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- Jasmine: @Poorlybee thanks for RT! x (20th May 2013 - 15:48)
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How to run a B&B
Do you fancy the ultimate work-from-home job? Do you live in a popular area, with lots of spare rooms? Do you like meeting lots of new people? If yes, you might consider running a B&B – it’s not an easy job, but get it right and you could be onto a serious earner.
First of all, think carefully before taking the plunge. Running a B&B can be a great way to work from home and have lots of free time too, but it can also tie you to your house and take away much of your freedom. Also, there are costs and legalities to deal with at the start so make sure you are happy about those before jumping in.
Once you’re certain that running a B&B is for you, you’ll need to start fact-finding. You need to carry out thorough research on:
- Your local area – do you live in a picturesque village, by the seaside or in a busy and bustling city? How close are you to transport links, tourist attractions? Is your area the sort of place that people will want (or need) to come to and stay in? Having a big house with lots of rooms is only half the battle won!
- Who your target market is – it’s not just summer tourists who are looking for short term accommodation. During the week you might find that business people in town for conferences or parents visiting student children need a place to stay – and will provide a good stream of business for you all year round. Consider as well how you will approach guests with particular requirements, e.g. those with disabilities, families with young children, guests with pets.
- Other businesses – this doesn’t just mean other B&Bs in your area, although this should be considered. Some B&B owners find that having similar businesses in the area is a boon as they can absorb guests other B&Bs can’t cater for. If you’re setting up a B&B in a city you could exploit your closeness to a large range of shops, facilities and entertainment venues, while if you’re based on the coast you could take advantage of all the traditional amusements.
- Is there a niche – looking at other factors, do you have something unique you could take advantage of? Of course stunning views and prime location are usually winners, but can you offer specialist cooking or a ‘pets welcome’ service? If you live near a theatre could you offer accommodation to jobbing actors, or cater for conference-goers?
- Insurance – you will definitely need specialist insurance to cover you for things like public liability (i.e. should a guest injure themselves and take action against you). Good insurance is fiendishly difficult to find from high street providers, and hotel insurance (although it’ll cover you) usually costs a bomb. Quoterack, Premierline Direct and John Pieri all offer specialist B&B policies, and you’ll find other niche insurers by using an internet search engine. If you don’t know a B&B owner who can recommend an insurer your best bet is probably to spend an afternoon ringing around for quotes, or you could speak to BIBA – the British Insurance Brokers Association, who can point you in the direction of some suitable specialist insurers.
- Rules and regulations – it’s essential that you have a good idea of what’s expected of you regarding food standards and hygiene, fire safety, access for disabled guests and business practice. As well as obvious points like ensuring you have appropriate fire exits and smoke detectors, you should also be aware of things like how to display your room rates and how to accurately advertise your business. Accommodation Know How is your one-stop shop for this sort of thing, and the online version has up-to-date guidance on tourist accommodation laws as well as general advice on dealing with guests and staff.
Finding these things out is quite straightforward. Start with your local tourist board or tourist authority to see if there’s demand for a B&B in your area: they’ll be a useful point of contact for a lot of things while you’re setting up. Books by people who’ve run B&Bs, like How To Run A Quality Bed And Breakfast by VisitBritain or Just Six Guests by Helen Jackman are good for an insight into the nitty-gritty and give practical tips and advice.
If there are other B&Bs you could do a bit of market research – it’s up to you whether you let on that you’re interested in starting up a rival business. What do they offer, and at what price? You might also consider doing a survey to find out what people want from a B&B: send it to friends, family and colleagues to get a good range of responses.
To work out whether you can make a living from running a B&B, you should consider:
- How much you need to live on personally – this will vary according to your lifestyle.
- What your start-up costs will be – will you be carrying out major structural changes or just redecorating? Will the B&B be at your house or will you be taking out a mortgage to buy a suitable property? Remember to factor in things like new furniture, extra linen and any adjustments to comply with fire safety legislation.
- What your ongoing costs will be – as well as ongoing marketing and insurance, things like replacing linen and crockery can add up too. If you’re running a luxury B&B your costs will probably be higher than if you’re running a more basic establishment. Don’t forget that your utility bills will increase too depending on how many guests you accommodate, so shop around for the best water, gas and electricity deals.
- How much money you can realistically make from your B&B – this will depend on a number of factors like what kind of service you’ll be offering (champagne breakfast or cheap and cheerful? Wireless internet access or a cosy, low-tech bolthole?); where you’re situated (and what type of customer you can attract) and how much you plan to charge.
Sadly you’ll only have a good idea of how profitable your B&B will be once you open for business. The first few years of any new business are typically lean, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t instantly turn a huge profit. The website Startabedandbreakfast has got some good advice on how to set room rates and how much profit you could make.
Setting up any sort of business involves cost. You may need to put in extra bathrooms or at least shower rooms within the guest rooms. You may have to upgrade your boiler to create more hot water. It’s highly likely that you will need to redecorate most or all of the guest rooms and put new furniture and accessories in them. If you do need to make structural changes to your home, make sure you speak to the local council first as some may need to be accepted by their building control department first. Find out more about planning permission.
You will also have general business running costs like any other operation. You will have to do your books (or get a bookkeeper), you will have to deal with bills, have an accountant, possibly some legal help and probably some staffing costs here and there, unless you want to do all the cleaning, maintenance and cooking yourself.
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There you are – just like that! Well all right, not quite. Getting the guests can be tough at the start, but there are a number of things you can do to market yourself for next to nothing:
- Register your business with local tourist authorities to attract custom: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have separate tourist boards.
- Aim to get into guidebooks but remember that competition is tough.
- Contact your local theatre and make sure you’re on their list.
- Contact local universities and colleges and ask them to put you on their list of places to stay for parents and visiting professors.
- Contact large local businesses to get on their list of recommended places to stay.
You should also set up a website – or at least a single web page – for your business. You can do that for free yourself by using one of the many free website-creating packages on the market.Try something like Blogspot for starters. Or pay a friend or local designer to do one for you.
You should have a page that has at least your contact details, the address of your B&B and a brief description of the house and its amenities. A bigger, more fulsome website will help you to get more visitors though. An attractive set of photos of the exterior and interior will definitely help, as will references from former guests (once you’ve had some).
Remember that marketing your business is a long-term project to address and budget for: if you want to attract guests, you’ll need to sell your business. It should get easier the longer you stay in business, as you’ll benefit from repeat custom, recommendations and a strong local reputation. Your business will be as good as you make it, so get stuck in!
- Get the best value insurance deals for your B&B here.
- Start A Bed & Breakfast.
- The Bed & Breakfast Academy has a good section for tips and recipes.
- Visit Britain has a booklet on setting yourself up as a B&B.
- Accommodation Know-how from Visit Britain is full of information and tips for would-be B&B owners.
- Read How to Run a Quality Bed and Breakfast
- Read Just Six Guests
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