Little things can have a big impact in the hospitality business. Customers are most likely to remember those experiences that are both positive and unexpected—and when it comes to positive experiences, food and drink rank high on the list. It is both one of life’s basic necessities, and one of it’s greatest pleasures. A gift of food, or coming up with a list of snacks to offer, can often touch the heart and make customers feel joyous—and joy is definitely something you want renters to associate with your business.
There are a number of reasons that complementary snacks are best delivered as a surprise to customers.
- When it is not seen as part of the overall rental package, it feels more like a personal gift
- If it is promised up front, there will be higher expectations for snack quality and selection
- If the customer doesn’t like it, they won’t feel cheated out of something they have been promised
- In hotels, snacks are usually super expensive—those mini bars can be dangerous—so offering them for free feels gratifying
Think of free snacks as a type of advertising. It is a relatively small expense that can have a big impact. You want to walk a line between keeping the expense low and making your guest feel loved. Products that have a high-value appearance, but are actually inexpensive are ideal. Well loved brands, or simply those you know to be delicious are a good bet. The best practice is to set yourself a budget and try to stay close to it for each basket of gifts.
Even $5 worth of potato chips and bottled water can be a nice little surprise. Go up to $20 and you can get fancy with more interesting snacks and drinks.
You can certainly factor the cost into the price of the rental, but be sure to keep your pricing competitive. If you have a luxury RV, you likely have a bit more leeway in pricing you can consider. Your goal here is to use the gifts to encourage people to come back to you specifically for their next trip.
These days, it seems like more and more people either have medical dietary concerns or special dietary requirements. To account for this, take one of the following approaches:
- Try to select a variety of snacks so that at least one of them will be appreciated
- Think about common restrictions when picking snacks so that you cover most of the bases
- Ask renters if they have dietary limitations before making your snack selections
The variety approach is probably the easiest. Simply offer a range of snacks and drinks with different ingredients. You can stock your RV with a variety pack, or when folks show up and they can pick what they want to take along from a larger display. Trying to second guess someone’s preferences (especially someone you’ve never met before) is tricky, but keeping some vegan, low allergy, and high protein options in the mix is a good idea. Asking folks is the most effective way to hit the mark, but by doing so you set up an expectation that food is part of your service and you may need to spend more time buying the right food for each person to ward off disappointment. Keeping things simple is usually the best policy.
Where to shop
Ordering snacks on Amazon is probably the most convenient, economical method. If you are fortunate enough to have a Trader Joe’s nearby, consider shopping for snacks there. Not only does Trader Joe’s have many unique and delicious offerings, they tend to be pretty well priced too. If you have a membership to a discount warehouse like Costco or Sam’s Club, those can also be solid options for buying low-priced packages in bulk. Any grocery store is going to have more than enough of an appropriate snack selection to see you through, but you may pay a bit more than you would by shopping at the other stores.
What to offer
You definitely want to stick with snacks or drinks, rather than meal items, when offering food to renters. Renters will have their own agenda for meals and portable snacks are almost always great for a traveler. The three cardinal directions for snacking are salty, sweet, and savory. Having something that satisfies each of these three craving categories is a good bet.
Another pro tip: stick to packaged snacks in sealed containers—people will feel safer with these. If you can, offer local specialties to add a fun flair to the offering. Consider a mix of familiar brands and semi-exotic ones that create the aura of luxury snacking. If you really want to offer some homemade goodies, try to wrap them up very professionally and make sure they are freshly made. Again, keeping things simple is a good rule of thumb.
If you are renting out your RV for a special event or holiday, make sure to select snacks themed around the respective occasion. Also, keep the weather in mind. If it’s scorching hot outside, offering chocolate candy is probably not a good idea. On the other hand, if the weather is cold, offering hot-chocolate mix would serve as a great addition. When in doubt, a S’mores kit is a solid go-to since most RV renters are likely to wind down the night around a campfire.
And don’t forget to have drinks on hand, especially if your RV has a refrigerator. Sodas, sports drinks, or just a few water bottles can really make guests feel appreciated.
What not to offer
While it could well be appreciated, don’t offer alcohol. Unless you happen to have a liquor license, you really don’t want to get tangled up in the legality of offering alcohol. Even when it is a gift, it’s seen as part of a business service and the authorities will not look kindly upon the transaction.
You should also be mindful of expiration dates and avoid snacks that are likely to go stale, melt easily, or otherwise go bad. Also, avoid anything that requires a lot of preparation. You want folks to get some instant gratification with your gift.
Finally, avoid the temptation of offering things that you may love or have an affinity for, but know are an acquired taste. You want snacks that are widely popular or appeal to fairly mainstream tastes. If you can’t resist trying to expand your renter’s horizons, be sure you include more mundane offerings in the mix as well.
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