Frictionless Innkeeper Blog

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Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #15: Brian Coleman, GM of the Biltmore Greensboro Hotel, Discusses His Service Mentality

For episode #15 of the Frictionless Innkeeper Podcast series, we speak with Brian Coleman, GM of The Biltmore Greensboro Hotel in Greensboro, NC, about the hotel’s storied history, his service mentality and the property’s use of the Frictionless Guest App.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

The southern United States has some of the most interesting and colorful aspects of our nation’s history. The Biltmore Greensboro is a prime example of a property that took on many lives – from being an office, apartment building and even a location for making illegal moonshine.

In the 1960s, the property underwent a facelift and became the Greenwich Inn with female and male quarters. For every two male guests, they had a butler and there was a maid for every two female guests. The property became a popular destination for notables like Clark Gable, Richard Nixon, Gloria Vanderbilt, Elvis Presley and others. Now the 26-room historic landmark is the only independently-owned and operated boutique hotel in downtown Greensboro.

This storied past and a history of top-notch service to guests lives on today through Brian’s efforts as the GM. And while he always pushes a high human-touch service approach – removing automation and technology that gets in the way of interacting with guests – Brian has recently become a passionate user of the Frictionless Guest App.

In this podcast, Brian shares more about his service mentality and why continually pleasing guests is vital to the success of a boutique hotel like The Biltmore Greensboro:

  • The amazing history of the property. (:55)
  • About Brian’s background and how he came to be the GM of The Biltmore Greensboro. (11:48)
  • Insights into the tradition of English service standards that live on today at the hotel. (13:03)
  • How Brian moved away from automation when it comes to guest services. (16:39)
  • How this service-oriented philosophy has helped with business growth at The Biltmore Greensboro. (20:55)
  • Why the use of the Frictionless Guest App fits into Brian’s vision of service. (25:35)
  • The positive response of guests who use the app.  (28:54)
  • How the Frictionless Guest App helps to get guests to book return stays. (33:03)

We would like to thank Brian for sharing his insights. You can learn more about The Biltmore Greensboro Hotel by visiting its website.

Hospitality Upgrade’s Douglas Rice Gives Recognition to Frictionless Guest App

Photo by Brandon Jean on Unsplash

For more than 6 years, we have been building and improving the Frictionless Guest App with the core vision of giving innkeepers and hoteliers an app they can provide to their guests that recommends the best local places to eat, play and shop during their stay.  And though our determination to improve the guest experience has not wavered over this time frame, it’s been nice to recently get some affirmation and recognition from the hospitality sector that our efforts have been worthwhile.

The affirmation of our quest came in the recent ALICE study indicating that a whopping 81 percent of guests want to get recommendations from their accommodations provider.  While the hospitality sector probably didn’t have to see these numbers to realize that they should be addressing this need, it’s good to see a survey that overwhelmingly confirms the assumption that travellers want to be given the inside scoop on where to find the best local experiences.

It’s also great to get some recognition for building an app that specifically addresses this need by offering innkeepers and hoteliers an easy way to provide their guests with their recommendations.  That recently happened when Douglas Rice, hospitality technology expert and the founder of Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG), recently recognized us as an “innovative young company” in an excellent article written for Hospitality Upgrade’s “Siegel Sez / Definitely Doug” blog and titled, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

A key point made by Doug is the need to provide curated local recommendations chosen by the criteria of the best available offerings for the guest, rather than based upon advertising or revenue.  It’s amazing how this point has rarely been made in industry articles targeted toward hospitality providers, yet it seems so obvious from a guest’s perspective. If you truly believe that helping your guests find the best local experiences is the right thing to do for them (and also something that can build long-term trust and loyalty, which is good for you), then you need to commit to this approach.

