Written by: Francesca Allsopp-Pick
Many of us dream about the house in the country and setting up a quaint little B&B to support our new lifestyle; but before the rose tinted glasses send us into a country spin, it’s essential to really think about the practicalities of this vision before opening the doors. Here are a few things to consider when starting a bed and breakfast business.
Sharing with strangers
The first thing to consider is that you will be sharing your home with strangers. This is not going to be for everyone, especially when you are getting out of bed at 6am on a cold dark morning to cook other people’s breakfast! You will have to be friendly and polite at all times and in your own home this may be a challenge as this is the place that we vent and let off steam – not so easy when you have guests demanding an early start, gluten free food and an assortment of teas.
However, if your disposition suits the chit chat and the need to please, along with impeccable cleanliness and customer focus, then running a bed and breakfast could be the right choice for you. But before you rush out and build a website, buy those duck down pillows and scented candles, there may be a few legalities to consider.
Check with your local council to find out if there are any restrictions to running a bed and breakfast. They will be happy to provide information along with a copy of The Pink Booklet which will give you all you need to know in terms of legal requirements, restrictions, licensing and administration.
Consider the practicalities of your abode. Is there separate space for dining? Will they have their own entrance separate from yours? Will you have a separate living area away from your guests? Whilst you may love your home and all its quirks, you have to look at it from a commercial perspective. That collection of china dolls dotted around the house may float your boat, but it could be potentially off putting for a customer!
What’s your target market?
Have a clear vision of what kind of establishment you want to run. Will it be a glamorous boutique style B&B or relaxed country retreat welcoming muddy boots and dogs? Consider your location and market. Will you be attracting more corporate clients or is your area famous for its long walks and wildlife? Write down your thoughts so that you can explore them thoroughly to avoid a costly mistake at a later date.
What would you want?
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and think about what you would want from your stay. A spotlessly clean room, comfy bed and pillows and of course an excellent breakfast go without saying, but it’s the little touches that will keep your guests returning every year and making those all important recommendations. Chocolates on the pillows, bottle of wine if it’s an anniversary or simply providing everything a girl could wish for in terms of toiletries, will always go down well. Whilst these will stand you in good stead, a warm welcome should be top of the list. You should make their stay feel like a home from home so your customer can truly relax and enjoy their break.
Set your boundaries both in terms of practicalities and emotional welfare. Make sure your guests clearly know the check in and check out times along with where they can and can’t go within the property. Your guests will feel much more comfortable knowing these boundaries early to save any embarrassing moments later!
Customer service and preparation
Whilst you are running a business and customer service should be at the heart of all you do, you need to take care of your own emotional welfare in order to avoid becoming exhausted and not enjoying the business you have worked so hard to build. Set your rules as to how early or late you will allow guests to arrive and leave and at what times you will be available to provide them with any extra information. Remember you need time to cook, clean, shop and have your own down time with friends and family. A well-rested and enthusiastic host will serve your guests much better than an irritable, exhausted and ill host!
Market your B&B
Once you have considered all these elements, you need to get marketing! In today’s modern technological world a website is a definite must along with your printed literature. Allocate a budget and stick to it and if you are unsure about any of these aspects then get help. There are plenty of courses available to assist you in terms of using technology and organising administration, and the internet has a whole host of useful information and step by step guides to help you become a business whizz!
Where did they find you?
Whatever you do though make sure you record how each and every guest including enquiries has found out about you. Was it your website, an advertisement in a magazine or word of mouth? Only by finding out this information can you hone your marketing skills and use your budget to its most effective.
Finally, enjoy it! This is your business, your rules and your vision. Create your own style and your own unique selling points. Stick to your principles, manage your time well and create an environment to be proud of!