The Virtues of Food Service at the Inn

Whenever we mention the word ‘restaurant’ while on the phone, there is a clicking sound followed by a dial tone.  We are learning to use the phrase ‘food service’ instead of restaurant.  This little piece is about the advantage of having an Inn with the capability of serving an evening meal.  There are many ways of doing this without being a restaurant.  In fact, unless a prospective Innkeeper is experienced in restaurant operation, we would not recommend it.

Photo of restaurant at Saint John New Brunswick Inn
The Shadow Lawn Inn, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

In fact, back in the “olden days”, it was normal for Inns to serve an evening meal.  Typically, it was served to house guests only at a set time with a set menu.  All the Inn guests sat down together and joined in conversation with newfound friends.  Slowly the image of an Inn changed from a very social environment into a private getaway where guests preferred a private table both at breakfast and at the evening meal.  Another use was found for the communal table, which was replaced by tables for two.  Inns became places to escape the world rather than participate in it.

But like many things change at Inns is a constant.  Today’s guest is looking for an experience, not a bed to sleep in, and Inns and Innkeepers are called upon to provide that experience.  While much of the experience is external (hikes, skiing, kayaking etc.), guests also expect educational and recreational activities at the Inn.  Much of that takes the form of food and beverage.

Photo of guest pub at VT Inn
The ‘Pub’ at Vermont’s Inn at Weston

Food service is rarely what we think of as a restaurant, where customers who are not guests also come to dine and there is a varied menu and varied service hours.  Things have a way of coming around and evening meals are increasingly considered part of the experience that an Inn provides.  Food service capability also allows an Inn to cater special events, especially weddings.  With special events food is a high-profit item.  Where else can you get $125.00 for half a chicken? 

Here are three Inns for sale who use food service operations to create unique experiences for their guests:

Inn at Water’s Edge is an Okemo Valley Vermont Country Inn located on the shores of Echo Lake in Ludlow, Vermont. The classic accommodations, cozy English pub and intimate restaurant have earned the Inn multitude recognitions over the years from Connecticut Magazine, the Boston Globe, Frommer’s and beyond. The authentic Vermont Country Inn experience is in full form at the Inn, where a strong food and beverage operation meets the needs of late arrival skiers and guests seeking romantic respite.

Shadow Lawn Inn is a boutique style Inn located in Rothesay, an upscale suburb of Saint John, New Brunswick. The Inn has an excellent restaurant facility and catering business which is supported in part by countless business magnates who call Rothesay home (The Irving Oil Headquarters is based in Saint John, among others).

The Inn at Weston is located in Weston, Vermont, home of the Weston Playhouse, The Vermont Country Store, Weston Priory and is close to three major ski resorts.  Service at the Inn abounds and often takes the form of food! Guests enjoy a full country breakfast in the Inn’s dining room and afternoon tea and homemade confections in the library. Attached to the dining room is an inviting pub with a wood burning fireplace. In warmer weather, guests are invited to dine outside on the deck or gazebo.

Inn seekers should not reject out of hand Inns that serve an evening meal.  While it is most profitable to be your own cook, careful planning can utilize part-time skills profitably as well.  But still the most important part of food service is its ability to create special packages and increase room occupancies and rates.  Remember that it is not gourmet and not necessarily a full dinner.  Just watch your waistline.  At the end of a long day temptation to eat the leftovers is strong!

Warm Regards,


One thought on “The Virtues of Food Service at the Inn

  1. Thanks for the insight! What a difference a phrase can make: restaurant vs food service, house-made vs home-made … Perception is everything, and of course we see it in the lodging business too: Inn, Lodge, Bed & Breakfast, Guest House, Home, etc.

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