This perspective has been at the heart of what we’ve been building for years as the Frictionless Guest App.  And it’s good to get some reaffirmation and recognition from the hospitality sector that we have been headed in the right direction.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #14: Rob Fulton, CEO of AIHP, Discusses the Recent AIHP Summit and the Overall State of B&B Industry

For episode #14 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Rob Fulton, CEO of the Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals (AIHP), about the 2019 AIHP Summit, as well as his organization’s 2018 study “B&B’s UNBOUND – The State of B&B’s in the U.S.”

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

The Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals (AIHP) is a nonprofit organization that represents, supports, educates, and advocates for independent hospitality professionals to enhance their personal satisfaction and business success. Founded in 2015, AIHP has seen phenomenal growth over the last four years and continues to gain traction as a key voice for independent lodging.

In 2018, the organization issued its in-depth “B&B’s UNBOUND – The State of B&B’s in the U.S.” study, which focuses on how independent hoteliers and B&Bs fit into the larger travel industry. In the face of the impact of OTAs and short-term rentals, the study found that the sector is actually growing overall, despite these disruptive trends.

In late March of this year, AIHP held its highly successful 2019 Knowledge Sharing Summit & Marketplace in Cincinnati. With events like this, a forward-thinking belief that technology and innovation is essential for helping innkeepers enhance the guest experience, and its commitment to educate its members, the organization is positioned to continue playing a key role in representing the independent hospitality sector for many years to come.

In this podcast, Rob shares insights into the mission of AIHP, its annual 2019 Summit, and key sector trends:

  • AIHP’s history and mission. (1:16)
  • Insights into the recent 2019 AIHP Summit and key takeaways from the event. (3:34)
  • How the AIHP Summit was also beneficial for the Frictionless Guest App. (6:42)
  • Information about the AIHP 2020 Knowledge Sharing Summit & Marketplace, which is taking place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (10:00)
  • An overview of the “B&B’s UNBOUND – The State of B&B’s in the U.S.” 2018 study. (11:12)
  • Insights into both industry growth and the impact of OTAs and short-term rentals on the independent innkeeping sector. (15:35)
  • Why independent hoteliers need to embrace the new changes that are happening in the industry, and how organizations like AIHP can help. (19:58)

We are very thankful to Rob for sharing his insights with us!  Stay tuned for part two of this interview series, where Rob discusses the upcoming 2019 State of B&Bs report being provided by AIHP and offers a deeper dive into the future of the independent hospitality sector. You can learn more about AIHP by visiting its website.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #13: Peter MacLaren, Owner and Operator of the West Hill House B&B, Discusses Ingredients for Being an Award-Winning Property

For episode #13 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Peter MacLaren, owner and operator of the West Hill House B&B in Warren, Vermont, about enhancing the guest experience, committing to being a green property, and leveling the playing field with short-term rentals.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

The secret sauce to being an award-winning B&B often comes down to a wide-range of ingredients. From achieving positive online reviews due to continually pleasing guests to becoming heavily involved in area chambers of commerce to being environmentally friendly, the West Hill House B&B checks off all of the boxes.

As a result, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce recently named Peter the 2019 “Innkeeper of the Year.” This is quite a tremendous accolade because there are more than 400 B&Bs and boutique hotels in Vermont, and the state is internationally known for being a destination for travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path inn experience.

In addition, Peter and Susan focus on providing guests with insider knowledge on all of the skiing, restaurants, cheese makers, rafting, craft beer festivals, and other outdoors activities in the area. They also offer group breakfasts, which create opportunities for guests to get to know each other better.

In this podcast, Peter shares his innkeeper story, and how they offer an award-winning guest experience:

·      The West Hill House B&B, and how Peter and Susan came about to be innkeepers. (1:07)

·      Background about the property itself, as well as its amenities. (2:47)

·      Background into how they were named the 2019 “Innkeeper of the Year.” (5:00)

·      How Peter defines “guest experience” and how they continually aim to please guests. (7:15)

·      How they provide guests with insider information on local events, restaurants, and attractions. (10:37)

·      Their commitment to being a serious green property, including use of solar power and composting. (14:00)

·      How Peter has been involved in issues like the rise of unlicensed short-term rentals in Vermont. (20:05)

We would like to thank Peter for sharing his insights . You can learn more about The West Hill House B&B by visiting their website.

