Situated just a few minutes walk from Derwentwater and The Theatre by the Lake and very close to the shops, restaurants and pubs of Keswick town centre Lakeside House is clearly in a great location. This guest house has fourteen spacious en-suite bedrooms with most having spectacular views of the Lake District mountains. Owner Lindsey Berry tells us more.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey into becoming a B&B host?
My parents have had a guest house for almost 20 years and from the age of around 21 I would come and run it for them during the summer while they went on holiday themselves and I just completely fell in love with the meeting and greeting and helping people to have a good holiday. When we got the opportunity to run Lakeside House it was something I simply couldn’t turn down and I grabbed the opportunity and never looked back. My children have grown up at Lakeside House and my daughter who is now 13 years old helps with the dishes and waiting on which is brilliant. It’s fair to say like myself she is a natural with the guests. When we found out I had been nominated for the host of the year through Eviivo I was so proud, it is to date my proudest achievement children aside.
Customer feedback is clearly important to you and you have consistently excellent reviews online – how do you ensure your guests leave lakeside house with a smile on their faces?
I have always worked in jobs and environments with people and I think I have a pretty good way of reading whether guests want your help or not. We have guests who have been coming to the Lakes longer than I have been alive so they clearly don’t need my help with walking guidance but they may need my help with other things like restaurants and other places off the beaten track. People I think are my strongest talent, and I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that we can make a real difference to people’s free time which I value so much. Our guests work really hard to be able to escape to Keswick and so long as they leave us having enjoyed themselves I have done my part.
All B&B’s from time to time receive negative feedback as customer demands and expectations are getting higher – how would you advise dealing with this as prospective guests rely so much on the likes of Trip Advisor.
Every hotelier or manager of an accommodation where the public are involved will have come across those guests whose sole intention it is to find a negative, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it can really help ( a guest left a few weeks ago having donned a head torch for reading a book in bed and informed me she had found a little cobweb up in the corner of the room), without that guest and that head torch I wouldn’t have known to get out my “tickle stick” the following morning so I was very grateful. You have to accept that people have their quirks and so long as you are on top of the main elements of running this type of business which in my opinion are the customer service, the cleanliness and the quality of the product you offer, especially where breakfast is concerned then the rest can be somewhat entertaining. Our housekeepers have a checklist for each room and should a cleaning fault be found they take such a huge pride in their area of work and they want to know immediately so that is isn’t repeated. I am lucky that we are all proud of Lakeside House and we all work so hard to keep the negative comments to a bare minimum.
Have you ever had any bizarre or unusual requests from your guests?
We have had some amazing requests, and some unusual requests that I wouldn’t even know where to begin to explain. We live downstairs so there is a bell that during out of hours should guests require our assistance they can always contact us. On one occasion last summer, an American gentleman made me jump quite literally out of my skin ringing the bell maybe five or six times one after the other. I automatically thought there must be some sort of emergency so ran upstairs at a rate of knots. When I got to reception he was donning a pair of boots and with a somewhat disillusioned expression. He informed me he couldn’t find the shoe polish anywhere!. I said, sir, the shoe polish? What for? He said I can’t go out this evening without polishing my walking boots!. I advised him that as a bed and breakfast we didn’t have any shoe polish for guest use mainly owing to the fact that I don’t fancy trying to get shoe polish out of the carpets in the rooms but also because we are in Keswick, the walking capital of England shoe polish is something we have never been asked for. He huffed and puffed and again with an expression I read to be total bewilderment and returned to his room! For weeks after I expected a trip advisor review to top all others but he didn’t leave one much to MY disappointment!.
Last time we were in contact you mentioned travelling to London in the Savoys Rolls-Royce Phantom – can you share the story with our readers?
I have been fortunate to visit some beautiful hotels in various parts of the world and each time I have always been fascinated, probably because it’s my job and also by the staff who make the whole engine work so when we went to the Savoy for the awards night it was no different. We immediately made friends with the gentleman on the door and then when we were being checked in with the gentleman who was in charge of welcoming the new guests. During the course of the afternoon we bumped into various people who worked in the more people facing roles and one of these people was tickled by how friendly we were and in his words “I usually only get a nod and a polite thank you never a genuine question about how my day has been”. I was the opposite I wanted to know all about his day and the types of people he met and how his wife felt about him meeting all these mainly rich and sometimes famous people. Anyway when it came to leaving for the awards ceremony I trotted outside in my full length dress with my friend Sarah who accompanied me as my date for the evening and when I asked for a taxi I was told, “no no no Lindsey, you are not travelling by taxi”, I said “there is no way I am travelling by subway I have heels on taller than your shins”, he shook his head and smiled then made a small hand gesture in the air and next thing the phantom rolled up with the registration “S1 VOY” on the front and we just howled and squealed we were so touched that he had gone to that length to have it ready and tell the driver where to go and he had remembered about my award and wished me luck it was something that meant so much to me and I also knew that in that position it was something I would do in exactly the same manner. Even writing this now I am smiling away to myself, we drove through London with our driver, waving out the window and feeling like a million dollars. It was true customer service from someone who like myself genuinely loved his job.
In your view what is the most enjoyable part of running a bed & breakfast and what do you find the most challenging?
Without a doubt the most enjoyable part is that you are always busy and always answering requests and responding to emails and helping people arrange the best holiday you possibly can. We are fortunate that we live on the doorstep to some beautiful mountain and lake walks so we get to experience the area just the way the guests do. We share what we know and also what we learn regularly about new places or activities making their stay even better. The most difficult part I suppose for me is that there are times when you are stretched but you still have to ensure each guest is happy and has a good stay, it doesn’t matter and shouldn’t matter to the guests if there is a glitch with the booking system or the plumber didn’t turn up, all that should matter to each guest is that their stay is the best it can be and sometimes that effort can be difficult but it doesn’t make the overall job any less enjoyable, just a bit more challenging.
Lastly, what would be your top tips to running a successful B&B?
The only way to run a successful B & B is to have a genuine like for people. You will be faced with guests with such differing personalities that unless you enjoy that interaction you will never succeed. I really love people and have a natural skill I think for communicating with them. I also have a team of people who work for us who are simply the best at what they do from the kitchen to the bedrooms – my support system is them and their pride in their own element of the guest house and how it operates is crucial. I also hope that my own enthusiasm and passion for being the best in the business rubs off on them, we have a ball, I can’t remember a day when we didn’t laugh and joke about the goings on here. It’s a fabulous place to be and I am super proud of Lakeside House.