If they didn’t know it before, it won’t take long for a new innkeeper to realize that the business is not a 9 to 5 job. After a few months, the long days will take their toll and they’ll need an escape. If they shut down, they lose income. If they ask a friend to watch their inn, they’ll spend anxious weeks training them. The solution for a growing number of innkeepers is an innsitter. To understand what they do and what they offer, this ongoing column will introduce you to innsitters from across America. In this feature you’ll meet K.C. Worral, who, with husband Kirk, comprises K.C.’s Innsitting Services.
When you’re an innsitter, are you always on the road?
Our home base is Parkdale, Oregon, which is about 90 minutes east of Portland. This is my twelfth year in the business and I spend so much of the year at different B&Bs that it seems that I live out of my car.
And now that my husband Kirk, who was a firefighter and paramedic, is retired, this is a way to augment our income and travel and be together.
Before you became an innsitter, did you own a bed and breakfast?
I’ve been in hospitality forever, but I never did own an inn. For five years I managed an inn in my hometown but when the B&B sold and the new owners didn’t need my help, that was it. I was basically unemployed so my husband gave me a couple of years to see what I could work out. I was looking for a way to be own boss and travel and so I printed up a bunch of brochures and mailed them out and almost right away someone wanted me to watch their inn – and I still have that first client to this day.
Is this a growing industry?
I’m not sure if it is growing or if there is just an awareness of the necessity of a having a professional there. In the good ol’ days when inns were mostly “mom and pops” they fell under the radar. Upscale travelers didn’t look at B&Bs as a choice.
But I think when B&Bs became a bit more upscale, it also became more difficult for the owners to get away and feel comfortable leaving it in the hands of a neighbor or a mother-in-law and expect their guests to receive the same level of service. Then it became apparent to them they needed to hire a professional.
Considering the cost of going away – not to mention the anxiety an innkeeper might have about leaving their inn– what makes it appealing for an innkeeper to hire someone like you?
While they could choose to close their B&B while they’re away, innkeepers will still have to take their computer to track bookings and field calls, so their are two main points for innkeepers: The first is that in their absence I try very hard to offer their guests the same experience as if they were there.
Second, in my years of doing this I have never had an innkeeper lose money with me at their inn. Just having me there to take care of walk-in rooms and be there to answer the phone to accept reservations, water the plants, prepare breakfast, clean rooms, pick up the mail, walk the dog… It’s peace of mind and all of that falls under me - and I can’t afford to get bad reviews.
How do innkeepers react the first time?
They have to understand that my business hinges on how well I do in their absence. So I’ll ask them to try me once. Go away for two weeks and if you’re not impressed, next time ask a friend to do it.
After all the bed and breakfasts you’ve seen, would you want your own inn?
We have the best of both worlds. We get to meet great people and have great times and enjoy great conversations, but we don’t have the hassle of owning a B&B. We can go to a mountain inn or a beach inn or an adobe inn, but I don’t want to own it or pay for it.
You have to be sort of a gypsy soul to do this. With Kirk retired now, this has allowed us to broaden our scope. We love to travel and innsitting allows us to experience other parts of the country. We’ve been to Texas, Hawaii, New Mexico, Colorado and if we want to take a month to go to Baja, that’s it.
Do you limit inns based on the number of rooms or its distance from you or the time you’ll spend there?
I’ve done everything from three rooms to 42 rooms in Cannon Beach, Oregon, where I become the manager. What I’ve found is that the larger the property, the more help they have. In fact, a three room B&B can be more work than an eight-room inn if I sill have to iron the sheets.
And I’ll work from two days to two months, but two weeks seems to be the average. And I’ve worked mostly west of the Mississippi but now we’re looking forward to traveling to Ohio and Florida and Washington, D.C. And if it the job is long enough and it’s a place we want to visit, we’ll pay for our own travel. It won’t cost the innkeeper a dime.
But we still charge a day rate.
For more information on hiring an innsitter, contact K.C. Worrall or call K.C. at 541/806-2378 or 541/352-6900.