Posts Tagged ‘Lancaster’
I just completed my stint working at the Australian Walkabout Inn Bed and Breakfast in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a great experience, and I got to see first-hand how a 5-room inn operates. Bob and Lynne Griffin, who took over the inn in August 2007, are great innkeepers – they are conscientious and hospitable. Since they work so well as a team, coupled with the fact that it’s the slower season in Lancaster, my duties were not quite as rigorous as my time in Seattle last year. Nevertheless, I was able to learn a good deal. Maybe the slower weekend allowed me to have more down time for conversation with the Griffins than with Joyce last year (11 rooms turning and churning, feeding folks in three different rooms created a more frenetic experience). Maybe it wasn’t so frenetic for me this time, because I’ve learned so much about innkeeping since coming on board with PAII in June 2007. The experience with Joyce felt like a Baptism by fire. The experience with Bob and Lynne felt more like Baptism in a warm bath.
On Sunday morning we prepared breakfast for six guests. Bob and Lynne seemed to have a natural flow in the kitchen and dining room. They could have easily said to me, “OK, Jay…the kitchen is yours! Make it happen.” But they either took mercy on me or wanted to make sure I didn’t screw things up for their paying guests. I offered to help with the food prep. The first morning I helped prepare the casserole (as evidenced by the photo below), and the second morning I made the sauce for the baked pear dish. For someone who worked years in the kitchen of a busy Greek/Italian restaurant, this was light duty. Having so many hands available in the kitchen made me appreciate what it is like for those innkeepers who fly solo every day. God bless you folks!
All the guests during my visit swiftly devoured the baked pears, casserole, fruit and sausage. The conversation among the six guests the first morning was light. There were different generations at the table, and I wondered if the younger folks (who looked in their early twenties) were a bit intimated. The dynamic at the breakfast table can really change the B&B experience, and it seems the innkeepers need to have a good feel of when to intervene and try to stimulate conversation and when to back off. We had only one couple the last morning of my visit. The good part about having only one room booked is that it gives you a bit of a breather and the opportunity to have more dedicated one-on-one time with guests. The bad part is, well, there was only one room booked.
I happen to be someone who likes to clean my dishes, pots and pans as I cook, so there is minimal clean-up when the meal is over. Lynne likes the same approach, and it certainly gives her more time after breakfast is over to get to the room-turning. I am wondering if we should offer a class at the Innkeeping Show on how to wash dishes as you cook. If that saves 20 minutes of an innkeeper’s day, that would be worth the price of admission!
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Last year I spent the better part of a week with Joyce Schulte at the Chambered Natulius B&B in Seattle, learning the ins and outs of the daily life of an innkeeper. She won the “Hire PAII’s CEO” contest, so I flew across the continent to learn from her. The second place finalist in that contest was the Australian Walkabout Inn, run by Lynne and Bob Griffin in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I promised Bob and Lynne I would come work at their inn that next August, which would have been the first anniversary of their innkeeping careers. I had to postpone the trip, due to my self-imposed travel restrictions in the late summer/early fall on account of the arrival of my new son.
So, here I am now in Dutch country with this hard-working couple learning how they run their 5-room B&B. I chose the Walkabout for my second stint, because I saw some worthy contrasts between this potential experience and what I did in Seattle. Joyce runs a very busy inn just off the campus of the University of Washington with high occupancy rates. She supervises some staff. And, Joyce has been doing it for many years. Bob and Lynne are relative newbies, who run a smaller inn that is part of a tourist destination (thus, the clientele are a bit different than an urban inn near a university). They have been working incredibly hard updating the physical plant of the inn during their first year and a half, and I wanted to see what it’s like trying to master all this do-it-yourself work, and run a successful B&B.
I arrived yesterday afternoon and got reacquainted with Bob and Lynne, whom I met last winter at the Mid-Atlantic Innkeepers Conference. Lynne showed me to my room, the Victorian Suite, which has a nice, warm feel to it (a good thing yesterday, considering the temperature outside). She quickly asked me what animal was on the bed, which was a creation from one or two towels. I guessed a pig, but was wrong – it was an elephant. Lynne is trying her hand at a bit of towel art. A Koala bear was also on the bed to greet me. I unpacked my bags and read about the inn, their services and policies in the notebook. I went down to the parlor and shared a bottle of wine with the couple, and learned a good deal more about the area, the B&B and their lives as innkeepers with a 10-year old daughter. We then departed for a lovely dinner with Bruce and Jan Garrabrandt, owners of the Artist’s Inn on the outskirts of Lancaster in Terre Hill. I was beginning to think this was going to be more R&R than work. So far…a bottle of wine, great conversation, a nice meal. I am thinking the life of a Lancaster-area innkeeper isn’t too bad! Of course, I know better than that.
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