The mingling muddle

How much should you mingle with your guests?

I spoke to someone looking for accommodation at my guest house recently and he told me very firmly that it wasn’t for him. He didn’t like staying in guest houses. The last time he did he was on a business trip and on the last night he came back to the guest house exhausted and with work to do and the proprietor collared him as he arrived and insisted that he come out for dinner – the last thing he felt like doing.

Of course never being there is also not good. One of the attractions of a guest house or bed and breakfast for many guests is that they get to meet real people who communicate with them as equals. Instead of arriving at an hotel, and being checked-in by a clerk who may not even look up during the process, you are welcomed as one would welcome an important relative and treated the same.

When a prospective guest house owner says they aren’t sure how to handle their first guests I suggest that they treat the guest as they would a very fussy aunt or grandmother of their spouse. You need to be on your toes, polite and concerned but not servile. It’s ideal to be on hand when your guests arrive. It makes a really good first impression. Your guests are on new territory. It’s your role to acquaint them with the property and explain how things work. If your guests do not know the town in which you are located then it is very helpful if you provide information on what to do, where to go and how to get to places where the guests already have plans to go.

If you don’t serve meals and they want suggestions of where to eat, have these on hand too.

It’s important to avoid becoming over familiar with guests. They have their own lives that you are not necessarily a part of. Maybe you will become good friends with some guests but if they are paying guests then never be overbearing. Always offer suggestions, choices, etc but know that it is up to them to make the decisions for themselves. Balance and some distance are in order to avoid guests feeling that their personal lives are not their own when they stay in a guest house.