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Setting Up A Catered Chalet Business

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@Hells Bells, in summer, 30C plus, maybe. In winter, really?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
It's his way of waking up apparently.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
oh and if he's cold, he doesn't put a jumper on, he has a hot shower rolling eyes
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@Hells Bells, he really didn't come across as weird when we met him Twisted Evil
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@under a new name, Laughing Laughing Laughing .
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maggi wrote:
Mountain Addiction wrote:
and there isn't enough hot water because a family of 10 needs 2 showers each a day

Doesn't matter how many people in a family. You should have enough hot water for all guests to have a shower in the morning and another before dinner. If you think this is unreasonable I'm not surprised you no longer run a chalet.

I was once in a chalet where we were all asked to stagger showers throughout the day so the hot water wouldn't run out rolling eyes and not to all wash our hair on the same days Laughing . (I now stay in hotels if possible.)


It's interesting that you don't assume those people had far far longer showers than needed, but it you think each having a 15 min shower twice a day is reasonable than it doesn't surprise me that you automatically think it to be my fault. Hot Water (like everything else) is a finite resource, and only so much can be heated at a time.
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I can do without loads of the "luxuries" that some places offer (I leave the 'do not disturb' sign on the door to actively avoid turndown service and daily 'cleaning' for example) but - unless staying in a mountain hut or a backpacking hostel - I'd view being able to have as many hot showers and baths as I want as a non-luxury facility in paid-for accommodation and I am another 'weirdo' who will often shower more than once a day when I've been out and about in the mountains (winter and summer). I think you'd really have to carefully manage your guests' expectations from the very start if you weren't able to provide enough hot water for them to wash their hair everyday if they wanted to!
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
foxtrotzulu wrote:
@under a new name, I'm not sure anyone 'needs' two showers a day, and I rather doubt that everyone in the chalet actually did want two a day, but everyone should be able to shower at the end of the day and if the chalet's boiler can't reheat the water again within 8 hours then you have a problem.

@Mountain Addiction, It sounds like you had your fill of running a chalet and while I don't blame you I am surprised by some if your gripes. Talking to the chef? Asking for a teapot to be rinsed out? Expecting guests to be aware of your running costs and work around them?


In a kitchen where service is in full flow, no it is not OK to interupt the chefs, unless you want your dinner ruined, and my point stands - you would not be able to waltz in to the kitchen of any hotel or restaurant and it be ok to interupt the chef - unless you are highly experienced in the Professional catering industry and also know the regs about have members of the public walking freely in to a professional kitchen, in which case i wouldn't eat in your establishment.

And, the same applies for breakfast, it is a full service and have people push past you to get what they want when you are cooking their breakfast is not OK, it is a danger, in every kitchen communication between other chefs is key, I could turn around with a hot pan and not know someone is behind me if i'm not told - if they want something just wait a sec and I'll do it, but to assume it's ok to stroll around a professional kitchen with no understanding of procedure you sir, are very wrong.


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Sun 17-04-16 10:23; edited 1 time in total
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miranda wrote:
I can do without loads of the "luxuries" that some places offer (I leave the 'do not disturb' sign on the door to actively avoid turndown service and daily 'cleaning' for example) but - unless staying in a mountain hut or a backpacking hostel - I'd view being able to have as many hot showers and baths as I want as a non-luxury facility in paid-for accommodation and I am another 'weirdo' who will often shower more than once a day when I've been out and about in the mountains (winter and summer). I think you'd really have to carefully manage your guests' expectations from the very start if you weren't able to provide enough hot water for them to wash their hair everyday if they wanted to!


it's not about managing their expectations, many people have grossly inflated expectations of many a thing before they come on holiday - it is up to them to manage their own expectations before they arrive, anything that they are told after arrival will likely fall on deaf ears simply because it's not what they expected, it is about working together within your group and not being overly wasteful or selfish - I see, and have always seen two 15 minute showers a day as incredibly wasteful and rather inconsiderate to others in the group, you know you are using a lot of Hot Water and not considering that others may want a shower too is the responsibility of the person showering - Hot Water is a finite resource, and does occasionally run out.

