. In Buncombe County and the City of Asheville, tax paying properties (don’t assume a 4-room B&B is illegal because it does not have to collect taxes) get a listing on the official tourism website. If you come across lodging in the county that rents out 5 or more rooms and it’s not listed on exploreasheville.com, ask the owner some questions.
  • An illegal establishment is less likely to comply with fire and safety requirements because, quite frankly, they can be restrictive and/or costly to maintain. Ask if each guestroom has a fire detector and if the fire alarm system is monitored and hard wired to notify the fire department if it goes off. Are there fire extinguishers throughout the house and kitchen? Again, small establishments with under 5 rooms for rent are not considered as “commercial” properties and are not required to comply, but do you want to put your safety or the safety of your family at risk? Small B&Bs that operate on the up and up will take fire safety seriously and will have measures in place.
  • Find out if the establishment has liability insurance in case of an accident. Commercial lenders (and B&Bs of more than 5 rooms are usually considered commercial) require a certain amount of liability insurance. Even a place with less than 6 rooms should carry liability insurance if rooms are to be rented out for short or long-term.
  • In some areas, the proximity and number of B&Bs is limited. For instance, after 1997, in the Historic Montford District, no new B&Bs could be opened within 500 ft. of another B&B. All existing B&Bs were grandfathered in so that is why you see 2 and 3 in a row. But someone who wants to rent out their house for the summer that happens to sit next to an operating B&B is actually not permitted to, but people do it. Therefore, that house is illegally operating as a vacation property (not licensed, tax collecting, inspected, etc.). You should really think twice about renting it, just to save a few dollars because you could end up paying with much more than money.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for someone to make a little extra money by renting out their property, but I run my business legally and I feel that everyone else should too. An illegal B&B can undercut my prices because they aren’t collecting taxes or paying for a license or insurance. The trade-off as far as I’m concerned is too high. Just do yourself a favor and ask a few questions before booking your next trip, whether here (I hope it’s in Asheville) or Albuquerque or St. Augustine or Austin. You’ll feel a lot better knowing that your safety and comfort are worth more to the B&B owner than money.

Bed & Breakfast Etiquette – How Things Have Changed & Stayed the Same

January 24th, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

Years ago when B&Bs as a lodging option were still in their infancy, how guests were expected to behave was different than it is today. Then, B&Bs, or guest stays, were smaller on average with between 3-5 guestrooms. Now, the average B&B has between 6-8 rooms. Some B&Bs have 10, 12, 14 or more rooms. What does this mean? It means that B&Bs have moved into the world of being a commercial business and all it entails. It also means that innkeeper and guest behavior have evolved as well.  I see many, many first time B&Bers at Blake House and find myself answering the same questions regarding what is and is not acceptable at my place.

Commercialization of the Industry

First off, B&Bs are no longer mom and pop operations as they used to be. The smaller the establishment, the closer to this type of arrangement you will find. But as the average number of rooms has increased, so has the move towards a full-blown more than full-time business entity and not something people retire into or do as a hobby anymore.

Legitimate inns (those that are registered and pay taxes) are now governed by local and state standards and get inspected. In addition to the Health Department, being a member of certain Associations and trade groups requires additional inspections. Mine is a pet- and child-friendly B&B (a rarity) so properly cleaning and maintaining the rooms after children and pets is doubly important.

Fire safety is another big concern for B&Bs now. All those B&Bs that have expanded have, in most cases, been required to jump through hoops to comply with local fire, building and safety codes. In addition, the liability insurance on a B&B is a massive expense. It’s not like getting homeowners insurance. Not only do you have to insure your contents for loss, theft, damage, etc., but you have to insure the property for injuries to your guests.

The only issue I have with all the commercialization of the B&B industry is that there is no distinction between a 200-room hotel and a 6-room B&B. B&Bs are treated like these large commercial properties instead of the niche market they occupy. To stay in business, the B&B owner must expand, but it can be quite difficult to accomplish that.

What I hope the reader takes away from this section is an understanding of how things have changed for the average B&B owner. What used to be seen as a hobby or part-time income-supplementing business in the beginning that was largely unregulated has evolved into a complex business undertaking.

