Saving On Gas Prices: Making the Deal
May 27, 2011 by Susan Murray
By now you have probably seen this video clip and are aware of the special package the Carolina Bed & Breakfast is participating in along with eight other inns and nine restaurants in Asheville, NC. It all seems so simple when you click on the specials page and read the details but the work that actually goes into putting something like this together makes making breakfast for 16 on a daily basis seem a snap.
Earlier this month, James and I were brainstorming with a group of other innkeepers looking for ways in which we could make our inns stand out among the many inns and hotels in Asheville. We were focusing on the independent restaurants of the city as, by and large, people who stay at B&B’s are more likely to frequent an original and independent eatery than a large chain restaurant. Most of us know at least one restaurant owner personally as we call to make bookings for our guests daily.
Stacy, a friend and fellow innkeeper mentioned the high price of gasoline and commented it that it would be a good idea for a special. At the time we had a bunch of other ideas we were working on and, after noting that it was indeed a good idea, we put it on the back burner. Well, for one reason or another, the other ideas didn’t pan out and it was time to move the “relief at the fuel pump idea” to the front. The concept was to help our guests allay some of the cost of traveling to Asheville by getting them some discounts once they were here.
Putting it Together
Times are hard at the fuel pump but they are also hard for those of us who make a living providing food and lodging. People aren’t traveling as much and the cost of food has skyrocketed so it was clear that in order to be meaningful the discount had to come from more than just the Bed & Breakfasts. This is where all those calls to make bookings for our guests paid off. The restaurants of Asheville know that when we have guests we send them to them for their meals (outside of breakfast!). Most of them jumped at the chance to be included. We tried to get an interesting mix of all types of cuisine and styles of restaurant in order to make it appealing to as many people as possible. James and I called some of our favorites: Fig Bistro in Biltmore Village, and Cucina24 and Zambra in downtown Asheville and other innkeepers called Carmels, Limones, Vinnies, and Rezaz. These are all restaurants which are well-known to us and to whom we send guests on a regular basis.
A newcomer to the group is Avenue M. Situated on Merrimon Road in North Asheville, it is a restaurant that James and I have often driven past it but had not eaten there. Since Avenue M is participating in the program, we made a point of stopping in last week. It’s a very pretty pub-style restaurant along the lines of LAB and they have a wide range of vegetarian items on their menu, a bit more extensive than some of the other restaurants (although since this is Asheville you can pretty reliably get a decent vegetarian option wherever you dine!)
Once we had the restaurants lined up we sent to idea out to a number of other B&B, hoping to get 8-10 included which would provide numbers for the restaurants while keeping the deal relatively exclusive.
Less than three hours after we sent the proposal out to our fellow B&B’s, we had a phone call from WLOS, Channel 13 News (the local CBS affiliate). They had heard about what we were doing (who knows how!) and wanted to know if they could come over and talk to us about it. Thinking they meant sometime later in the afternoon or even tomorrow, we said sure! Whereupon they told us they would be over in ten minutes. You can tell by the way I am wearing my hair that I barely had time to slap on some make-up and change my clothes before they got here. And in the way of the world, no sooner than they started filming that an entire family of eight showed up to check in. This actually turned out to be a good thing as it gave us a chance to move throughout the house and made the video more interesting. And the video got some of our fellow B&B’s interested which helped put the deal in its final form.
Promoting the Special
Which brings us to where we are now: the “TANK YOU: Helping You to Fill Your Gas Tank” program is up and running in Asheville (and btw, coming up with a name for the program was another whole story. I am sure you can imagine the great names which were less than appropriate!). I have been busy posting the details on B&B websites across the internet as well as sending out press releases to anyone I thought might be remotely interested. Now we just wait and see what happens.