What Makes an Inn Boutique?

You’ve probably never been to a Jollibee.  It’s a fast food chain in the Philippines.  I’ve never been to a Jollibee, either.  If I ever find myself in the Philippines, I might give it a try, but, if I know me, I probably won’t be dining at “Asia’s answer to McDonald’s.”  I’ve got nothing against McDonald’s but I don’t dine their often, either.  I’m not saying I need everything customized and curated and twee and unique.  That said, like you, gentle reader, I generally like things that aren’t plucked off a shelf.  I like to stay in hotels instead of B&Bs for instance, which is a heresy for a professional innkeeper to proclaim in public, but it is what it is.

When I say that, what I mean is that I don’t particularly enjoy staying in a La Quinta, or a Sheraton.  What I prefer is a boutique lodging experience, usually at an old-school hotel that’s been around forever, someplace that has some history accruing to it.  That’s what makes an inn boutique.


A colonial-themed Jollibee in Agoo, in the Philippines.
A colonial-themed Jollibee in Agoo, which is a city in the Philippines.

One thing that makes an inn boutique is that it has it’s own theme song.  I wrote a theme song for La Belle Esplanade.  I haven’t set the words to music yet but, coincidentally, the lyrics I’ve come with are very similar to the lyrics used in Season Two of the hit 1970s sitcom, Rhoda.



Just imagine it with a different melody and think of La Belle Esplanade.

Back to Jollibee, just because you don’t have something in your hometown doesn’t make that something exotic.  The good people of Wewoka, Oklahoma don’t have a Marriott in their downtown, but that doesn’t make staying at the Marriott exotic, even when it’s in a Moxy Hotel, which is still a Marriott.  Moxy is Marriott’s new hip and fresh hotel brand designed to appeal to millennials.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like my hip fresh authenticity squeezed out of a tube in some multinational hotel chain’s headquarters.

When I’m in the Philippines, which, though I personally don’t like travel, Frau Schmitt may drag me to someday, and I’m hankering for some fried chicken, it won’t be Chickenjoy, Jollibee’s signature menu item.  Frau Schmitt will steer me to someplace outside the shopping mall, on a beautiful street in Manila, and we’ll have fried chicken there, made by someone who has spent their life seasoning and cooking native chickens, not dropping industrial chicken parts in a fry-o-lator until the timer dings.  I’m pretty sure Frau Schmitt will never suggest lunch at Jollibee and, in case you didn’t know this already, Frau Schmitt is usually right about these things.


A Jollibee franchise located in Hong Kong
A Jollibee franchise located in Hong Kong


If you want a boutique experience, you won’t find it at a franchise.  That goes for staying at AirB&B, too.  If you think you’re going to get a boutique experience from a company that’s valued at $30 billion, well, they have a very good marketing department.  I’m not here to badmouth AirBnB.  I’ll leave that to other people.  My point is that if you want boutique, you go to the source of ingenuity, you don’t go through a middleman and pay commission and a cleaning deposit.

Kelly visited me today.  She’s another professional innkeeper.  We talked about a lot of things, but one thing she said that stuck in my mind after showing her the new mojoscope I’ve just acquired for The New Orleans Odditarium, was, “No one can ever imitate what you’ve made here.”  I don’t know if Kelly is as right as Frau Schmitt usually is, but she was right about that.  There is no other inn like La Belle Esplanade.  I’m not boasting.  It just is what it is, for better or for worse.

Innkeeping is more art and craft than it is science and business.  You can’t go to college to learn to be an innkeeper.  It’s in one’s blood.  You can tell the difference between a professional innkeeper (like Kelly) and a hotel employee in less than a minute.  You can tell the difference between a professional innkeeper and a part-timer, or an amateur, or a corporate hack who’s fronting as an AirBnB host in less than a minute, too.  A professional innkeeper is what makes an inn boutique.

If you want to stay in a hotel, I’ve got no beef with that.  If you want to stay in an AirBnB flat, I’ve got no beef with that, either.  You may not be the kind of guest who will enjoy staying at a boutique experience inn like La Belle Esplanade.  I’m not here to judge.  I want you to have a good time while you visit New Orleans.  Just don’t be one of those people who ring our doorbell because they don’t like their AirBnB rental.

All I know is that good memories are made time and again, day after day, on Esplanade Avenue.  We happen to live at the epicenter of these good memories for the guests who choose to stay with us in our boutique inn.  La Belle Esplanade scores 5 stars on the Richter scale when it comes to good memories.

The last time I talked to Joe (who runs the best boutique inn I’ve ever stayed in), he told me, “You’re an innkeeper’s innkeeper.”  That stuck in my mind, too.  It’s an assessment I try to live up to.


Jollibee's 900th store
Jollibee’s 900th store


When something is boutique, there is only one.

When something is boutique, it’s a labor of love.

When something is boutique, it isn’t for everyone, but everyone who discovers it respects it and they even fall in love with it.

What makes an inn boutique?  Heart.  Ya gotta have heart.


When you visit New Orleans, consider staying at La Belle Esplanade.  We only have five suites so we tend to fill up early.  Reservations can only be made in advance, so plan ahead.  We’ll be happy to meet you and to share our part of New Orleans with you.

À votre santé,

La Belle Esplanade

where every morning is a curated breakfast salon.

August 3, 2016:  Another happy day in America’s most unique city.


P.S.  All of today’s Jollibee illustrations came courtesy of Wikipedia, where I get all my best information.