A Guide to Running a B&B
Here are some insider tips to running a seamless B&B operation that will guarantee you plenty of bookings and very happy customers.
It’s all about the bedrooms. Create rooms that ensure your guest have everything they could need, before they even know they need it!
Bedrooms can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes but the key is to make the most of your facilities and think about how best to use the space.
We’ve all had experiences where the room set up just doesn’t work. There isn’t a bedside lamp, a plug near the mirror, or even space to store your luggage.
No matter how great the location or service, these details can make the difference between a guest who will visit again and recommend you to a friend, and those who will say “great B&B but…”.
Here are some of the things you should think about when planning your room layouts.
- Will the kettle reach the plug and is there room for a hospitality tray?
- Is there a plug socket near the mirror for using a hairdryer or straighteners?
- Do you have a shaving socket?
- Can you switch off the light from the bed?
- Is there enough space either side of the bed for side tables, and to easily walk around?
- Are all bedroom en-suite? People don’t expect to be tiptoeing down the corridors in the middle of the night to use the toilet these days!
Once you’ve set up your rooms in the most comfortable way it’s about filling them with all the essentials your guest could need. From a good quality TV, beautifully scented toiletries, and tasty tea and coffee, to slippers, robes and sweat treats. It’s the little touches that make a lasting impression with your guests.
With your bedroom facilities defined you can then set your room rate accordingly and take bookings with room sizes in mind.
Take inspiration from…The Old Vicarage, Ambleside, Cumbria
This Lake District B&B positions itself as dog friendly, with three-dogs of their own and a key message that dogs can stay for free. To make this service manageable they provide dog packs which include a bed, towel and bowl.
To the guests this feels like a real personal touch, making their four-legged friends feel just as looked after as they are.
Are you thinking of going pet-friendly? Find out all you need to know about the growing trend in our other blog: Dogs Welcome! How Pet-Friendly Became The Perfect Formula
At the heart of every great B&B is a fantastic breakfast!
Getting breakfast right is a must. It’s the reason that many people opt for a B&B over a hotel, so make sure you create a service that you know you can be the master of!
The most important thing is to make it manageable, you don’t need to offer everything just a good selection that’s easy for you to serve.
When planning your breakfast service think about:
- What hours will you serve breakfast between? Will this differ during the week and at weekend?
- Will you offer a takeaway breakfast for those leaving early?
- Can you cater to people with food preferences and allergies?
- Many people, particularly at weekends, will be looking for a full-English breakfast to set them up for the day, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. What selection will you offer?
- How will you present your breakfast items to keep them fresh?
- Will there be a self-serve element to your breakfasts?
Take inspiration from…White Lodge Hotel, Bowness, Cumbria
Dining space was a challenge for this lake side B&B so the owners got creative and formed a breakfast hamper service.
Upon check-in guests choose their breakfast from a choice of cereals, pastries, bacon/sausage rolls, cold and hot beverages, or even Bucks Fizz, and their favourite newspaper.
At their selected time, a beautiful hamper is delivered to the room and guests can enjoy a breakfast picnic in bed. It saves on space, is easy to plan for and is something a little different that guest will always remember.
Managing enquiries and bookings requires some organisation
Make sure you don’t miss opportunities to gain bookings, and that when your guests finally arrive for their stay the check-in/check-out experience is seamless.
First things first, gear up to gather all the information you need. Start by setting up a booking form, this may include:
- Customer name & address
- Contact telephone number
- Dates of stay
- Arrival time, if known
- Number of guests
- Any special requests e.g. food allergies, family room
You can process this information either into your own spreadsheet system or by using online software, depending on the size of your property and your booking requirements.
Make sure you’re set up to manage bookings on the go too. Divert calls to your mobile and sync your emails to your phone if you’re out and about. A delayed response to an enquiry could cost you a booking.
Consider your payment terms, after all a cancelled booking can mean a loss of potential income. In some cases, guests may want to just make a provisional booking and so by requiring a deposit, or setting a deadline for payment you know there will be time to re-sell the room if needed.
Expand your terms and conditions further by specifying check-in and check-out times, breakfast service times and minimum night stays upfront too.
You’ve secured the booking and your guests are on their way…
Follow these top tips on creating a warm welcome and fond farewell to your guests.
Send out a pre-arrival email with details on ‘how to find us’ and a reminder of contact details if they have any problems finding you. This is a good time to confirm their approximate arrival time to ensure someone is there to meet them.
Make sure you too have their contact details, in particular their mobile number, so you can reach them if you need to. Perhaps there are roadworks that you want to make them aware of or you need to pop out whilst they’re on their way.
Make sure your arrival, departure and breakfast times all suit you and your working hours so that checking guests in and out is as straightforward as possible. This information should be clearly displayed on your website and booking materials, and explained at check-in to reinforce the message and allow for change overs.
As daunting as it may seem, give guests their own key or access to one via a key safe. You can’t be available 24/7 and guests need the freedom to come and go.
We’ve missed a bit! You need to attract bookings in the first place, that’s where Marketing comes in
It can be a competitive market so whilst great service will encourage repeat bookings you will always need to be proactive in promoting your business to new potential guests.
You can have the best B&B in a superb location and unbeatable service, but what good is it if nobody knows you’re there?
To market your property effectively you need to identify who your target audience are and understand what your unique selling point is, i.e. typically who are your guests and how would you explain to people what it is about your B&B that’s so special.
For example, if most of your guest are couple’s celebrating an occasion then you can create key messages and services that will appeal to those people at those moments. If you’re a seaside location with lots of family bookings then fill your website and brochure with photos of families having a great day out. You get the idea.
Here’s some food for thought…
Is there an opportunity to collaborate with local businesses? They may already be marketing to your target audience with complimentary services. Or they may employ a number of contractors who travel to the area for work and need somewhere to stay.
Should you market your B&B on a national or even international scale? If you’re in a tourist hot-spot then organisations such as Visit Britain may be worth advertising through.
If you’re generally attracting guests from a particular region then newspaper and magazine advertising can be beneficial. It can be costly but will ensure you promote your property to the right people.
Your own website and even social media channels will allow you to reach a large volume of people with lower costs associated long-term. Think of these channels as a digital brochure, all you need is some nice content to make it work.
Sometimes all it takes is a little incentive. An offer or competition gives you a great excuse to speak to potential guests, to remind them that you’re there and try to persuade them that they’re overdue a weekend away!
If you’re still considering whether running a B&B is for you then go back to basics with our 10 Things To Consider Before You Buy a B&B blog.