By Carolyn Bentzinger, former inn owner & Innkeeper of three New England Inns and co-owner of Getaway Innkeepers, An Interim Innkeeper Service
As an innkeeper, your job may be challenging at times, and it may be difficult to get away from the Inn. Depending upon the size of your inn; staffing levels and your business model (whether you are a seasonal operation or year-round and whether you are operating for a life style or as a viable business) you may be wearing many hats. For a large number of innkeepers – that’s the job. A job that they’re passionate about; a business that they’ve either created, re-branded or in some other way made it unique to them. Unlike owning a retail store, where customers come in; make a purchase and then leave, operating an inn is personal. It’s the connection you have with your quests and the relationships you develop. It’s creating an inviting environment for your guests and how you make them feel when they enter your property; it’s the small things you do to assist them during their stay; it’s acknowledging the special occasion they are celebrating that brought them to visit – it’s in large part you.
So what do you do when you have a wedding, graduation, funeral or family re-union to attend? What if you need to get away for a few days just to recoup from a very busy stretch? Do you close the inn if your staff can’t operate in your absence? Do you miss the family event and forgo the vacation and keep your inn open? Well, there’s another option, one that may often be overlooked and that is hiring an interim innkeeper or inn-sitter. Hiring an interim innkeeper in your absence if you don’t have the staff to cover is a cost-effective solution. It allows you to be available to your guests when they want to travel, which means they won’t go to your competition, and it means revenue for you. It’s also building your business knowing that you have the possibility of these guests returning for future visits as well as referring friends and family. So it’s not just the immediate loss of the room revenue during the inn’s closure but it’s the ripple effect – the loss of likely future business as well.
As an innkeeper it’s important to take advantage of every available resource that makes the job easier, more efficient, economical, and more sustainable. Identifying and using an interim innkeeper for those times that you are not able to be at the inn is one of those resources. When selecting the right individual or couple, you are leaving your property in the hands of a skilled and experienced innkeeper. And with your inn open while you are away, you also have the possibility of additional reservations coming in for that period as well.
Resources – How to Find An Interim Innkeeper?
Rick and I are former inn owners and have almost 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry and now offer short-term interim innkeeping services to bed and breakfast inns in New England and parts of the Northeast. We believe our business is excelling at yours. We are not you, but we’ll serve your guests as if they were our own and at your same level of excellence.
Interim Innkeeper Network (IIN)
Provides a listing of innkeepers by geographic location. The good thing about IIN is that there is a vetting service and innkeepers must have previous direct related experience as an innkeeper to be listed on their site. That is not the case with all sites.
Association of Hospitality Lodging Professionals (ALP)
A wonderful resource that all innkeepers should take advantage of. There are many networking and member benefits – one of which is their interim innkeeper directory.
Although a site for folks in search of purchasing an inn, there is a resource page for Inn Sitters. This site clearly states that they have not vetted any providers and advises innkeepers to do so.
A bed and breakfast consulting and brokerage service, the B&B Team does have a Needs and Wants page which lists ads placed by Inns looking for experienced staff and for job seekers to list their experience in search of a position. These may mostly be full-time job seekers as opposed to shorter term interim innkeepers or inn sitters.
Typical Responsibilities – What Do Interim Innkeepers Typically Do?
Most interim innkeepers or inn sitters offer similar services, based on their skills and experiences. Generally they do everything you do – typically with the exception of housekeeping as it relates to guest rooms. You’ll want to be sure that you review potential candidate profiles to find individuals who are best suited for your business. Look at the previous inns they’ve owned or the properties in which they provided inn sitting services. In person or video meetings are key in locating the person or couple who can best represent you and present your inn and services in the best way to your guests. Services Getaway Innkeepers provide are:
- Guest check-in & property tour
- Guest check out and payment processing
- Guest concierge services
- Answering phones and making advance reservations
- Managing your reservation system
- Responding to emails and traveler inquiries
- Preparing and cooking breakfast and other baked goods that may be available throughout the day
- Providing afternoon refreshments
- Bartending and/or offering happy hour
- Overseeing housekeeping and other staff
- Ensuring that your property is completely ready for guest check in
- Procuring and shopping for food and other needed items
- Social media posts
- Minor maintenance and general repairs if needed
- Watering plants
- Preparing guest packages
- Other duties always considered
Duration of Assignments – What Is A Typical Assignment Length?
