People take the plunge and open a bed and breakfast business for many different reasons; a change of lifestyle or an active retirement being two of the most common.
Whatever your own reasons, as a fledgling bed and breakfast owner you’ll certainly know that opening up the doors of your brand new venture is both exhilarating and a little daunting. It’s a time when expert advice based on hard experience can be worth its’ weight in gold.
So with the help of B&B aficionado Karen Thorne, Out of Eden have put together this introductory collection of useful tips to help you get things right from the word go. Karen owns a successful B&B in Shropshire as well as the Bed & Breakfast Academy, offering specialist courses in setting up, running, and marketing a bed and breakfast business; and the following recommendations come from both Karen and the team at Out of Eden.
This means, quite literally, sleeping in every single one of your guest rooms. No matter how meticulously you inspect a bedroom, you’ll never know if the mattress really is comfortable unless you spend a whole night in the bed; and you’ll never know if the boiler makes the pipes rattle at 5.00am unless you’re actually in the room at the time.
Sourcing, prep, and service; and practise until you can do it standing on your head with your eyes closed while playing a tune on a penny whistle. And then practise it a little more.
Even if you’re employing a cleaner, do the whole place in ‘real time’ yourself, several times, to work out the most efficient routine; and then create a detailed step by step checklist. This will help you or your cleaner keep focussed, and will be invaluable in a crisis where you need to draft someone in at the last minute.
Whether it’s cleaning materials, guest toiletries, or breakfast ingredients; you need to get good, really good, at having the right amount of the right stuff at the right time. Out of Eden’s handy downloadable stock inventory can be a great help with this.
Having somewhere to keep it all stored, neat, and organised is just as important as having the right amount of stock in the first place. A great storage system makes for a slick operation.
The paperwork can be a real bugbear, just when you’ve finished breakfast and would rather be out walking the dog, and guidance from the outset from an accountant who understands the bed and breakfast business will help to make sure you’re doing only the record keeping you really need and in the most time-efficient way possible. They’ll also help you structure the businesses finances in the best way, and advise on things like VAT legislation.
It’s crucial to be fully conversant with, and thoroughly on top of, all the relevant legislation relating to the likes of environmental health and fire safety. The Pink Book is your bible here, and if you get this area right from the beginning it’ll avoid headaches later on.
Compare what other people do, and draw up clear T’s and C’s for your guests. Make sure they’re on your website, and send them out with booking confirmation letters or emails. If it’s clear from the outset, there’s no scope for misunderstandings later.
Don’t let the risk of a bad review put you off being listed, because everyone gets the odd one or two. What matters is that you respond positively and professionally if it happens, and remember that the benefits of TripAdvisor vastly outweigh the possible risks.
As with everything else in life, it’s very easy to find you’ve become a slave to the daily details and lost sight of the fact that this was supposed to create a wonderful lifestyle for you. So be firm with yourself, make yourself have holidays and regular days off – and make sure ‘off means off’ by having deputies who you are confident can take care of the business on their own.
And when you’re on duty, be realistic about the fact that you are a human being and not a superhero, and therefore probably can’t do absolutely everything yourself. Remember, too, that a professional plumber will probably have that tap washer changed in 60 seconds, without a flood, for a very small fee; whereas it’s the kind of ‘simple job’ which can easily end up soaking up the whole afternoon and knocking your entire schedule into the long grass.
Karen is the owner of Hopton House B&B in Shropshire and also runs the Bed and Breakfast Academy, a set of training courses designed to to help people set up and run a B&B and how to market your Bed & Breakfast or Guest House business.