How to Run a Successful Bed and Breakfast Business
Running a B&B is one of those dream jobs that people aspire to. Fed up of
climbing the corporate ladder, of the daily commute and working in the city,
an increasing number of people look to the country and look to setting up their
own B&B business.
The advantages are obvious; living in a beautiful place, working from home,
being your own boss and some of the disadvantages may not seem to bad;
getting up early, keeping a pristine house, having stranger living in your home.
If you still think it’s for you, then here’s a brief Top Ten Guide to setting up
your own successful B&B
Do Your Research!
There are a whole range of B&Bs out there ranging from your £15 a night cheap
and cheerful to your £130 a night boutique hotel. You need to do your research
about what sort of B&B will be successful in the place you want to set up. You
may want to set up a really high quality establishment because there are none
currently, but is there a reason for this? Will you be struggling to attract the
sort of person who pays over a £100 a night to the area?
If your main market is long distance ramblers, there’s a good chance that what
they want at the end of the day is a comfy bed, a hot home cooked meal and a
bath. They probably won’t be interested in the fact you’ve had an interior
designer in to create your rooms and you’ll be regretting the cream carpets in
the hallway. If you create the B&B that your guests want they’ll come back
time and again.
Invest in your Business
You may be taking over an existing B&B but you’ll probably still need to spend
money on upgrading your B&B. And remember all those other costs;
advertising, insurance, utility bills etc.
Whilst you’re setting up you’ll also need some contingency funds to bide you
over until your B&B is up and running and full of guests. Perceived wisdom says
that it takes the average B&B 3 years to be running at optimum capacity. And
even then you’ll need to plan for quiet times such as the winter and crises such
as foot and mouth.
Write a high level financial plan to ensure that you cover every cost and every
area of the business. You don’t want to spend all your money on really
expensive furnishings just to discover that you’ve run out of cash and forgotten
all about having a website.
Marketing your B&B
The perceived wisdom is that you should allocate 20% of your turnover in your
first year to marketing costs. There’s no point having the best B&B in the world
if no one knows about it.
Knowing where to spend your money can be really confusing. Set a marketing
plan and a budget, talk to other B&B owners and the Tourism Business Advisors
to find out what works for them, decide where you will spend your money and
stick to it.
Always gather data from your guests to discover where they are finding you. In
the first few year you will make some marketing mistakes, but by gathering
information you’ll be able to find out what marketing works best for you,
refine what you’re doing and reduce your overall spend.
Get a Website
In this day and age it’s essential to have a website. And if you’ve got a high
quality B&B, make sure it’s professionally designed and reflects the quality of
your business. If your website is homemade and obviously looks like it – people
will be put off and not choose your B&B.
Once you’ve got your site you can utilise many more ways to promote your
business; use “Pay per click” on search engines, produce a regular newsletter,
contribute to online discussion forums such as Country Living!
Know your Legal Obligations
It’s really important you get to grips with these before you set up your B&B.
There are an increasing number of regulations applicable to even one roomed
B&B and if you ignore them you could be breaking the law and end up having to
spend a lot of money to sort it out. Talk to your local council and see if there
are any local restrictions, then get a copy of The Pink Booklet covering all the
legal requirements for accommodation providers.
Read through the quality ratings very carefully before you spend any money on
your B&B. The higher the rating, the more money you can charge and the more
guests you will attract. The schemes have recently changed and it’s harder
than ever to get a high rating and special awards. You’re in a much stronger
position if you’ve designed your B&B to the standards rather than reading them
as an afterthought.
When you run a B&B you will need to keep good records. If you thought that
leaving the office job behind was going to free you from your desk you’d be
wrong! To run a successful B&B, with happy guests, you’ll need an efficient
administration system and time to administer it. Get it in place before you
start your B&B and significantly reduce the risk of overbooking and money
Keep it simple
It’s easy to get carried away when setting up your B&B with lots of wonderful
different breakfast dishes and ways to please your guests. I would recommend
starting simple and focus on creating good quality food then you can add
flourishes as you become more confident.
Creating a cooked breakfast may sound simple but it’s a very different
experience cooking for strangers than for your own family and friends. It can
be hard enough cooked poached, scrambled, fried and boiled eggs to
everyone’s liking at the same time without the added complication of kedgeree
on the side!
When you want to create a fantastic B&B with the best customer service it can
be easy to forget about your own needs and those of your family.
Unless you are 100% comfortable with having guests in your own space, make
sure you have a private area that you can relax to as a family.
Guests will appreciate knowing where they can and can’t go. Most people don’t
like to intrude and by telling them where your family areas start and the guest
areas finish may will prevent any embarrassing incidents!
This can be a really difficult thing to do – especially in high season when you
could fill every night – but make sure you plan in some rest and relaxation. If
you do nothing but cook, clean and greet guests, you’re going to get to stage
where you’re too tired. Fatigue leads to mistakes and guests will notice when
you smile is glued on rather than a genuine warm greeting.
Karen Thorne runs Hopton House B&B in South Shropshire. The B&B has a 4 star
Gold Award and won bronze and silver awards in best B&B and best Website in
the 2005 tourism awards. Karen runs courses for prospective B&B owners.
T: 01547 530885