Every assignment is different so there really isn’t a “norm.” But interim innkeepers are typically available for a day to a month’s assignment, and some may be available for slightly longer. For longer assignments, you may end up having a few interim innkeepers cover, each taking a week or two, while other interim innkeepers are available for the entire duration. It varies and is based on the interim innkeeper.
One thing that is consistent is that interim innkeepers look to have a day of on-site orientation with you, for which they are compensated.
Cost – Is There A Standard Fee for Interim Innkeepers or Inn Sitters?
There does not appear to be a standard fee or consistent method that Interim Innkeepers use to determine fees for their services. With each assignment being different, many Interim Innkeepers provide a fee structure after learning the particulars from the innkeeper.
Others have a base rate along with an additional fee for each occupied room while others calculate their fee based on occupancy. Since pricing may be fluid it is recommended that you fully discuss the needs with the candidates to find the best fit.
Getaway Innkeepers considers the responsibilities, size of operation and duration of the assignment but generally we charge a daily fee equal to the rate of your highest priced room that time of year and an additional fee of $25 per night for each room that is rented.
Two things that are consistent as it relates to fees is that most Interim Innkeepers charge is for:
- travel to and from your property. That is why it is beneficial to identify Interim Innkeepers who are located closest to your geographic region. Otherwise the travel fees, which can include airfare and car rental can be prohibitive.
- Onsite orientation prior to the start of the actual assignment.
A Resource That Offers Sustainability and Balance – We’re There So You Don’t Have To Be
We all need time to relax, get away, be with family, despite owning our own business. You may think that since you have an “off season” you can plan to get away then and that is a perfect solution for planned getaways. However that scenario might not always be possible since things and events occur throughout the year and may not be consistent with your seasonal business schedule/closure. And if you are open year-round and need to getaway, then perhaps the best viable option is to keep your business open while you are away and hiring an Interim Innkeeper. An experienced Interim Innkeeper whose style, presentation, skills, culinary expertise, manner of guest engagement and staff supervision which best matches you and your business’s niche during your absence, may be your best solution.
And once you find the right fit for you, you have the peace of mind knowing that you can continue to call upon that person or couple at any time throughout your inn ownership for coverage as needed. Knowing you have them on call for future needs is one less thing you have to worry about!
If you are an inn owner in New England or in the Northeast, please keep Getaway Innkeepers in mind for your interim innkeeping needs.
Rick and I are former inn owners of two award winning inns and a manager of a third and have almost 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry in the New England. We sold our most recent property, The Captain Swift Inn, in June of 2021. After launching that business, we soon became a Select Registry property and the only 4 Diamond AAA Inn of it’s size in Camden, Maine. We were also recipients of the Travelers’ Choice Award; named the #1 Inn out of 19 in Camden, Maine and honored to be awarded the 10th Best Bed and Breakfast Inn world-wide – all by TripAdvisor. We love what we do & our guests told us it shows!
We are experienced innkeepers, successfully able to manage your business in your absence. We provide authentic hospitality, unparalleled guest relations and sumptuous breakfasts. We believe the difference between a good and an amazing guest experience is in the details. Our goal is not to meet your guests’ expectations but to exceed them. Being licensed ServSafe Food Managers and experienced chefs and barkeepers, we are skilled in all aspects of operating high performing properties and managing effective teams. Our previous professional experience has been in the Human Resources field, where team building, problem solving, communication, negotiation and conflict resolution are critical skills.
As an interim innkeeper, we will do things your way – not ours! Our job is to be the next best thing to your being there. In today’s digital environment we know the importance of guest reviews, and we will manage your property at the highest level so guests feel the 5 star experience.