Frictionless Innkeeper TIP #2: Offer Multiple Breakfast Options for Guests

The Frictionless Innkeeper TIP series is intended to provide practical strategic or tactical suggestions to innkeepers. Oftentimes these ideas are provided by our guests on the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series.

Serving breakfast has been such an integral part of what innkeepers provide their guests since the earliest inception of the independent lodging genre that it’s literally infused into the name “Bed & Breakfast.” And while no one would logically suggest that innkeepers stop serving breakfast, it is worth reassessing the offering from the perspective of today’s guests.

Here are some questions that seems reasonable if you put yourself in the shoes of the guest: Why serve guests a one-size-fits-all breakfast, knowing that some of them prefer a much smaller version? And if a guest asks for a continental breakfast-sized meal, why should they pay the same amount as another guest who gorges themselves at the breakfast table? Finally, what if I don’t want breakfast at all?

Jim Belote, the owner of The Beall Mansion in the St. Louis region, considered these questions and has adjusted the B&B’s offerings accordingly. “We discovered that many Americans don’t eat full breakfasts,” said Jim. “As such, we developed a variety of packages for breakfast including a discounted continental option that allows guests to help themselves during a three-hour period. It’s all about the guest and providing the right experiences for them.”

It also comes down to the basic principles of choice and being fair. If a guest doesn’t want a big breakfast, then it seems reasonable to offer them other items that are less filling. And if they choose less or none, why not be fair and cut them a break with a discount to their overall stay?

This approach isn’t something that all innkeepers will consider taking but we thought it was an excellent idea worth sharing.

Thanks to Jim Belote of The Beall Mansion for contributing to this Frictionless Innkeeper TIP by sharing insights during a Frictionless Innkeeper podcast.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #12: Tim Piper, B&B Expert with The Hearthside Group, Discusses Realities of Buying and Selling a Property

For episode #12 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Tim Piper, a renowned B&B expert and  Partner with The Hearthside Group, who provides insights into his services and key trends in the innkeeping arena.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

When getting into the B&B business, it’s all too easy to get caught up into the romantic vision of being an innkeeper in a bucolic place far away from the hectic pace that dominates life in major urban areas.

To be an aspiring innkeeper, the key is understanding if this business model actually works for you, and if so, develop the right strategies for ensuring long-term success. By taking off the “rose-colored” glasses, prospective innkeepers understand the realities behind running a successful inn or B&B.

Tim Piper offers in-depth business valuation and processes that help both B&B buyers and sellers either find, or sell, their properties. He also offers his popular Aspiring Innkeeper seminar series to help prospective buyers to fully understand how to succeed in this business.

In this podcast, Tim provides detailed insights into the consultancy services he offers for both B&B buyers and sellers:

·      Tim’s background in the hospitality business. (1:04)

·      Insights into The Hearthside Group’s offerings. (1:43)

·      The services that Tim offers for prospective innkeepers, versus traditional real estate brokering services. (2:35)

·      How the buying process works for Tim’s clients. (8:01)

·      More about the services that Tim offers for B&B sellers. (11:01)

·      Tim’s perspective on achieving long-term success as a B&B owner. (18:00)

·      How Tim structures the payment for the services he provides for buyers. (20:44)

·      Why it is important that buyers use consultants like Tim to help them find the right property. (25:34)

We would like to thank Tim for sharing his insights. You can learn more about The Hearthside Group by visiting their website.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #11: Wendy Collins, Co-Owner of The Mission Inn, Discusses Her “High-Tech, High-Touch” Approach to Guest Satisfaction

For episode #11 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Wendy Collins, co-owner of The Mission Inn in Cape May, NJ, who discusses how she takes a “high-tech, high-touch” approach to pleasing guests.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

As with other corporate professionals entering the innkeeper arena, there is much to be drawn from prior work experiences that can help to differentiate a property on many levels.

