The welcome hamper: arguably one of the most important items in your holiday cottage; it is more than just a simple selection of necessities to keep your guests going when they arrive. A hamper is an unspoken welcome, that critical first impression and essentially the first taste of their holiday. A packet of biscuits and milk in the fridge is a good start, and the bare minimum, but nothing compares to a well thought out and locally sourced basket of goodies.
So what are the key ingredients for a memorable welcome hamper to make your luxury Yorkshire holiday cottage stand out?
Here are some things to consider when deciding what to include in your welcome hamper:
1. Always include the essentials
It's likely guests will be arriving at your property after a long drive, gasping for a cup of tea or coffee and a mouth watering, tasty treat to keep them going until dinnertime. As such, milk is a must, as well as teabags (local if possible) and a jar of coffee. Freshly baked bread always goes down well, along with butter, cheese and eggs for a modest supper.
You may consider offering alternative beverages, such as hot chocolate and decaf tea and coffee. Providing these in jars which you can restock at each changeover helps cut down on unnecessary packaging. Popping a cold drink or two in the fridge will be particularly welcome on a warm summer's day, while providing a bottle of red and a sachet of mulling spices at Christmas adds that festive touch.
Bear in mind what time your guests are arriving. More often than not, arrivals will be made in the mid to late afternoon. It's probable that they may not have had the time to go shopping for their breakfast food. Take a little of the pressure off them by including some treats for their first morning. Freshly baked bread, croissants, jam and eggs can all make for a delicious breakfast on their first morning.
2. Think about who will be staying
The contents of a welcome hamper will vary depending on the size and type of your holiday cottage. It pays to check who exactly will be staying and attempt to tailor your offering to suit their needs.
If yours is a family friendly property, you'll almost certainly earn brownie points with parents if you include a little treat for the children. A chocolate snack will be snaffled by hungry little mouths in no time. A bottle of orange juice will help quench the thirst of the small ones, and an alcoholic alternative is sure to be welcomed by Mum and Dad.
For dog-friendly properties, a little welcome for the four-legged guests wouldn't go amiss. Include a handful of dog biscuits, a chew and a toy to appeal to pooches large and small!
Couples on a romantic escape will appreciate a bottle of wine or bubbly, as will parents when bed time arrives! Present it with a pair of wine glasses or champagne flutes to set the romantic scene for the holiday.
Crisps, crackers and cheese are usually popular with everyone, and give guests something to graze on before exploring their new surroundings.
When your guests give you a call prior to their arrival, it may be wise to ask if they have any dietary requirements. Paying attention to your guests' needs also shows added consideration which will always be gratefully received.
3. Add a personal touch
Everyone likes to feel a little bit special, particularly on holiday, so thoughtful personal touches can go a long way. If you do enjoy baking, then handmade treats are always a winner. Homemade goodies needn't be elaborate; simple scones or a quick tea bread show you've gone the extra mile and this gesture will be well-received by guests.
If you'd like to concentrate on foods specific to Yorkshire, why not include Parkin or pikelets to tease the tastebuds of guests and get them acquainted with Yorkshire fayre?
If you are a keen gardener or if your property is located on a farm, a focus on the rural aspect is what guests are looking for, and what could be more 'country' than a box of fresh fruit and vegetables with a zero carbon footprint!
Including a simple handwritten note in which you welcome guests by name helps them feel more at home; this is much more personal than a printed version. Some properties have a chalk board which can be personalised to each set of guests - something which particularly delights children!
4. Favour local produce
Buying locally has never been more important than it is today, so the provenance of the items in your hamper should be well considered. Not only does produce from Yorkshire add to that local holiday vibe (particularly items that people can't get at home), but it also supports local businesses which is good for everyone in the tourism industry. It's not hard to find and build relationships with local suppliers, and while you may have to pay a little more for 'proper' Wensleydale cheese, for example, you can bet your life it will be valued by your guests far more than an supermarket brand cheddar.
If you have bought items locally, you could write about their provenance and why you have selected them for your welcome pack. If guests enjoy a particular product, it will also help them find out where to buy more. It is this attention to detail which guests value, and something which often gets a mention in guestbooks.
We are lucky in that, here in Yorkshire, we have a plethora of foods which are specific to the area, with cheeses, chutneys, cakes and biscuits in abundance. This makes for a vibrant and varied welcome basket which will make a statement compared to the ordinary supermarket brands most people are used to consuming on a daily basis.
5. Other items to consider
While for many of us, food is the way to our hearts, it is also a good idea to consider other items which may make your guests stay more comfortable or keep them entertained.
A toy box for children makes most parents breathe a sigh of relief on arrival, especially as room in the car to bring things from home is limited when travelling as a family. The promise of toys and games which are new to them makes the prospect of entertaining children for a week in a different environment a much more welcome prospect! Within the welcome hamper itself, you may wish to include an activity book or small gift for each of the children in the party, even better if it's something which will keep them occupied for more than a few minutes while the adults unpack.
Postcards of your property perform a dual purpose. They act as a subtle marketing tool if they are used to send to family back home and they are a nice keepsake for guests to remind them of their stay (and possibly jog their memory to re-book when they come across them in a few months' time!).
Many people book holiday cottages for special occasions - you can check when they get in touch before their stay. Providing a little something tailored to these memorable events is a lovely touch; think a small cake with candles for a birthday, chocolates and bubbly for an anniversary break, bath bombs and bubbles for a baby moon. A simple gesture but one which will be remembered.
6. Make it look enticing
Whether you have a carefully curated collection of strictly local goods or you have opted for a more stripped back, luxurious feel to your welcome basket, the presentation of your items must be carefully considered. Traditionally welcome hampers are just that: an attractive wicker basket, perhaps lined with straw in which you can place your offerings in an attractive fashion. You may prefer to opt for a wooden box, or other receptacle which you feel better fits the décor of your holiday home.
Pay attention to perishables and make sure to mention in the welcome note if any items are to be found in the fridge. Think about presenting homemade cakes on a (covered) cake stand, and, of course, ensure that all items are fresh and in date.
Leave the welcome hamper in a place where it will easily be spotted - the kitchen table is a good bet. Little touches like a local postcard and fresh flowers will always brighten things up too.
Putting a bit of thought into what to include in your Welcome Hamper will help to set the tone for the guest’s visit to your holiday cottage. Things like this can help you to achieve those 10/10 reviews, encourage repeat bookings and get word of mouth recommendations. It really is well worth the effort!
If you would like your holiday home to be part of our range of luxury holiday cottages throughout Yorkshire then find out more about letting with us.