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Guest Linens

August 27, 2004

by Kit Cassingham

The linens and things you provide in your bed and breakfast make a statement about your quality and niche. For your shopping consideration you have bed and table linens, kitchen and bath towels, and robes. To add interest and fun, consider using towel folding art so your bathrooms are more festive. Silk robes may be more of a statement than you need to make, but you need to offer some kind robe. Be good to your guests and they'll be good to you.

Have you ever considered how important linens are to the guest experience? I think they make a statement about your commitment to your guests' experience. If you haven't thought about it lately, it's time to take a fresh look at the topic.

Early in my B&B innkeeping career I bought a new supply of sheets from our regular supplier during one of their famous white sales. Four months after the sheet purchase the laundry delivery accidentally included sheets from another B&B in town with our delivery. That accident taught me quite a bit about linen quality; the other inn's four-year-old sheets were in better condition than our four-month-old sheets. Their sheets had brighter colors and more body than our tired looking sheets -- and I still considered them "new"!.

The owner of the B&B I was managing always bought from that store because she liked their color selection and price. They looked perfect with the inn's decor, but may not have been the best purchase for a quality guest experience. The inn whose sheets we got had a higher quality sheet -- and that showed. Not only did their sheets look better than ours but also because they lasted longer they were effectively cheaper.

Our history with our terry purchases -- towels, robes, and bath mats -- followed the same pattern as our sheets did. They just didn't wear as well as more expensive terry. I found our bargain terrys' hems unraveled and the color faded faster. They also weren't as soft or plush as more expensive terry. Guests notice those things. It tells them what the owner's dedication to a quality guest experience is.

What I have learned about sheet and terry quality is that the higher quality are stronger and more comfortable. They last longer because hems don't unravel and color stays fast. It's worth the extra cost to buy the higher quality. Today there are several suppliers who cater to the B&B industry, giving you a wide selection to choose from.

You can buy sheets from factory outlet stores, discount stores, department stores, or linen supply houses. After years of observing results from the different suppliers I feel strongly that buying from a linen supply house is the way to go. They offer you a wide range of quality linens, a variety of colors and patterns, and bulk discount pricing. And one last bonus is that reputable suppliers stand behind their products.

Even if your guests don't really notice that your bargain linens are ordinary, they WILL notice when you give them something extra special. It's when guests notice the extra-special touches that they then go home and tell their friends about you, helping to build your word-of- mouth business. As you probably know, return visits and referrals account for about half of most inns' profits.

Show your guests you care and provide them with sheets that feel and look good and terry products that are soft and durable. Support the companies that cater to the B&B industry. You owe it to yourself. But more, you owe it to your guests. Quality linens are a critical factor in guest comfort.




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