Starting a Bed and Breakfast Business
An increasing number of people are turning away from highly stressed office jobs to move to the country and set up their own business. And for many the first business that springs to mind is running a B&B; you get to live and work from home, in a location you love and you get to be your own boss. On the downside, you’ll probably double the hours you work, have strangers living in your home and have to learn how to smile and do small talk at 7.00 in the morning, whatever your mood!
If you still think it’s for you, then read on for an overview of all the things you need to consider for setting up a successful B&B.
Have a clear vision and know your customer
It’s really important to have a clear vision of the type of B&B you want to run and to know who your customers are. Are you going to be running an equestrian B&B in the middle of the countryside, a 5 star boutique B&B in a market town, a B&B for business tourists or a comfy but basic farm stay? Being really clear about what you’re trying to achieve and what your customers want when they still with you will save you expensive mistakes later on.
What do people want from a B&B?
You’ll want guests to love your B&B, to keep coming back and to send all their friends. To achieve this there are a few basics that it’s important to get right; a really comfortable bed, a high level of cleanliness, excellent breakfast and probably, most important, a warm welcome. You may have the most beautifully furnished B&B in the county but unless people are made to feel comfortable and welcome they won’t be back.
Once you’ve got the basics then you can work on the extras that will really distinguish you from all of the other serviced accommodation out there.
Investing in your business
Even if you’re setting up a B&B using existing rooms and furniture in your home, you’ll still need to allocate money towards marketing and advertising. You’ll need to have 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 current advice to new B&B owners 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.
It can be overwhelming. My best advice is to 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.
Be scrupulous about gathering 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
To set up a truly successful and profitable B&B business these days it really is essential to have a website, even if its only one page on a tourism organisation – though the better and more professional the website – the more people you’ll attract.
Once you have an internet presence 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 Everywoman or Country Living!
An essential area to address before you set up your business is what local and national legal requirements you need to abide by. 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.
It’s essential to 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, so understanding them well is really important.
Paperwork and Administration
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 going astray.
By having professional paperwork and a smooth checking in process, you’ll impress your guests and the hotel inspector.
Setting up the B&B
As well as the fun part of creating comfortable well furnished rooms for your guests, its worth considering the practical elements of running a B&B.
Have you considered your family living area – it really is recommended that you have somewhere you can go to get away from guests to give yourself a break. Do you have a separate guest dining area? Whilst you may think they can eat in the kitchen – do you really want them seeing you rushing around swearing when you burn the toast? Do you have young children? How will you deal with picking them up from after school clubs if you have B&B guests due?
Setting boundaries – both physical and mental
Whilst excellent customer service should be paramount to you, you need to set some boundaries to ensure that you continue to enjoy your work and don’t suffer from burnout! What are your check in and check out times? How will you stick to them when guests ask to arrive early or leave late? You’ll need time to clean, shop, cook as well as some time out for yourself to relax. How will you cope if a guest walks into your family lounge in the middle of a relaxing evening?
Guests are often more comfortable if they know where they can and can’t go. Most people don’t like to intrude and by clearing stating where your family areas start and the guest areas finish may will prevent any embarrassing incidents!
Karen Thorne runs Hopton House B&B in South Shropshire. After just one year in business her B&B has been nominated for the Heart of England B&B of the year award and her website has been nominated in the Best Tourism Website Category.
Karen runs courses for prospective B&B owners.
TELEPHONE 01547 530885
Ideas for Instant Improvement
Arrival: Whether you offer a cup of herbal tea, some homemade cake or brunch with all the trimmings, it is always nice, where possible to offer your guests something on their arrival, it is a pleasant way to make them feel at home and to allow you to answer any questions they may have.
Guest Rooms: Think carefully about how to create an interesting and welcoming environment in your guest rooms. Ornamentation, flooring, bed linen and facilities all add to the appeal of a room. Co-ordinate your efforts and add little extras to make your guests remember you: a selection of novels and magazines, a single stem vase with a flower from the garden or homemade shortbread with your tea and coffee making facilities can make all the difference. Put a couple of business cards in your guest rooms for them to pass onto friends, family and associates.
Communal Areas: Guests appreciate communal areas to relax in. Whether it be a guest lounge with a log fire, a conservatory with beautiful views or a well tended garden, make sure your guest areas are inviting, relaxing places to be. Some information on your establishment can be useful to clear up the regular queries such as breakfast times, tourist attractions in the area and the closest local shop. Personalised information on local walks, theatres, restaurants etc. will be appreciated by guests and a morning newspaper is a good way to start the day. If you have listed or characterful property why not provide some information about the building and its history. You could also take the opportunity to advertise any extras you offer such as evening meals or winter break offers.