Sentry Mead made the change from hotel to bed and breakfast in 2012. We made the decision after a few years of watching our guests’ expectations and needs change as the state of the economy meant people got much savvier about what they wanted – and about what they could get.
In 2005 when we took over, Sentry Mead was a lovely quaint personally-run hotel with 14 bedrooms. Guests booked mostly on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis – got all dressed up to come down for dinner, had their pre-dinner drink in the bar while they ordered and then got shown through to the dining room and their own personal table that they would keep for their whole stay – and the longer you stayed the better the table you got! The bedrooms were all decorated in florals and pastels with 4’6” beds, the old deep televisions hung on the wall, MFI furniture was everywhere and there was only one centre light with an energy saving bulb – you’d have to wait at the door for the light to warm up before you could show guests in! The bedrooms were small and the bathrooms smaller – no possibility of swinging cats anywhere! But in 2005 this was okay still!
Guests were happy with this style of establishment but we quickly got the sense that things were changing. We started to get comments on particular items or areas, so we changed the cuboid televisions them for the fabulously advanced 15” flat screen. Which have since been changed for 19” and then 32”. Clock radios had to become iPod docks and then back again! 4’6 beds became 5’ and now they are becoming 6’. Small shower rooms were alright, and cosy bedrooms were acceptable. We thought we’d be ahead of the game and enlarge some rooms and bathrooms. We went from 14 rooms to 13, then 12, then 11, then 10 and now 9. Eventually we’ll have 8. We’ll have to be happy then as we will run out of refit options! We refitted shower rooms into bathrooms with shower attachments. That’s not enough now, so we are changing them again for separately controlled pumped showers. MFI furniture became solid wood and LED lighting is making an appearance. USB charging points are being put in. We’ve changed bedding, linen, towels, toiletries, hairdryers, tea and coffee facilities and I don’t see it ending anytime soon. This is the world we now live in – everything is disposable and people are quick to comment. Trip Advisor has a lot to answer for – but that’s going to be a whole other blog!
We think we’ve managed to just stay ahead of changing expectations and demands. We pride ourselves on listening to every guest and acting upon every suggestion – big or small. Sometimes the bigger ones take time because of financial constraints. But it’s all driven us to where we are today. The last decade has brought so much change and at an accelerated rate – compared to previous decades.
Sentry Mead used to run a fully functioning restaurant for both residents of the hotel and non-residents. We did evening meals, very popular Sunday lunches and small functions. But after 2008 we started to watch a decline in the number of people dining with us. Reviews were getting better but the numbers were dwindling. We had to look at why. We decided that the quaint, personally run, small hotel style of establishment was not where people of today wanted to go for dinner. Too formal perhaps. They want to be able to go somewhere different each night, let’s see how we feel kind of thing, don’t want to be tied down to one venue. Perhaps they don’t want to put a tie on and sit in a stuffy room at an allocated table with starched linen down to the floor. Some still do – we understand that, but it’s a generation thing and we have to move with the times.
Therefore, in 2012 we decided to become a Bed and Breakfast – a guesthouse – guest accommodation – anything, but a hotel! Suddenly we were liberated! We didn’t need to offer dinner 7 nights a week, or provide room service all day, or have a dedicated staffed reception area! It was great. We felt more relaxed and it showed. We removed all the formality of ‘hotel’ – no more allocated tables, no more stuffy starched table linen! Buffet continental breakfast where you can take what you’d like instead of being issued with little portions of things from the kitchen. We put a TV in the lounge, board games and books out and generally embraced the whole B&B thing. Suddenly we were more involved with everything. We cook breakfast for the guests, meet and greet every single one – because we have the time to do it! We make the jam, marmalade and welcome snacks – and we’re loving it. Even though we don’t have to provide dinner, we do still offer supper some evenings during the week as a facility to anyone who wants to take advantage. Totland, whilst in a beautiful area, is not overrun with restaurants and most require someone to drive.
We credit the hotel to bed and breakfast transition with saving our business and allowing us to reinvent our product to appeal to the modern, discerning guest, who is far well-travelled than ever before. We continue to listen to feedback and to act on it. We are currently in the process of reducing our rooms from 10 to 9. Our new Compton room will be available from Easter and will be our largest and most comfortable room yet. It’s on the second floor and will have lots of character and quirky angles. Follow our Facebook page to see progress on any of our renovation projects: https://www.facebook.com/sentrymead
We pride ourselves on being more than a B&B. We’re large enough to offer a bit more comfort and freedom than the smaller establishments, but we’re still small enough to care about each individual guest. At the time of publishing this, we have just received our certificates from the AA who inspect us each year. We have retained the AA 5 star Gold Award, the AA Breakfast Award and the AA Dinner Award – so we are obviously very proud of those. All of our rooms can be viewed by visiting http://sentrymead.co.uk/our-rooms/