Table For 2?
One of the discussions that happens most frequently on my B&B courses is the one about breakfast tables. Do you go for one big table or separate tables at breakfast?
When I first opened I was a 4 star B&B with 2 rooms. Most of my guests were in their 50’s and older. I had a big pine table and guests would sit together at breakfast and usually start chatting and often leave the best of friends.
Sometimes it didn’t work. I had one repeat guest who hated talking to anyone else at breakfast. I had to find out what time the other guests were eating, then drop a note under their door telling them what time to come for breakfast to avoid meeting anyone else at the table.
And there was the hotel inspector who got her newspaper out and point blank refused to converse with a very nice couple who were staying.
Or the guy who broke every discrimination rule in the book in his conversation with the other guests, whilst I kept running in trying desperately trying to change the subject
When I go away I don’t really mind. I’m used to talking to complete strangers and finding some sort of common talking point. My husband, on the other hand, really doesn’t like sharing a table with strangers at breakfast. We once turned up at a boutique guest accommodation in Wales with 10 rooms charging £170+ a night and came down to breakfast to find a big table & benches. My husband disappeared behind the Times whilst I discovered that our fellow diners lived in Shropshire, were teachers at a school nearby and knew my parents.
It was when we created our rooms outside the main house & went to 5 star that I began to notice a change in guests’ behaviour. The average age of my guests dropped significantly and I began to notice that a lot of guests weren’t talking to each other & hurried their breakfast & got out to avoid conversation with others. Because I was up to 3 rooms I’d put in an extra table for 2 and this was always chosen first.
I guess this isn’t too surprising as I do aim at the couples market, with many guests celebrating a special anniversary, birthday or even quite a few honeymoons.
I found the whole “people not talking to each other” situation quite stressful and would go in and try & facilitate & get the conversation going. I was quite often successful ( I never got as far as getting out my “Games Trainers Play” book – OK everyone, if you were an animal, what sort of animal would you be?…….) All this whilst trying to cook 6 variations on a full english.
When we finally extended the dining room we went to 3 individual tables in the breakfast room. It’s not a big room but the tables are close enough together if people want to chat but it also doesn’t look rude if guests just say hello and then continue to chat just to each other.
The question arose on the course last weekend again. Most of the participants were keen on the big table idea. So I went out to Twitter and asked what people thought. I can’t remember the exact figures but I think 15 people ( not counting the B&B owners ) came back and said individual tables, 2 said big table and 3 said “it depends”.
It’s not a very scientific survey and it could be that people only responded if they felt particularly strongly about it. I had some B&Bs come back and say the big tables worked very well, particularly in areas with lots of overseas guests who were there on a journey of exploration!
There’s not a right answer here – sometimes a big table is the right answer for the B&B and sometimes, depending on your market, individual tables.
I think the key thing to do is think about your potential market and what is most likely to appeal to them.