How do you like your guests?
This month our regular columnist Lisa Holloway asks the question
Our guests are the lifeblood of our business, the reason we are IN business, and who we work so hard to please. I think it is the relationships we form with our customers that make B&B’s so special.
I’ve been very lucky, the majority of our guests have been absolutely charming, and in all my years in business there are only a handful of people I wouldn’t have back- not bad when you consider how many people have come through the doors.
When I first opened Compton House a local hotelier gave me some advice;
1 Charge for absolutely everything
2 Always charge for cancellations
3 Don’t ever make friends with your guests
Oh dear! I don’t think I’ve followed any of this advice, but I’m still going strong 14 years later.
I don’t charge for every little thing my guests have; it gives me pleasure to offer a cup of tea and homemade cake when they arrive, and sometimes it is nice to offer a glass of wine if we are all chatting together in the evening. It doesn’t break the bank and adds value to their stay.
As for cancellations, I make decisions on each case; much as I’d love to keep every deposit sometimes you have to show compassion (although I can understand why airlines ask for death certificates, some of the excuses are laughable). But unlike a hotel chain I can make my own decisions and since we have so much repeat business, there is method to my madness.
In fact one of the very best aspects of this job is meeting people. You’ve no idea sometimes where they are from, or what their story is – and everyone has a story. Some guests have stayed with me for over a decade and I look forward to their arrival and am sad to see them go when they leave. We know each others families and keep in touch during the year. When my husband was seriously ill a few years ago I was overwhelmed with supportive e mails from our regular guests.
It is fascinating to learn about their countries, their cultures and ways of life and over the years we’ve had guests from all over the British Isles, tens of countries and almost every continent.
At the top of the kitchen stairs is a huge map of the world and we ask our guests to stick a flag in where they come from, which they love to do! From as far as Kazakhstan to Beijing, beyond the Arctic Circle in Norway to Inner Mongolia, Dublin to Penzance, antique dealers from the Southern states of America, teachers from Moscow and students from Chile, people make their way to Newark for a myriad of reasons.
I keep a huge atlas in the dining room so I can look up the countries they are telling me about. I hated Geography at school but boy, am I getting an education. Who knew Sri Lanka was such a big island, or that Ulan Bator is about the same size as Newark? Well, I do now!
There is a community spirit at Compton House which has grown over the years and provides a hub for our guests to be in touch with each other; for instance when the Japanese earthquake occurred, our guests from America were in touch with me asking if we had heard from our beloved guests in Tokyo. When the floods hit New Orleans e mails poured in wondering how our friends in that city were fairing. They want to meet the same people again and in fact often arrange to be here at the same time. Sometimes at Dinner it is like the United Nations, I think 9 nationalities at one meal is the most we’ve counted.
What gives me particular pleasure is when friendships or business partnerships develop here. Business people meeting at breakfast has often resulted in them working together, sometimes on the other side of the world- and I’m proud to have played a part.
It reminds me of what a fantastic industry hospitality is. Very tough in many ways but so rewarding in others. Over the years my faith in human nature has been strengthened.
If you genuinely care for guests, they will care for you and isn’t that what business is all about? Giving your best and enjoying the journey.
When I finally lay down my wooden spoons in the kitchen at Compton House, I’m going on my own adventure to visit my guests, and see the countries I’ve been hearing about for so long.