Guest/Innkeeper Behavior

While every bed and breakfast is different, how an innkeeper and guest behaves should be mostly the same across locations, no matter the size of the bed and breakfast.

  • For the innkeeper’s part, no matter where you go, the guest should be treated with a service-oriented attitude, they should be provided with comfortable, clean, and safe accommodations as well as a breakfast meal of some sort (continental, continental plus, or sit down). I am amazed how many guests don’t know that breakfast is included. The second half of the business is “breakfast” so that is a given. How it is served varies between B&Bs. I serve breakfast at the same time every morning (9 am) because I am one person doing everything by myself, but other B&Bs may do breakfast differently. Check with your innkeeper in advance (some even have breakfast information on their websites, including me) so there are no surprises about when food is available. Most places can accommodate dietary restrictions, just tell the innkeeper in advance instead of as you are being served. I post what I’m serving for breakfast the day before so guests can notify me of restrictions or preferences before I cook everything. Everything goes in the oven at the same time and comes out at the same time so if a guest comes to breakfast 20 minutes late, they are most likely going to get something that is getting cold and/or soggy. The proper thing for a guest to do is to call the Innkeeper if they are running late or are not coming to breakfast so that their food can be held over for them or not made and wasted if they aren’t coming. If a guest oversleeps, don’t sweat it, it’s okay. Saying nothing keeps the Innkeeper wondering, so the proper thing to do is to call and give a heads up.
  • Because a B&B is treated as a business, some are even owned by corporate entities and run by managers. I say, to each his own, but guests should no longer be surprised if the innkeeper is not the person who takes care of them. Some guests may like that; many B&Bers still want the personal contact. At my B&B, I incorporate a little of both. I’m here, I run the place, and I live on the property. I check-in and check-out guests, serve breakfast and take care of guest questions, concerns, etc. At the same time, I try to stay out of the way. Most guests will see me at breakfast, during check-in and check-out, and sporadically throughout the day if I’m cleaning the house or working outside, but I keep a low profile otherwise. Guests don’t want to feel like they are being watched. As a guest, if you need more face time, you can call me and I will come over if you need assistance. If you want a tour of something, ask and I’ll be happy to show you. Otherwise, I will give you privacy and will plan to chat with you at breakfast. That’s my style; let me know if you have a different need. Same thing with any B&B, if you aren’t getting what you need, speak up because the innkeeper can’t read your mind or your attitude.
  • If something goes wrong, notify someone as soon as possible. It’s okay if you break something or if something you are using malfunctions, just don’t try to hide it. Innkeepers expect this stuff; it happens. Most Innkeepers would rather you told them of a mishap rather than finding out after you left, wondering what happened. If you can’t work your DVD player, call. That’s what the innkeeper is here for. Some B&Bers are embarrassed to to let the innkeeper know of something negative, but I’m telling you that it is okay.
  • It’s an old house, expect some quirks. For example, a few of my steps near the second floor squeak. They squeak, oh well. Old houses tend to moan and groan more than newer ones.  Also, things break easier/faster in a B&B. Whether it’s because it’s an old house or because of excessive usage, you can expect it to happen. Most innkeepers have gotten good at dealing with crises (loss of power, stove not working properly for breakfast, running toilets).
  • Policies versus House Rules – Every B&B has written policies regarding cancellations, checking in and out, minimum stays, deposits, etc. Policies provide guidelines for the business so that everyone is treated fairly and they serve to protect the business’ interests. My feeling on House Rules is that my guests are adults, not children. They don’t come on vacation to be treated like children so there’s no curfew and people can come and go as they please. My only real house rule is that I ask guests to lock up whenever they come and go. It is not only a safety issue, but when I am not here (grocery shopping or whatever), I don’t want non-guests walking into the house when it is unattended. Most B&Bs have guest books in each room with a list of policies, rules, emergency procedures, local information, and more. Read through those books and many of your questions may be answered.
  • In addition, while the innkeeper may not say anything to you during your stay about the fact that you used the white towels to remove your make-up (even though facial cleansing towels are provided), they know when they tidy your room or clean it out. Some places charge for damage to sheets/towels that doesn’t come out in the wash. Taking a white towel on your hike with your dog is not a good way of promoting happy relations between guest and innkeeper. The etiquette on this is to treat the house and things inside the B&B as you would treat your best friend’s possessions. Would you use their nice towels to clean up messes or maybe an old, scrap towel? If you aren’t sure, ask the innkeeper.
  • Noise – this is not usually a problem, but realize that you are in a house with rooms in close proximity. Loud music, TVs with the volume turned all the way up, loud sexual activity, yelling, etc. can and most-likely is heard by other guests. Be cognizant of others, but you can act normal. You don’t have to whisper or tip-toe around. Other guests expect to hear normal activities like walking around and talking. Blake House is child and pet friendly so guests who come here know that there may be the pitter patter of little feet throughout the house. If you are visiting a B&B with lots of expensive antiques that caters to an older clientelle or people on super romantic vacations, the expectations regarding noise and behavior may be different. You should be able to get the feel of the house and the innkeeper either through their website or when you check-in.
  • Checking in and out – Innkeepers plan their days around their guests, those who are already at the inn and those checking in. As such, each B&B has a standard set of check-in hours and procedures for check-in outside the standard hours. Guests should try to let the innkeeper know when they will be arriving so that the innkeeper can plan their day around their guest arrivals. It’s okay to call from the road to say you are going to be early or late, but if you have a 3-4 pm arrival time range, if you aren’t going to make it, it’s good etiquette to notify the innkeeper. On the check-out side, unlike a hotel, innkeepers look forward to (and expect) to say goodbye to their guests. It’s the innkeepers opportunity to thank their guests, process paperwork, collect room keys, and find out how the guest enjoyed their stay. Innkeepers invariably wonder if there was a problem when guests take off without a goodbye. Unless a guest makes arrangements to check out super early or has otherwise notified the innkeeper of their departure, the innkeeper is waiting around in order to see the guests off.
  • Have an open mind – If you are a first-time B&Ber or a seasoned guest, always keep an open mind when going to a bed and breakfast. What makes each one different may not appeal to some people, but those who go to B&Bs go for the very same reason, because they are different from a hotel. Each experience will be unique and things that may go wrong turn out to be funny anecdotes and something you’ll remember.