For Wendy Collins and Laura Shaddock, this means fully leveraging technology for both pleasing guests, and effectively running The Mission Inn.

After acquiring the property in 2016, Wendy and Laura quickly automated pre- and post-stay emails that provide insights on their favorite events around town, and encourage guests to leave positive online reviews, respectively. They also use a new cloud-based guest booking engine that allows them to manage guest bookings from their mobile devices.

In addition, Wendy and Laura have expanded their 2,000 Facebook followers into Instagram, which allows them to appeal to younger guests. The property also has an email database of more than 5,000 people for their ongoing e-blasts, which have an open rate of 40 to 45 percent – whereas the industry email open rate is only 10 percent.

Another way The Mission Inn differentiates itself is through its in-house concert series – where they have top musical talent perform at the property. Wendy and Laura use these concerts as a great way to draw people to the property during the winter months, and it enhances overall word-of-mouth marketing – with people actually booking their stays when there is a concert.

As a result of these efforts, The Mission Inn has built a loyal following, which allows them to do 100 percent of their bookings direct – without needing to rely on OTAs.

In this podcast, Wendy shares her innkeeper story, and how they truly focus on providing specialized guest experiences:

  • Insights about how Wendy and Laura became innkeepers. (1:00)
  • Details about The Mission Inn and the B&B landscape in Cape May, NJ. (2:14)
  • How and why they take a “high-tech, high-touch” approach. (4:30)
  • Insights into their use of social media for connecting with guests and bringing in new guests. (7:11)
  • How they balance the use of technology with personally interacting with their guests. (11:30)
  • Putting on monthly house concerts during October through April. (12:10)
  • How they built guest loyalty to the point where they don’t need to rely on OTAs. (16:30)
  • How Wendy defines “guest experience,” and how they deliver on providing a great stay. (21:10)

We would like to thank Wendy for sharing her innkeeper story. You can learn more about The Mission Inn by visiting their website.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #10: Kenni Ball, Hired Innkeeper for the Wallingford Victorian Inn, Discusses Her Role as an Outsourced Employee

For episode #10 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Kenni Ball, the hired innkeeper for the Wallingford Victorian Inn in Wallingford, CT, who discusses her love for hospitality and what it’s like to be an outsourced innkeeper.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

While we assume that all innkeepers own and operate their properties, there are B&Bs out there that rely on outsourced talent to manage the day-to-day work.

This is the case with the Wallingford Victorian Inn, which is a property that is taking advantage of a talented young professional who has a deep passion for hospitality and pleasing guests.

For the past two years, Kenni (who is currently 25 years-old) has managed the property for the owners, but she is not your run-of-the-mill employee. Since the age of 13, she has worked in the B&B arena, and officially became an innkeeper at the ripe old age of 19. She also did a brief stint at a larger hotel, but found the B&B lifestyle more suited to her personality and work style.

As a result, she enjoys interacting and helping Wallingford Victorian Inn guests to build great memories from their stays, and be the face of the property.

She also believes that her real world experience – as opposed to studying hospitality in a university setting – has allowed her to better advance her career. In terms of growth, she ultimately wants to own and operate her own B&B.

In this podcast, Kenni shares her innkeeper story:

  • Kenni’s background and how she got into the hospitality arena. (:52)
  • Why Kenni finds herself to be more suited for B&Bs, as opposed to larger hotel chains. (2:20)
  • How she learned how to be an innkeeper through hands-on experience. (4:33)
  • The challenges and opportunities she has as a 25-year-old innkeeper. (6:42)
  • What drew Kenni to the Wallingford Victorian Inn and the dynamics of her day-to-day work. (8:42)
  • Kenni’s longer-term goal of owning her own B&B. (13:20)
  • Kenni’s suggestions for what innkeepers should look for when outsourcing talent like her. (18:22)

We would like to thank Kenni for sharing her innkeeper story. You can learn more about the Wallingford Victorian Inn by visiting their website.