I've stayed in many hotels in many countries - in some hotels the Hot Water has run out, in other cases, all water has stopped running... not a big thing, and it doesn't do any harm to wait, and be sensible with a finite resource when you do get your turn.

It is not the end of the world to think about others, it is however a sign of the self centered times that we live in (unfortunately)
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Mountain Addiction wrote:

it's not about managing their expectations, many people have grossly inflated expectations of many a thing before they come on holiday - it is up to them to manage their own expectations before they arrive, anything that they are told after arrival will likely fall on deaf ears simply because it's not what they expected


No wonder you had such a miserable time running a chalet!
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pam w wrote:
Quote:

not to mention the hugley over saturated chalet holiday market.


the most important point, I think. When we stayed in chalets it was made quite clear at the initial briefing (except in one) that the kitchen was absolutely out of bounds, at all times. Everybody respected that. In the last one (much more expensive, Le Ski in Courchevel, last minute bargain ) we were told it was OK to go into the kitchen and make a cup of tea etc, and even to pinch something "leftover" from the fridge for a snack, provided we respected the very obvious stuff (like 14 identical desserts covered in cling film) specially prepared for the evening meal. The couple who ran that chalet were very experienced and also seemed to spend hours each day skiing. Nobody would have gone into the kitchen to chat or make a cup of tea when he was at full stretch preparing the meal - that's just rude.

At home, my kitchen is very small, but "open plan" to the rest of the living area, so people can stand outside and still talk to me if they want. But I am ruthless about shooing them out of the kitchen.


Exactly, We did make it very clear that entering the kitchen when we were working was not allowed, but not all people listen. We even had a little tea station outside of the kitchen where people could prepare teas or other hot drinks, the Minibar was located in the front room with a more than sufficient supply of glasses and a huge array of drinks, yet people would still march in to the kitchen and assume that the cupboard held a glass for their drink (because that's where they keep it at home), even though I'd repeatedly and politely pointed to the drinks cabinet and bar. And Mothers with young children who just can't understand why they aren't allowed in the kitchen, even though the microwave was outside of the kitchen so they could heat milk up without needing to come in to kitchen, and ask them if they wanted any baby bits put in the dishwasher whenever I was putting a load on.

Several times of a morning or evening, whenever I had a spare 5 seconds I used to fill the kettle and rinse the teapot, collect dirty mugs/glasses to keep the supply topped up and clean, but some people just think they know better and that they're doing it right... even though it's my Job and have managed perfectly well at it for 5 years in the chalet, thank (not to mention the previous 10 years of professional catering experience, but what does that 15 years experience count for when a paying guests assumes you're 'just the staff' and they have more experience even though they've never entered the professional catering world).
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
foxtrotzulu wrote:


[b]@Mountain Addiction
, Expecting guests to be aware of your running costs and work around them?


That's not what I was I stating, I was stating that because they assume all the expenses involved are a bit of food, a little bit of transport and some cleaning costs they forget that, like every other business, there are a lot of hidden costs. So, paying for those hidden costs doesn't show on their radar, so they have a disconnect about the true cost of running a chalet company, therefore they think you are making a total killing from that £600pp price they paid.

but because those costs are hidden does not mean they don't exist, I mean, producing a load of bread does not cost £1.25 but you gotta pay for transport, energy costs, staff costs, all other hidden costs too. I think £1 is a rip off for bread, but I understand why and sometimes I pay it, I made that choice, I don't resent the bread maker for selling the bread because ultimately it's my job to decide if I want to pay that amount, I don't haggle at the till because I think the cost should be lower - If you don't want to buy an item, don't, but don't then state you've over paid for the item you chose because you haven't understood the costs involved of bringing that item to market.

