How can you become a successful hospitality property owner if you don’t know to become your own guest?
Welcome to another addition of hospitality property school.
Today, I’m going to talk about how you become your own guest.
A number of years back, I was approached by an acquaintance who was looking for some advice. He was a very smart businessman, an entrepreneur who had a number of business ventures as a business realtor. He was very analytical and focused on the bottom line and he came across one business for sale, an independent hotel, and was intrigued.
He thought it had a lot of potentials. So, he bought it himself.
He calculated the cost of running the business; the occupancy rate required to start making a profit; and a marketing strategy. Within no time, business was coming to his door.
A year later, he contacted me and asked to meet. He told me he was getting a fairly steady stream of business, but very little or no return business.
I asked him “what are your guests telling you on their comment cards and surveys?” he told me he did not have comments cards available and that he had never done a survey.
I then asked, “are your staff trained to ask for complaints?”
He told me that aspect was not covered in training, and then he admitted, there was very little training for any of his staff.
I suggested I checked in and stay a night and then report to him with what I found.
His staff did not know me and thought I was just a walk-in looking for a room.
The receptionist was friendly enough but while checking me in, was chatting with one of the housekeepers.
When I asked for a recommendation for a place to eat, she said: “there is a takeout food place across the street”. That was her only suggestion and ended the conversation there.
The room was nice enough, nothing fancy but it seemed clean.
After taking a little time to do an inspection, I found that the window had been nailed shut; there was hair in one of the bathroom glasses; when I turned on the radio I found it was very loud and set to the country station; and that the mattress had stains on it.
My sleep was restless, not only because of the stains on the mattress but it was uncomfortable and the pillows were flat.
The breakfast was passable, but nothing exciting and the checkout was fast with very little conversation and no one asked about my stay.
When we met later that day, the owner wanted to know everything, but the first thing I said to him was “when was the last time you stayed in your hotel?” and he said, “I’ve never stayed in my hotel”.
I recommended that he do that before we have our chat.
He took my advice and a couple of days later he walked up to the front desk and told his receptionist that you would like to check in and be treated like a regular walk-in customer.
Of course, it was a little harder for his employees to think of him as a regular guest but he was able to get an idea of what his guest experience. He invited other acquaintances to check into his property and report back what they found and over the next few months, he stayed in every room, taking the time to go through them and every corner of his property with a fine tooth comb.
Then, he and his employees took the time to create a fully functioning Operations Manual. His return business increased dramatically and is revenues increased 47% in 12 months.
This is an exercise that many hoteliers I’ve met over the years have told me they would like to do but cannot find the time. My response is always been the same “this is your business, your livelihood, you will have to know what’s going on. Make the time”.
Small to medium independent hotels and bed & breakfasts have much to gain from this advice. If you have not taken the time or not thought of staying in your property as an option, it’s a good idea to put it on your calendar much sooner than later.
A different perspective can surely open your eyes.
Before you start visiting your own property, I recommend you have checklists to ensure consistency.
I would suggest using:
- Hotel Site Inspection Checklist
- Guest Room Checklist
- Quality of Service Assessment Checklist
- Exhibit Checklist ( for properties who host meeting or events)
All these checklists can be accessed in “The Guide to Operating an Independent Hotel or Bed & Breakfast” Training Tutorials
You can access this through a link in the show notes at:
Seeing your property through the eyes of your guests can be a real eye-opener. One recommendation I do have is, if you or your mystery guests are using the checklists, make sure, to be honest, and don’t make excuses. If you take this exercise seriously your property, can’t help but to improve.
If you have any interesting stories about how to become your own guest or mystery guests and would like to share or have any questions or feedback you can leave them in the comments section of the show notes at.
That’s it for this session of hospitality property school.
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So, as always, let’s work together to put heads in your beds.
Until next time, have a fun day.
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“Customer Service for Independent Hotels or Bed & Breakfasts” Studies
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