In my last post I told you about the benefits a traveler can find by checking into a B&B. I thought I’d turn the page and tell you what the average day of an innkeeper is like. Although I’d be happy (kind of) if it did, the daily routine of this innkeeper does not include eating M&M’s and watching television.
But oh, what I wouldn’t give on some days to do just that. Sit down, put my feet up, pop a few M’s and watch some mindless daytime television or better yet, a really good movie that I can watch over and over again and never grow tired of it. Under the Tuscan Sun is a really good example of that, Eat, Pray, Love is another, as is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; see a pattern here? But I digress.
For this innkeeper the day begins at 7:15 a.m. mainly because I absolutely refuse to get up any earlier. Actually, truth be told, it is my husband, Abi, that is up at 7:15 a.m. to put out the coffee (which brews with an auto-timer) for the guests by 7:30 a.m. While he works coffee central, I snuggle for 10 more minutes. I’ve never been one who can just “wake-up!” and hop out of bed. I’m pretty sure the snooze alarm was invented for me personally.
We serve breakfast at 9:00 a.m. so if I’m in the kitchen by 7:35 I’ve got a good hour and 25 minutes until first course, then another 15 to 20 minutes before the main course. And yes, I can be up, dressed, teeth brushed and in the kitchen in 10 minutes. Thank goodness for really short hair and polo shirts with our logo; no thought process necessary. Depending on what we are serving for breakfast, some prep work can be done the night before. I cook (for up to 12 guests) every morning and Abi serves. While he serves and takes care of the dining room, I sneak away and tidy our 5 guest rooms, all of which have private bathrooms. A quick tidy includes making the bed(s), emptying the trash, providing fresh towels if needed and a quick spot check of the bathroom and a spritz of air-freshener. If I time it right I can complete all 5 rooms while the guests are dining. I figure out pretty quickly who likes to linger over breakfast and I do other rooms first to ensure I do not get “caught.”
Back to the kitchen to load 1 of up to 3 loads in the dishwasher; and clear, clean and reset the dining room for the next day. Depending on the number of rooms checking out/in, the washer/dryer can run for up to 6 – 8 hours/day. And yes, I do every stitch of laundry, including folding and restocking the shelves. The laundry is always a work in progress and although I do iron pillow cases, I do not iron sheets. Life is just too short. Conveniently, the laundry room is right between our commercial kitchen and our living quarters, so when passing by, I load, unload, fold or put away. We do have 2 part-time housekeepers who do the heavy cleaning and turn over the rooms when guests are checking out, but even so there are many days when we pitch in as well. Making beds is a work of art as each of our beds has 4 pillows, 2 shams and 2 throw pillows because after all it is a “Bed” & Breakfast. We also have a 2 bedroom 1 1/2 bath vacation cottage on our property, which adds to the daily chores.
Time to bake! We always have a freshly-baked plate of cookies or something yummy for afternoon tea, which is available for guests to help themselves at their leisure. We provide cold sodas, tea, coffee and snacks 24/7.
Once the housekeeper is finished, usually around 2:30 – 3:00, it’s time to check rooms. It’s always good to have a second set of eyes go over the details of each room because we want our guests to feel as if no one has ever slept in their room before. Check in time is from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. unless other arrangements have been made. Because we make every attempt to personally greet our guests one of us is always at the house during these hours. We’ve got it down to a science so that I only book personal/business appointments on Tues/Thurs and Abi books Mon/Wed/Fri. (He attends more meetings that I do, so he gets more days) We figured this out after we inadvertently both scheduled ourselves to be away during check in hours. It only took one time before we rectified the scheduling!
Let’s see, did we remember to eat breakfast? Lunch? Usually not. We try to make the best use of our time from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. while we wait for guests to arrive. Most often, you’ll find me doing laundry, prepping in the kitchen or sitting with the laptop in my lap. Not very ergonomically correct, but it is called a laptop after all. I use the time to write our blogs, update our Facebook pages, usually with a photo attached which means I’ve been using the camera at some point in the day and I manage our websites. I like to think of myself as a free-lance writer (in my spare time) and I write feature articles and reviews for a couple of online resource and entertainment guides. You’ll find Abi in the garden; his passion. I refer to Abi as our resident gardener, IT guy, maintenance man and accountant. He wears many hats. Oh, and by the way, guests do not always neatly arrive between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. Sometimes they show up at noon and sometimes they show up at midnight. We just hope they’ve notified us in advance.
Did I mention the phone rings throughout the day? It makes for a lot of talking on the phone whether it is to book a reservation or just to answer a question (or 20). The phone is an innkeeper’s lifeline to business so the phone is with us always. When I am away from the inn I carry a tote-able office in my backpack, complete with reservation book and pencils and I can take a reservation in the middle of Costco without skipping a beat. I also carry a camera, because I never know when I’m going to find the perfect image to post online.
Somewhere between 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. we make an attempt to call it a day. We close the door to the main kitchen, which connects to our apartment, and we have complete privacy. During the summer months we will most often take a very long walk each evening (unless we’re waiting for a late check-in) and this is our time to decompress and talk about our day. When the weather is on the cold side, we try to get out during the day, depending on just how cold it is outside! But, when your home is your business and your business is your home, it’s a good idea to walk away from it every day, if even for just a little while.
Owning/operating a B&B is a lifestyle choice, it is not a job. There is no 9 – 5 going on at a B&B. For some this may not work because they like to go home at 5:00, but for us it is ideal. Oh, and you “really” have to love your spouse because you are together pretty much 24/7. When a guest says to me, “Oh, your home is so beautiful! I’ve always wanted to run a B&B, I think it would be so much fun!” I just smile because it is so much more than what meets the eye. It goes way beyond making beds and serving breakfast and unless you have a business background (which we did) you really don’t have a clear picture of what happens behind the kitchen door. The bookkeeping and reservation system is a full time job in itself. Our home/inn was built in 1904 so you can imagine there is always something that needs repair. Fortunately, Abi can fix just about anything. Add in the marketing, social networking, inventory, shopping and, well… you get the idea, right? You have to love the lifestyle and oh yeah, you have to really enjoy people because guess what? Your house is full of people all of the time!