People want a champagne holiday on a lemonade budget.
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@Mountain Addiction, I find most of your points valid. However, your tone comes across as angry and bitter. I also find your point about the hot water wrong. I expect to have hot water at all times morning and evening. I've encountered 2 or 3 times problems with that and it's always been a real let down. Once was in October in the Dolomites very off season, it was cold (snow on the peaks) and most of the town was closed down. I saw the owners point, my wife (who is really sensitive to cold) couldn't. She just had to have a long hot shower to heat up after walking all day in the cold. After 3 nights we cut our stay short and headed to Innsbruck to a nice hotel. Being off season, the Innsbruck hotel was about the same price. Those were the exceptions, most places have found a way to cope (maybe use gas on-demand heating?).
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@sugardaddy, gas on demand heating is not a commonly available option up a mountain. Lack of a mains gas supply is the usual excuse. In France for example, it is usual for water to be heated by electricity and stored in a tank. Usually heated overnight using cheaper electricity, although it is possible to have the system on constantly.
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sugardaddy wrote:
@Mountain Addiction, I find most of your points valid. However, your tone comes across as angry and bitter. I also find your point about the hot water wrong. I expect to have hot water at all times morning and evening. I've encountered 2 or 3 times problems with that and it's always been a real let down. Once was in October in the Dolomites very off season, it was cold (snow on the peaks) and most of the town was closed down. I saw the owners point, my wife (who is really sensitive to cold) couldn't. She just had to have a long hot shower to heat up after walking all day in the cold. After 3 nights we cut our stay short and headed to Innsbruck to a nice hotel. Being off season, the Innsbruck hotel was about the same price. Those were the exceptions, most places have found a way to cope (maybe use gas on-demand heating?).


Well, that's up to you - I'm not bitter, nor angry, I just call it as I see it and have rather had enough of pandering to peoples egos.

I'm not expecting you to find my point about the water right, and it doesn't surprise me that some people will try to pick holes in something that they were not present for. I, however was present and am fully aware the circumstances and what I could/couldn't have done to improve the situation. The long and the short of it being that two 15 min showers everyday for 10 people and not being willing to be flexible even in the slightest is really quite unreasonable, and bordering on inconsideration for other members of your own party - still, if they want to ruin their own holiday by being inflexible, then I cannot be held responsible for their rigidity.

I've stayed in Hotels where the owner refused to put the heater on in my room because 'it wasn't winter' So i asked if he could put me in a room that caught the sun, simples. I understood his point of view and I didn't expect him to put the whole Hotels heating system on just because I was cold. It was very much appreciated to be given a very sunny, very warm room and a few extra blankets, everyone was happy Smile
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Hells Bells wrote:
@sugardaddy, gas on demand heating is not a commonly available option up a mountain. Lack of a mains gas supply is the usual excuse. In France for example, it is usual for water to be heated by electricity and stored in a tank. Usually heated overnight using cheaper electricity, although it is possible to have the system on constantly.


You're right Hells Bells, no gas line possible. And the water tanks were on all day and night, some people just over consume - and that goes for more than just water (and i'm not talking about food)
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@Mountain Addiction, I feel your frustration. Well done for getting out.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
cad99uk wrote:
@Mountain Addiction, I feel your frustration. Well done for getting out.


It's certainly providing useful insight for the OP
snowHead
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my original point was that it's not all Vin Chauds, first lift last lift, Apres Ski and lunch on the mountain. You need your business to turn a profit to support you in the off season/low season/poor season (winter and summer), and although people consider WhiteGold to be a bit of a miserable mood hoover he is right, there is increasing uncertainty about the length/quality of the the winter season. And summer is as weather dependant - no one wants a rained out holiday (although last summer really was glorious) people usually book closer to the holiday date in summer, and that opens up the chance people will go elsewhere if they've been watching the weather for 6 weeks and seen nothing but rain. A repeatedly poor start to the season saw a drop in bookings, particularly early season, and people waited for the snow, in which case you have to drop your price to attract people... all profit eaters... and one of the multifaceted reasons we jacked it in.

Like everything people can be lovely, and I've met some very lovely people who I consider friends, I have also met a few mortal enemies.