I would love to hear from anyone who has a story about a stay at a bed and breakfast where a guest (or themselves) may have accidentally blundered because they weren’t aware of the proper etiquette at the B&B. The story can be funny, embarrassing, or strange. Anything that you are willing to share is fine.

Innkeeping Innternship

December 20th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

Innkeeping Innternship

If you have ever wondered if innkeeping (or interim innkeeping) is for you, try it out first under the guidance of an experienced innkeeper. Learn the ins and outs of innkeeping by experiencing it first-hand.  You will learn the sun-up to sun-down operation of a bed and breakfast plus you will have the opportunity to explore the city and get some well-deserved down time.

Cost: $695 per person (single occupancy); $495 per person (double occupancy)

Your Innternship includes room and breakfast during your stay and you can choose from a 2- or 3- night option for the same rate:

  • 2-night weekend (Friday-Saturday) innternship or
  • 3-night mid-week (Sunday – Thursday) innternship
  • add a 4th-night mid-week:  $100 per person (single occ.) or $75 per person (double occ.)

The 2-night option includes a free ticket per paying person for the Gray Line Historic Trolley Tour. The 3-night option adds a free ticket for one of the Asheville Food Tours. The 4-night option adds a free ticket to the Biltmore Estate.

Availability for an Innternship is based solely on room availability. There is no minimum headcount requirements for an innternship and we won’t schedule more than 4 at one time so that you are provided with as much one-on-one instruction as possible.

Call to schedule your Innkeeping Innternship and step into a whole new world of possibilities.

Gearing Up for Fall

September 27th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

As October approaches, I’m already pulling out the Fall decorations and will slowly start to decorate around the Inn. My goal is to get one box/bin done per day. At that rate, it should take me about a week to decorate everything.

