Karen Thorne runs Hopton House B&B in South Shropshire but she’s also an expert at starting up a bed and breakfast – five years ago she established Bed and Breakfast Academy for potential B&B owners, showing them how to start a B&B and the market and run a bed and breakfast successfully. She also runs marketing courses for tourism providers.
Running a B&B is up there as one of the businesses that people dream of owning. It can be a great business; you get to be your own boss, work from home, spend more time with your family. However, it is still a business and, like any other, it won’t suit everyone and it can be tough at times.
So what do you need to consider?
1. Do you have the right personality to run a B&B?
As a B&B owner you need to get on with and tolerate most people. You need to gauge when a guest wants a chat and when they want to be left alone.
Will you be able to pull a smile out of the hat when guests arrive at 11pm, 2 hours after your bedtime, or when they arrive at 12.00, 4 hours before check in, when you still have your marigolds on and hand down the loo?
2. Be clear on why you want to run a B&B
Are you running a B&B as a lifestyle choice or as a serious business that needs to generate as much income as possible? How much money do you need to make to keep it going?
Understanding this from the start will help you decide the best place to set up your B&B, what sort of B&B you will set up & how you will operate it and other make or break factors.
3. Be aware of the realities
I still meet people who think that I’ve finished working by 10.30 and spend the day wandering round my rose filled garden in a floaty dress with a gin tonic in my hand.
Running a B&B, especially if you’re doing it on your own without help, can be a very time consuming and physically demanding business. If you’ve got three rooms to changeover it will probably take you all day (and remember you’ve been up since 6am cooking breakfasts ) and if you do evening meals you can probably forget about finishing till gone 10.
My advice is to talk to existing B&B owners, if they have the time, and understand the realities involved.
4. Location, Location, Location
If you need your B&B to generate a good income, then think very carefully about where you set it up. Whilst a 5 star B&B sitting next to the theatre in Stratford-up-Avon is likely to be a serious money earner, the exact same B&B on a miles from anywhere is going to much harder to fill.
5. Understand your market
What sort of people come to the area where your B&B is? Whilst Stratford theatre goers may appreciate a bit of luxury, you’ll probably find that a B&B on the long distance footpath is frequented by guests who want something cheap, cheerful and comfortable – and they are not be willing to pay high prices.
Secondly, what sort of people do you want at your B&B? Remember that it’s also your home, and you should try to attract the sort of people you’ll be comfortable having there.
6. Know the legal requirements
There is a bit of a myth that if you have three rooms or less you don’t need to satisfy any legal requirements – wrong! Even if you’ve just got one room you will need to comply with fire legislation, Health & safety laws, discrimination rules, food hygiene, planning permission, entertainment licenses etc etc….
There’s a great booklet available at Pink Booklet which covers everything you need to know.
7. How are you going to get people to stay there?
Gone are the days when promoting a B&B was just sticking a sign up outside your house & putting your leaflets in the local tourist office. Marketing is really important to any B&B and the more out of the way your location, the more time you will need to invest in marketing. As a rule of thumb, a new B&B business should consider allocating 20% of their projected turnover to marketing.
Ed. Looking for tips? Read our free bed and breakfast marketing plan.
8. Your B&B website
Every B&B needs a good website. Unless you are a confident website developer, don’t do it yourself. Your website is probably the main way you will attract guests and a bad website will not only not attract new guests, it will put people off who may have been recommended by someone else.!
There are some truly awful B&B websites out there. Don’t let yours be one of them.
9. Getting your website found
Having a website and not promoting it is like having your leaflets printed then stuffing them into a drawer. To get your website found on a search engine like Google, it will need to be optimised.
You may need to find someone who can help market your website – so this is another cost to factor into your budget. Please ask for recommendations and never go with a cold caller telling you they can sell you top place on Google! If it sounds too good to be true, it is!
These days social media is playing an increasing part in promoting businesses. B&Bs have always thrived on word of mouth and social media is the ultimate word of mouth. But do some research or get some training to understand the best way to promote your business on Facebook on Twitter.
10. Develop a thick skin
In that dream you’ve had of always running a B&B, you’re probably imagining welcoming some lovely guests who you get on with wonderfully and who come back year on year. And, provided you get your marketing right, the vast majority of your guests will be exactly like this.
However, by the law of averages, there will be a small handful of people who you don’t like or who don’t like you. These days people are increasingly using review websites like Tripadvisor to find their perfect destination and, if you’re unfortunate, they will tell other people that they don’t like your B&B. You need to develop a strategy for dealing with people you don’t like and trying to make sure they still leave feeling contented, as well as any any negative reviews.
So, in summary, be prepared, do your research, go in with your eyes open – and enjoy!
Image: Thanks to Andi Sidwell on Flickr.com
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