You may have enjoyed many a chalet holiday, but with no professional catering experience or Industry knowledge beyond said holiday you really are taking a leap in to the dark.
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@Mountain Addiction, I genuinely think your posts are by far the most useful on the entire thread for the OP.
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I think you need to be clear where you are in the market.

At the higher end it is reasonable for clients to expect that there will be hot water as and when needed.

But if trying to compete at the mass market TO end, I have been to a number of chalets where the staff have said at the start of the week that if everyone has a shower immediately on return from skiing then the hot water will run out! Most people accept that and stagger showers over the period up until dinner, but there is occasionally the odd selfish person who insists on getting back first and having a (very) full bath. In which case it is not unknown for bath plugs to mysteriously disappear after a day or two, only to reappear at the end of the week Very Happy

Don't buy a cheap chalet, with a small hot water tank, and expect to charge high end prices!
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I always have one in the morning, if it's available (which it often isn't, out sailing) but not often later in the day unless I've missed out in the morning. Left to myself I have a long shower - a lovely way to start the day. But if there are others to share the hot water I just get the essentials done. It's pretty selfish to hog the hot water, if it's limited (which it generally is). Those electric showers which heat the water as you need it are pathetic though - rarely more than a trickle. My son has just installed the highest power model he could find but it's still pathetic compared to mine, a big tank (heated by the gas central heating boiler) plus a powered pump.

In France the water pressure is often pretty high - my shower in France is lush, doesn't need any extra power.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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In one Ski Olympic chalet the hot water just broke down completely one day and we walked down to the rather smarter chalet down the road, with our rolled up towels and clean knickers, like a load of primary school kids going to the swimming baths. We felt like poor relations. Laughing Having not lived in a house with a bathroom till I was 18, and having waited a lot longer for a place with a shower, I never take these things for granted. In my first student flat the four of us downstairs shared a bathroom with the four girls upstairs, but as one of them kept both her bike and her hamster in the bathroom we mostly didn't bother. There wasn't a shower. We used the showers at the sports centre instead and washed in between times in the kitchen. Just like the olden days. wink That year, my first experience of independent living with friends, was fantastic and I am still good friends with the other three (with whom I lived for three years in all).
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Last winter I stayed (for work rather than leisure) at a truly luxurious private chalet in Courchevel, with 25 ensuite bedrooms with enormous marble baths, gold taps etc. etc. The chalet had everything you could possibly want (indoor ice rink, anyone?)... but all the bling counted for nothing when my eagerly-anticipated evening soak in a hot bath turned into a 2-minute dip in lukewarm water followed by a cold shower Skullie
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ecureuil wrote:
I think you need to be clear where you are in the market.

At the higher end it is reasonable for clients to expect that there will be hot water as and when needed.

But if trying to compete at the mass market TO end, I have been to a number of chalets where the staff have said at the start of the week that if everyone has a shower immediately on return from skiing then the hot water will run out! Most people accept that and stagger showers over the period up until dinner, but there is occasionally the odd selfish person who insists on getting back first and having a (very) full bath. In which case it is not unknown for bath plugs to mysteriously disappear after a day or two, only to reappear at the end of the week Very Happy

Don't buy a cheap chalet, with a small hot water tank, and expect to charge high end prices!


It's not a case of not having enough, we had plenty enough, just sometimes people don't realise how much they are infact using and they hold you responsible for their ignorance/arrogance.
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Interesting points made about the water. Our apartment, like many others in france has a 100l electrically heated water tank. We always tell families who rent that it can cope with 1 bath or 4 pretty economical showers. It's just their choice.

