What does it take to be an Outstanding Host?

14th October 2019

Advertisement feature with Direct Line for Business

One of the pleasures of a B&B stay – in addition to the comfortable bed and the delicious, cooked-to-order breakfast – is the warm welcome on arrival and the attentive hosts throughout the stay. Independent hosts and hoteliers know better than most how to look after their guests, but what does it take to be a truly outstanding host?

According to Direct Line for Business, sponsors of the Outstanding Host category at the 2019 eviivo Awards, it comes down to satisfying guests’ personal requests and going the extra mile however they can. Recent research1 carried out by Direct Line for Business showed that nearly three quarters (71%) of B&B owners have had to fulfil personalised requests from guests. Many of these focus on a wide variety of special breakfast requests, or extras such as prosecco, chocolates or fresh flowers in bedrooms. Others are more unusual, such as being asked to wash and iron clothes, collect guests from the station without prior warning, and even a request to accommodate 2 pet parrots!

Being a great host can lead to B&B owners taking on a more concierge style role for their guests, helping to make bookings for local attractions or restaurants for their guests, and using their extensive local knowledge to provide a customised itinerary of activities. It can also mean offering extended check in or check out times, and extended meal times, especially at weekends, or even allowing guests to come and go as they please, in more of a hotel-style manner, which helps guests feel at home.

It seems guests are expecting more from B&Bs now than ever before, and owners are reacting by offering extras, such as room service for guests or babysitting services.

With a record number of applicants to the eviivo Awards this year, Outstanding Host remains one of the most coveted trophies, attracting entrants from all across the country, and across all accommodation types. Among this years’ entrants, one helped to polish a vintage Rolls Royce for a German guest attending a Rolls Royce owners rally nearby. Another ironed shirts for a nervous groom and best man before a wedding.

Ian & Cassie McDonald Wood of South Park Farm Barn say “we simply want our guests, if possible, to feel more positive about the world when they leave than before they arrived”, even if that means cleaning the muddy shoes of guests who wanted to view the wildflower meadow despite the rain.

Here’s eviivo and Direct Line for Business’ top tips for becoming an outstanding host:

  • Take a genuine interest in your guests. By learning a little about them, you can tailor your suggestions and recommendations more accurately. Even better if you can learn about them in advance when they book.
  • Offer tea or coffee and cake (preferably home-baked) on arrival. Or some treats like flapjacks or biscuits in the bedroom. A little generosity goes a long way – and remember to bear in mind dietary requirements if your guests are gluten or dairy-free.
  • Be flexible at mealtimes and offer a range of options at a time to suit your guests. Try to cater for as many special dietary requirements as you can, with flair and imagination.
  • Think about extras, like birthday cakes, flowers, cards, or treats for guests to keep as a souvenir. Making a special day even more special will be noted.
  • Have plenty of suggestions of the best places to visit, things to do and places to eat. Maybe a walking or driving itinerary, or the best bus and rail routes, or cycling or running routes.
  • Be ready to step in at a moment’s notice, especially around nerve-wracking events like weddings. A broken down car could be disastrous, but an offer of help can save the day. And when going the extra mile, making it look like nothing is too much trouble is key – even when it isn’t!

First impressions and last impressions are vitally important. An unfailingly warm welcome and engaging with every guest is also critical, however difficult that can sometimes be – but it’s also important to know when guests need their own space.

Maybe the best advice comes from Michelle Michie at The Heidi: “I just treat our guests as part of one big family!” So, welcome your guests with open arms and go the extra mile to be rewarded with satisfied guests, the feeling that you’ve made someone’s day and the chance that they’ll recommend you to all of their friends.

1 Research carried out by Direct Line for Business among a sample of 45 bed and breakfast owners across the UK in September 2018.

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