Up until the 11th Century, an early Middle Ages traveler had to rely on the hospitality of Monasteries or private homes – to provide food and lodgings. As early Medieval travel increased (brought about by The Merchant Class), this practice became impractical. It did however give way to the 3rd “oldest” professional in The World – that of Inn (or Tavern Keeper). “Commercial” Hospitality was a new concept in The Middle Ages. Offering to pay for food and lodging was one thing, “setting” a fixed price for “services” that a Traveler needed (or requested), was true “Capitalism” at it's earliest roots. The type of lodgings a Traveler could expect varied with “where” they were in The World (and of course, the Regional customs. In France (and Italy) – for example, major Cities featured large Inns and Hostels. They would provide a “Bed, Chair, Mirror and often Chamber Pot”. Food would be provided (again for a price). Often them “price” was NOT inclusive. Many Inn and Tavern Keepers would “charge” for every item (no matter how small). Obviously, only a moderate to wealthy Merchant or Guildsman could afford staying in “The City”.
In outlaying area, Taverns were more prevalent. Food and drink (often better than The City) was provided. However, most Taverns did NOT have areas to sleep. If a room was “procured”, often one had to “share it” with a member of The Tavern Keeper's Family (see a joke coming!) Actually the “joke” referred to is “The Farmer's Daughter and The Traveling Salesman” (which developed from The Middle Ages, by the way). As time progressed, many Innkeepers and Tavern Keepers formed their own “Guilds”. They worked to keep prices “affordable” so as to maintain a steady flow of Merchant “customers”. Often, many Guilds Members also had connection with Nobles and Officials. They worked to “direct” Travelers coming into Towns and Cities for Tournaments (and even Executions of the more “popular” Villains of the day!). In practice, Merchants heavily used Inns and Taverns to conduct business and make new contacts in new Cities. Taverns and Inns a natural “meeting place” for people.
When slow, Keepers would “open their doors” to the Local populace (serving them food and drinks as well). Eventually, the “Locals” would be responsible for “recruiting” new or lost Merchants into a certain Establishment. Seen as places of “entertainment”, some Inns and Taverns developed “names” for themselves. Often off traveled or (forgotten), these Establishments catered to “darker sets” (Highwaymen, Press Gangs and of course Prostitutes). Sometimes, Merchant's would be “misdirected” to these Inns and Taverns (only to be robbed, one way or the other!). By and large, Inns and Taverns were in the business of maintaining some decorum. Food was usually good (again depending on where in The World you were). England developed a fairly good name for itself in the 16th Century. Alcohol was plentiful, with Ales, Beers and Wines in MOST “Houses”.