I don't think I could stand to be in the front line hospitality / chalet business as being nice to the smallish number of unreasonable people there are in life seems to get harder as you get older. Having said that everyone who has rented our apartment over the last 7 or 8 years has seemed very nice. Maybe white powder brings out the best in people.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@emwmarine, that is, I think, pretty typical. The (not usually problematical) issue is that electric water heaters usually run around 1-2kW so only heat the water very slowly - wheras iirc our new gas boiler can put out 32kW... so running out of hot water really shouldn't be an issue.
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I'd just like to add a quick note to the positive...
We've just completed our 10th winter season running BnB and catered chalet.
We entered into the business with little experience (other than working part-time in pubs and restaurants when growing up).
Before the kids started schooling I would get about 60 to 80 full ski days in per season.
Now it is fewer as we have more commitments with the kids. (50 this year and still counting but not full days!)
The first season suffered water shortages! (we moved in the september and opened in the winter so had no idea about how inefficient the boiler was).
This was sorted out the following season with an extra storage tank and finally replaced with a whole new shiny system.

Working in hospitality requires you to adopt the opposite attitude to what I have read on this thread.
There are a lot of problems to solve and side step, a lot of different types of people to keep happy who have trusted you to provide them with the holiday that you have promised them. This is the part that you have to be good at more than anything else!
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under a new name wrote:
Who needs two showers a day?



You don't wash in the morning and go stinky to brekko and on the slopes...

Ewwww.
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@flangesax, I'm sure you're right. When we stayed in not-expensive chalets we found that an open, honest, attitude from staff who were doing their best, went a very long way, even when things went wrong. One very young couple, very early in the season, said the TO "rules" required them to eat with the guests but they were struggling to cook and serve the evening meal sufficiently efficiently to do that. They said they'd join us for coffee, which was absolutely fine. Another chalet host had to keep apologizing because the electricity supply would trip out just at that busy time, when everyone was drying their hair, the heaters were on full and he was cooking supper. Not his fault, at all (and he was a professional cook). We took it in turns to grovel down to the basement and press the master switch and nobody minded switching something off for a bit. Dinner was sometimes delayed as a result - not a disaster.

Another host had broken her wrist skiing and was struggling with bed making, and we were happy to do our own.

They were nice people, working hard, doing a good job for rather little pay. It simply wasn't a problem, working around these issues.

I only met one really arsey couple of guests, staying in a chalet. They were so full of themselves, and tending to the critical. They had a single friend, who had opted to share a room. His roommate hadn't arrived, when he went to bed, so he was very pleased. The guy turned up at midnight and rather than disturb his room mate, kipped on the sofa, which was super-considerate. Didn't stop them expressing their annoyance that he'd turned up, next morning. What idiots! The three of them also asked for a "separate table" at supper, which rather floored the hosts, as it was only a small chalet and generally everybody sat round one long table. The other guests were interesting, and good company, which was just as well as a freak tornado took half the roof off our UK house the second day and the OH went home to deal with it. I opted to stay and joined some of the other guests in their ski lessons.

There is, however, absolutely no way I'd try to run a chalet myself. I do a lot of airport transfers, child care, cooking and ski-organisation. But all unpaid, so if my guests don't like it, they can stuff it!
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Quote:

You don't wash in the morning and go stinky to brekko and on the slopes...

anyone who's stinky 12 hours after a shower has some serious problems and should maybe re-visit their choice of toiletries. Laughing
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I always have a quick shower in the mornings whether at home or away, even if I'm not going out of the house. I assumed that was normal.

At home, I'd have a longer one in the evening too, if I was going out, unless it was to the gym, where I'd have one after.

After skiing too, I have a longer one due to hairwashing. I don't consider this a luxury unless it's camping holiday. It's 2016 rolling eyes .
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Ah, @Whitegold, cutting wit and decisive insight as usual.

Who rattled your bridge?
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Quote:

a quick shower

and I think that is the issue, these people were not just having a quick shower.
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emwmarine wrote:


I don't think I could stand to be in the front line hospitality / chalet business as being nice to the smallish number of unreasonable people there are in life seems to get harder as you get older.


At least you can wave them off at the end of the week and never see them again - it's the poor bugs who've got to live with them or sit next to them in the office day in, day out I feel sorry for!
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emwmarine wrote:

........being nice to the smallish number of unreasonable people there are in life seems to get harder as you get older.

