In August, 2004 I embarked upon my journey as an Innkeeper. It’s been twelve years and this year has brought about a tremendous increase in special dietary needs. Probably the biggest issue has been gluten-free. But, there is a lot of dairy-free, soy-free, vegetarian, nut allergies, low fat, whole grains, high fiber, the list goes on… It would be more easily managed if there was just one out of ten with special dietary needs. However, that is not the case. Two out of six this morning. Four out of ten last weekend. Two our of four a few weeks ago. And, they are all different often times necessitating multiple staff in the kitchen. Some of these dietary issues are so severe, the responsibility is frightening. There is probably more food in my fridge, freezer and cupboard that caters to dietary issues than not. Twelve years ago it was mostly diabetic. I haven’t had one low sugar diet in years. Things have changed and so must I.
In the past twelve years, I’ve increased my prices once. I think that was about six years ago. So I struggle with how to cover costs for a business that makes no money other than to support itself. I know, most think it’s a glamorous, easy life. Let me assure you, it’s not. It’s a nice lifestyle, but it’s not an easy one. This old house needs a lot of TLC. Things get worn and ruined and need to be replaced. The gardens, gorgeous in their full bloom, require hours of work each month and I am not even counting the fall. And then there’s winter… shoveling, plowing. Food and utility costs continue to rise, as does marketing and advertising. I’ve resisted paying online travel agencies such as tripadvisor.com, expedia.com and bedandbreakfast.com commission for their assistance in helping to book rooms. That is a game of raising your prices to absorb the 15% or more commission and I don’t want to play, but don’t know how I can resist much longer. I will put my toe in the water this winter with a few rooms and see what happens.
A few months ago we started charging a surcharge for gluten-free diets. A few weeks later I added dairy-free. Then a few weeks later vegan. Today, I have changed it to any special dietary needs that requires us to purchase special food or prepare a separate meal for guests. This $5 surcharge per day hardly covers the cost of food, let alone labor. But what’s the option? Raise prices? Not fair to those that don’t have special dietary needs and being a AAA Four Diamond rated Bed and Breakfast, I am already high for Canandaigua and the Finger Lakes (though others are catching up, even the Holiday Inn Express). Being gluten and dairy-free myself, by choice, I understand not many have a choice. And I feel bad charging guests extra for their struggles. I am empathetic. It’s not fun to always be thinking about what you CAN eat as opposed to what you really WANT to eat. And for some, there are truly severe consequences.
I hope I haven’t offended anyone or deterred anyone from making a reservation at the 1795 Acorn Inn. No matter what your dietary dilemma or if you have none, you will get a wonderful breakfast each morning and meet new friends.