If you asked an experienced bed and breakfast owner who the perfect b and b customer is, most might tell you a:
- Bald (long and dark hairs get all over everything and are tough to clean up)
- Retired person (they seem to be a lot more relaxed)
- With no hearing problems (so you don’t constantly have to repeat everything and their TV watching isn’t heard by the whole house)
- Doesn’t have small children or own pets they want to bring with them/sneak into the room
- When they say “I like everything” they really mean it
- Who have read the terms and conditions/policies and don’t expect to check in early and check-out late;
- And don’t need you to entertain them during their stay
However, if you stuck to all those parameters, chances are your bed and breakfast business wouldn’t be too successful! Therefore, you need to determine who your perfect guest is – based on your location, services and amenities and the activities and events that draw people to your area.
Figuring out which customers you should “lose”
For me, this was brought home a couple of years after opening my bed and breakfast, when I attended a workshop on business management. The speaker, Donald Cooper, posed the question “Which customer should you lose?” When we all looked perplexed, and said “none”, he countered with “Which customers are costing you money?” He pointed out that there are customers who pay the same price as everyone else, but seem to demand a lot more of your time and attention to make the sale. His point was that as a business owner, you should stop dealing with these types of customers in order to take better care of those that aren’t so demanding.
Taking up the challenge, I reviewed my yearly statistics about the types of travellers that were coming and staying at my B&B, and realized that families with young children were the group that were costing me. Young couples who were getting away from their own children didn’t want to have to be around someone else’s kids, older couples didn’t have the patience to listen to the noise, and more than once I had issues with families expecting me to babysit, feed kids who hadn’t wanted to eat when breakfast was served and accidentally broke things. And on top of that, the expectation was that the children would stay for free, like in hotels.
So, I made a decision to no longer accept children under the age of eleven.
I picked that number as if people were going to lie and add a couple of years to their child’s’ age, I figured they would at least be eight or nine. I also only allowed one additional person over double occupancy in a room and have a $50.00 charge/night for the additional person – no matter the age. I also informed people that if they choose to rent the whole house, then children are more than welcome, as they will only disturb relatives, and not non-related guests.
Was I right to do that? Families falling into that category made up less than 5% of my business, and I am sure that I lost more than 5% of business when I had a potential guest on the phone and advised them that young children would be staying on that day.
How do young children figure into your plans for your B&B? (If you have small children and are considering opening a bed and breakfast, check out some questions I think you need to think about before going ahead.)