100% spot on .....
However, as time goes on "the smallish number of unreasonable people" has become larger as each year passes. After 43 years in the Hospitality game it is one of the most surprising and sad things I have observed. Sad
Thankfully thats all behind me as I am lucky enough to enjoy early retirement Very Happy
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A very interesting topic.


Last edited by Then you can post your own questions or snow reports... on Mon 18-04-16 9:20; edited 1 time in total
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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Julietp, some of your post doesn't make sense, are there some words missing?

Specifically, the part about 80gbp per night. It doesn't seem much to make some profit from. But then have you ever watched that tv programme 3 in a bed (or is it 4 in a bed) about B and B owners in the UK? It's often painful to watch!
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Mountain addiction

Having just re-read the last page or so of this thread I confess I'm a little surprised by a few of the things I've read:
1.
Quote:
"Guests seem to get confused - in a hotel you cannot just walk in to the kitchen and start talking to the head chef asking him if he knows what he's doing or about how many days he goes skiing, or in a BnB either, no waltzing in to the kitchen to be really demanding about rinsing out the teapot whilst the breakfast is being cooked".
This is a chalet, not a hotel or a BnB. Half the point of a chalet is that it is more of a 'home from home'. I'm not suggesting that major distractions are going to be helpful at busy times, but when I'm at home cooking for a dinner party of, say, 10 people then I'm not exactly going to get the hump if someone comes and makes conversation wioth me or asks for some ice for their drink or whatever. Is a request to rinse out a teapot 'really demanding'?
2.
Quote:
"there isn't enough hot water because a family of 10 needs 2 showers each a day"
- I'm sorry, this one is nonsense. If your hot water system cannot supply enough water for 10 guests each to have a shower then it's not up to the job. If it cannot reheat the water for one or all to have another shower a full eight hours later, then it's not up to the job. You seem to blame it on the fact that
Quote:
'sometimes people don't realise how much they are infact using'
and yet I presume they seem to manage OK at home. If the hotwater system is going to struggle to supply 10 showers in quick succession, and I do understand that this is often a problem, then just explain to your guests what the problem is and why it can't be fixed. Most people are understanding, but for you to blame it on people having too many showers, spending too long in the shower and not being aware of how much water they are using seems bizarre.
3.
Quote:
"Because they assume all the expenses involved are a bit of food, a little bit of transport and some cleaning costs they forget that, like every other business, there are a lot of hidden costs. So, paying for those hidden costs doesn't show on their radar, so they have a disconnect about the true cost of running a chalet company, therefore they think you are making a total killing from that £600pp price they paid".
I'm really not sure that anyone makes any assumptions about your expenses or even cares. It's just not relevant to them. I expect to receive the service I've been promised and beyond that i couldn't give a monkey's if the chalet staff earn millions or pennies and ski once a year or eight hours a day. I think that the vast majority of chalet guests understand very well that most staff earn a pittance and get to ski a couple of hours a day when they are lucky.
4.
Quote:
"it's not about managing their expectations, many people have grossly inflated expectations of many a thing before they come on holiday - it is up to them to manage their own expectations before they arrive"
Apart from making you sound incredibly arrogant, I simply don't agree. You are the one offering the chalet/holiday and creating their expectations. Whenever I look at chalet websites they usually show images of the rooms, food and wax lyrical about the friendly staff. Managing their expectations is clearly your job and also very much in your interests.

As others have said, you do sound very bitter and sour. I don't blame you, but it's probably a good thing for all concerned that you no longer run a chalet business.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
Interesting thread. Some harsh but ultimately fair observations.
.... the ski industry is a really tough industry to make money in.

Something no one has mentioned thus far.
The ski season only last a maximum 20 weeks of the year (with 5 or 6 of those weeks being "peak weeks").
If you want to be run a chalet (... or teach skiing / work in a ski town) then the real challenge is finding something to do for the rest of the year that is compatible with your lifestyle. Not many businesses or people can survive working just 38% of the year!

So actually the biggest challenge is summer.
Get that cracked and then doing winter seasons becomes easy Wink
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