With all the rain we have gotten in the past week, it looks like the trees may stay green a little longer.  However, when I’ve been able to run outside, I have seen just a few trees that have changed color early.  Also, my two gigantic Sycamore trees are starting to drop dead leaves all over the parking lot.  My lawncare guys were here on Friday and blew all the leaves into a long pile that they will bag the next time they are here. By Sunday, the parking lot is already filling up again.

Typical peak leaf season is between the 2nd and 4th weeks of October and we look to be on-target for that this year.  I don’t think we’ll see a whole lot of color until the end of the second week, or early into the third week.  But temperatures are dropping into the 40′s at night this week so I could be proven wrong. This week, I’ve been pulling out the down comforters and adding those to the guestbeds.

The middle of October is mostly booked, but we do have some rooms available so take a look at our Availability Chart if you’re looking to come to the area. It is up-to-date.

Greening the Inn

April 3rd, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

I am doing my part to move towards a greener inn. But when can I say that I have a green property? Is there a formula where I can plug in all the green stuff I do and it spits back how green (or not green) I am? Maybe I’m closer to lime green than forest green and I need to do “x” number of greening items before I’m totally green. At what point can I advertise myself as a green property? These are all questions I am very interested in finding the answers to.

In the meantime, here’s what I have done, am doing, or plan to do in the very near future to help:

  • water conservation – I recently bought a rain barrel to capture and reuse rain water. I bought a tankless water heater and plan to replace my hot water heaters with tankless versions. The first one to replace is the water heater in the Carriage House. I’ll have to buy 2 tankless water heaters in order to replace the one ginormous water heater in the Inn. I have notices in all guest bathrooms asking guests to reuse their towels to help conserve water.
  • recycling – I have multiple recycling bins for glass, plastic, aluminum, newspapers, cardboard, and magazines. I put a recycling bin in the Breakfast Room for guests to help recycle instead of throwing out their trash. I also save shopping bags (plastic and paper) and packing materials and use them for gift shop purchases and for doggie doodie bags for our pet guests. By recycling bags, in the 3+ years of owning the Inn, I have never had to purchase gift shop bags, tissue paper, or dog pickup bags.
  • energy/electricity savings – I have moved to almost 100% florescent light bulbs throughout the Inn, the Carriage House, and the property. I also have as many lights as possible on timers (inside and out). I plan to buy a clothesline so that I can line dry sheets and towels during the warmer months, thus saving on using the dryers. There is so much more that I can and need to do to save energy, but it is going to take a while to implement everything I want to do.
  • organics – I have recently planted herbs, vegetables, and fruits so that I can grow some foods that I’ll use in my cooking. Depending how everything goes with the few things I have planted (my green thumb goes only as far as the middle of my thumb), I may expand in the coming months. I’m also looking into purchasing organic bedding as my current bedding wears out or needs replacement. I’m still tentative on this because organic (bamboo specifically) bedding is quite expensive. Hopefully, costs will go down. My bathroom amenities supplier is also offering some organic and eco-friendly items so I will start to switch over to those products as my current ones run out.
  • other greening methods – Lastly, I love to reuse, recycle, reclaim things that people no longer want or use. Mainly, this means taking something (maybe a piece of old furniture) and refurbishing it or turning it into something else. This is probably what makes my style so eclectic. For example, I took an old cabinet door that had been removed from a bookshelf and added a mirror, a shelf from left over 2x4s, broken china and tile, and made a mosaic mirror for the Lilac Room. Much of my repurposing has been done with broken down furniture and mosaics so any time a piece of breakfast china gets broken, I don’t cry. I save it for a mosaic project.

At the end of April, I will even be recycling my hair. I have been growing it out for several years and it is almost to the my butt. I have an appointment to have 11 inches cut off and I will be donating the hair to Locks of Love so that it can be used to make hairpieces for children under 18 who have a medical illness that causes them to lose their hair. I am so ready, finally, the get rid of some of this hair!! Maybe I can find other ways to recycle me. :-)

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