Frictionless Innkeeper TIP #1: Invite People Who Work at Local Attractions to Have Breakfast with Your Guests

Photo by Flemming Fuchs on Unsplash

In our Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we share the stories behind how property owners became innkeepers, oftentimes discussing their challenges and the strategies they use for achieving long-term success.

Along the way, we sometimes uncover ideas for enhancing the guest experience that we believe are worthy of passing on to other innkeepers, so they can consider using them at their properties. For example, Christine Boeke, the owner of the Westcott House Bed & Breakfast in Hudson, NY, invites people who work at local attractions to have breakfast with her guests, so they can have an intimate conversation about the area.

“I often invite local business owners, such as gallery owners, store owners, antique dealers, and even the President of the Olana Partnership, to come have breakfast with my guests,” said Christine. “This allows our guests to learn more about the history and art in the area, and it gives them a positive feeling about Hudson, so they will hopefully visit us again.”

This seems like a great way of giving guests an opportunity to learn what’s going on in town and get some firsthand stories about some of the local attractions that make the area unique.  Image that you are a guest whose passion is art and you get to learn about the local art scene from someone who is intimately familiar with the artists and their work. Can you imagine a better way for your guest to get buzzed about your town and want to come back to take in more?

We believe this is a great idea that’s worthy of consideration by all innkeepers.  Think about the places that make your area interesting and unique, and consider inviting someone from those attractions to have breakfast with your guests.  Then watch as your guests soak in the conversation and get buzzed about returning to your town so they can experience more of the great things it has to offer them.

Thanks to Christine Boeke of the Westcott House Bed & Breakfast for sharing her Frictionless Innkeeper TIP with us during her Frictionless Innkeeper podcast.

Frictionless Innkeeper PODCAST #9: Isabelle Chicoine and Karim Houry, Owners of the Woodstocker B&B, Discuss Their Property Selection Process and Transition to Being Innkeepers in New England

For episode #9 of the Frictionless Innkeeper podcast series, we speak with Isabelle Chicoine and Karim Houry, owners of the Woodstocker B&B in Woodstock, Vermont, who discuss their property selection process, transition from the business world to being innkeepers, how they continually aim to improve the guest experience, and their Airbnb strategy.

You can also listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.

In having conversations with other innkeepers, we have learned that property owners can come from a variety of professional backgrounds, and some bring a wide range of business experiences that can be leveraged successfully in the B&B arena.

Former marketing communications and financial services executives, Isabelle and Karim are great examples of this. When these professionals decided to leave the corporate world but weren’t sure what type of business to pursue, they took a business-like approach to help them decide to become innkeepers.

Their business background also helped them use an analytical and strategic approach in determining which property to buy and operate. This led them to Woodstock, Vermont and the purchase of the Woodstocker B&B in March 2018.

After a brief apprenticeship at another B&B and then opening last summer, the couple dove right into the local community and fully embraced their new professional lifestyles. For example, they have designed specialized, season-specific guest experience packages for hiking and other outdoor activities, and are involved with the Woodstock town council regarding policies for short-term rentals. They have also developed a strategy for effectively using Airbnb and OTAs to improve their booking volume and revenue stream.

In this podcast, Isabelle and Karim share their innkeeper story:

·      Isabelle and Karim’s background and how they came to be innkeepers. (:54)

·      How they found and purchased the Woodstocker B&B. (5:00)

·      More about the Woodstocker B&B property. (13:03)

·      How Isabelle and Karim differentiate themselves and appeal to Millennials. (16:55)

·      The continuous focus on enhancing the guest experience. (20:57)

·      Their overall Airbnb strategy for increasing bookings. (24:14)

·      What the future holds for the Woodstocker B&B. (32:49)

We would like to thank Isabelle and Karim for sharing their innkeeper story. You can learn more about the Woodstocker B&B by visiting their website.