Bed and Breakfast. It is a pretty self explanatory term. You get a bed, and you get breakfast. But the offerings of both of the above can vary dramatically. First of all, let me begin by saying, if you do not offer a super quality night of sleep or a full breakfast, you should not call yourself a bed and breakfast. There is one more thing I think is ultimately important in a B & B, and that is good quality toilet paper that isn’t single ply and like sandpaper, but I digress.
The Bed. The first B and maybe the more important and the hardest one to get right for a large swath of people. Everyone sleeps differently. Some people prefer softer mattresses, some firmer. Some like to get super bundled up and toasty while they sleep, some like to have the windows open and just a sheet covering them. Some like flat pillows, some like fluffy pillows. You cannot possibly make everyone comfortable, but you can play to the common denominator.
Believe it or not, we spent hours researching mattresses before we bought a B & B. We looked at the difference between coil mattresses, memory foam and the latest air mattresses. We laid on all of them; looked at the pros and cons; and ultimately determined for the larger swath of the population, a single coil mattress was the way to go. We get a slightly firmer mattress and add a pillow top cover for give. These mattresses have the advantage over the others of displacing movement well and not sleeping hot. Memory foam is very comfortable but can make many uncomfortable and sweaty as it retains heat. They have improved over the years but are still problematic. The air mattresses are nice for those who are getting one permanently because you can experiment with the right setting for you personally and keep it there. For a one- or two-night stay, it is difficult to ascertain what setting is best, and you may never get quite comfortable.
What goes on the mattress is as important as the mattress itself. We have spent a lot of money on sheets in the last eight years until we settled on the ones we currently use and that many of our guests have bought for their own beds after having stayed with us. First, note the thread count of sheets is no guarantee of quality. You want single thread count, not double, and even then, the quality of the thread is as important as the thread count itself. That being said, cotton wrinkles, and if you wash your sheets frequently, they will eventually develop little balls on them, so they don’t last very long or become Swiss cheese. The sheets we currently use are actually combed polyester, and they are almost like satin. They wash like a charm, and they don’t wrinkle. I never knew sheets were so important in terms of a good night’s sleep until we slept on these sheets for the first time. Soft doesn’t begin to describe it.
Next, the pillow. This one is still one that varies, and we actually keep several different kinds of pillows on hand in case one or another doesn’t work for a guest. The ones we use most is a memory foam pillow with many small pieces of foam that shapes to each individual, is washable and therefore anti-microbial. Some swear by feather, although keep in mind, many people are actually allergic to down. Having options is always a good way to go.
The breakfast goes without saying. I find it unacceptable to be a bed and breakfast and serve a continental breakfast of cold cereal and stale bagels. Guests expect more from the industry as a whole, especially when you compare it to every average hotel that has a waffle iron and assorted other processed pseudo breakfast items. To compete, we have to up the ante. Having a picnic option for special circumstances is one thing, but in general, a hot breakfast complete with fruit, coffee and juice is a must. Specific recipes and types of breakfast may vary, and in my opinion, should reflect the personality of the inn. Good coffee is critical. Having a decaf option is also a must, and we go above and beyond that and offer a large variety of both loose leaf tea and tea bags. We also make sure to have a variety of quality juices on hand for guests to select from.
The last note on breakfast is that we always are certain to ask about dietary restrictions. We get a lot of vegetarians, vegans and those with allergies like gluten free and dairy free. I don’t always make these types of food, but when I do, I want them to be just as filling and delicious as the more mainstream items I make. Accommodating people of all kinds is the name of the game. That’s the definition of hospitality and that’s the industry I’m in.
Monika Sudakov is the chef and innkeeper at the Chestnut Street Inn in Sheffield. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.