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Starting your own bed & breakfast

The reality of running a b&b is often very different from the idea. Learn more in this guide.

If playing host is your forte, a bed & breakfast could be the ideal business for you. The tourism industry is one that rarely dips, and the rise of the ‘staycation’ in recent years means that B&Bs up and down the country are welcoming more and more visitors through their doors.

But if you’re thinking of opening up your own bed and breakfast, make sure you’ve considered every aspect of the business before you go ahead and put that ‘Vacancies’ sign up in the window. There’s more to it than just the bed and the breakfast.

Is a B&B the right business for you?

You’ve got the location, the rooms, and everything you need to cook a Full English every morning. Seems simple, doesn’t it? But it takes a certain kind of person to really thrive as a B&B owner.

For starters, you need to be clean and tidy. No one wants to return from a weekend away with horror stories of dirty sheets, dusty shelves or a grubby bathroom. Cleanliness is of the utmost importance when you’ve got guests every night, and with plenty of people thinking they’re the next Hotel Inspector, missing even one square inch with the vacuum is a risk you can’t afford to take.
You also need to be hospitable and friendly as you’ll come into contact with people from all walks of life. And since you’re essentially opening up your residence to strangers, you’ll need to be comfortable with mixing business and home to such an extent. It’s more of a lifestyle than a job, and you need to be happy with that arrangement.

Know the rules and regulations

You don’t need a licence or any specific qualifications to open your own B&B, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any rules. You need to be aware of things like health and safety, fire regulations, and to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment, which might result in the need to make adjustments to the property.

If you decide to extend your property to accommodate more people, you’ll need to have all the right planning permission in place before you don that hard hat and get to work. You’ll have to contact your Local Authority for planning and building approval – then once you’ve got that, you’ll need to find the right builders for the job.

And for the breakfast element of your B&B venture, you’ll need to follow all the correct food safety regulations if you’re to get through a visit from the environmental health officer. You might also find it helpful to complete a food hygiene course, which takes a day or two, in order to make sure you’re really well up on all the rules.  It’ll also give you the credentials to put your guests at ease when you serve them a fry up or continental breakfast in the morning.

Your location can make or break your business

B&Bs differ from hotels in that they’re typically a much more basic offering. You provide a place for travellers, tourists and short-stayers to rest after a day of sightseeing or business, and a hearty breakfast to send them on their way the next day.

But while you don’t have to go all out with extras, you still need to think carefully about location. You might have your heart set on that rustic cottage in the middle of nowhere, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best location to set up a bed and breakfast. You need to think about what kind of amenities and things to do are nearby. Somewhere isolated isn’t likely to have restaurants within walking distance, which is a major factor for people deciding where to stay.

On the other hand, if you’re thinking of setting up somewhere that already has lots of B&Bs, then that’s a saturated market – but it could also indicate that there’s plenty of demand. Talk to other B&B owners in your chosen location before you start to gauge how well business is going. If they’re struggling, look elsewhere.

Get your marketing right

A marketing strategy is important for any kind of business, and none more so than a B&B – especially if you’re just starting up. If no one knows about your business, you won’t have any customers, and your bed and breakfast will quickly sink.

A website is fundamental to spreading the word of your bed & breakfast business, and can be set up fairly cheaply. In its most basic form, you should be showcasing your B&B online and providing contact details for guests to book in, but you could also consider providing an online booking form to make it even easier to reserve a room.

You could also sign up to Visit Britain, where your bed and breakfast will be listed in a directory of accommodation across Britain. There’s an annual fee, but an association with the leading tourism site will certainly give your business a boost.

Get connected

While basic, the expectations of what B&Bs offer continue to rise. In this connected age, your guests will want WiFi, so make sure that you’re all set up with wireless internet. Have a look at our business broadband packages to see how we can help you make massive savings on this essential service, and keep your guests happy in the process.

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