A recipe for running a hostel

We get asked all the time what it’s like to operate and work in a hostel.  So we thought the best option would be to give you a play-by-play on how we did/do it, so hopefully you come away with the best result if you decide to give it a go yourself.  *Word of warning – we’re going to be delivering this to you like a cook-book would, so the wording might be a little ambiguous at the best of times.

Step 1.  Decide where you want to cook!

Not all kitchen’s (town’s) need a hostel, or maybe your kitchen has too many hostel’s already.  Location is key, and a good hostel will always be convenient to everything around it, not to mention be located in a kitchen where people actually want to dine!  So don’t get too excited and start cooking in the wrong spot, as it could put a real dampener on the final result.

Step 2.  Prepare your ingredients

Don’t be afraid to vary the recipe a little depending on the amount of people your cooking for and the size of your dish (hostel), but this is approximately what you’ll require:

A couple of dozen beds/mattresses – Larger size preferred, free-range if possible, always fresh!

Bunks – Normally half as many bunks as mattresses (as there’s 2 beds for every bunk, D’UH!), only necessary if you’re into that sort of thing – as in, if you’re using beds instead of just mattresses, one would expect them supplied with bases.  Also “D’uh”.

Toilets and showers – How many people are you cooking for?  Take that amount, divide by 4, and order appropriately.  Too little and your dish may be a little lacking.  You can either have them in the dish (en suite) or on the side (shared bathroom) depending on preference.  Always clean your produce!

Linen and Pillows – Once again, depending on how many people you’re cooking for, but multiply that amount by 3 for every item of linen and pillows.  Also expect to re-order within a couple of years to top off your dish, as you will use up this ingredient quicker than you think!  And as always, wash and dry your produce before using it.

Powerpoints and Lights – Sprinkle in as many as your dish requires (at least one of each per diner), and prioritize energy efficiency as you’ll end up with probably a lot of each – higher quality ingredients will always give the best result.

Kitchen – These days this is one of the most important ingredients, and can make or break your dish.  What do you need at home to make an amazing meal?  You’ll need multiple of each (sinks, stove tops, ovens etc.), fridges as far as the eye can see, seating for at least half of your full occupancy of diners at any one time, tea/coffee/spices to taste, and make sure it’s clean and ready at all times.  A view can always help, but space and outfit is paramount for a quality product.

Storage – Lots.  Lots and Lots.  For everything you can possible imagine + more.  Seriously.  We can’t stress this enough. LOTS!  Did we say ‘lots’?

Lounge Room – Needs to be spacious and comfortable, with books, video games, movies and board games.  Your diners will need somewhere to rest their heads after a few drinks with dinner, or to hide when the weather doesn’t come to the dinner party.

Laundry – Industrial strength for best result.  Should be cleaned prior to use, and kept in great condition to re-heat for seconds.

Free Wi-Fi – Because wi-fi should should always be free – how can you expect your diners to instagram your dish if you don’t give them the means to do so?

Reception – You’ll need somewhere for your diners to be received before their seating, so make sure it’s got space to sit if there’s a wait for a table.  And that it’s friendly.  And it’s filled with information about their up-coming dining experience.  A well informed diner is a happy diner, as they will inevitably waste less of their own time asking questions you could have probably already given them the answer to.

Staff – Knowledgeable, friendly and reliable.  Ultimately one of the key ingredients to make your dish as tasty as possible, and to clean up after your diners are finished!

Step 3.  Combine your ingredients and mix well

One of the easier steps as you’ll simply need to combine all the ingredients in your chosen kitchen and mix well, however don’t let that statement fool you.  The mixing process is often filled with un-planned and un-scheduled delays and variables, so just give yourself plenty of time to avoid hungry diners.  And of course make sure your kitchen is ready before you order all your ingredients – it doesn’t really work having ingredients with no kitchen to store and prepare them.

Step 4.   Serve and enjoy

Time to plate up and eat!  Sounds so simple right?  It will take some time to get everything perfect, so expect a few issues along the way.  You’ll need to be on-hand a whole bunch to make sure everyone from staff to diners are happy – so you’ll inevitably end up doing a lot of hours slaving over the stove – and prepare yourself for more than a few broken eggs a long the way.  The old adage of “if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen” applies here, as you’ll have to deal with everything from broken ingredients, stolen ingredients, to ingredients not even being delivered at all, not to mention all the variables that people themselves bring to the party.

Step 5.  Refine and stay happy! 

As the years go by, you might find the recipe needs to be altered to keep the diners happy.  This comes about because as time goes by, expectations change.  Take the Tao-ist approach – there are as many expectations as there are people to have them in the first place.  This is an opportunity to make things work better for both you and your diners, so embrace change and stay current!  But most importantly, stay happy.  No great dish is produced by grumpy and negative individuals – and that’s a fact!

Now to stray from the analogies for a second.  No great hostel is just the sum of its parts.  Facilities, location, cleanliness, outfit and security are all key ingredients to success, but it’s not everything.  An enjoyable environment needs the laughter and atmosphere that only people themselves can provide.  Your managers and staff initially create the platform for your guests to enjoy, and that combination subsequently creates the vibe and atmosphere that people will remember and come back to.  Get involved, have fun, and stay happy!