Could you run a B&B?

April 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm 21 comments

5 Balconi B&B, Catania, SicilyMany people dream of retiring from the rat race and escaping to the country to open up a B&B. Those that follow through on this dream soon realise that running a B&B, while rewarding, is a lot of hard work and perhaps not the idyllic lifestyle they imagined.

If you’re thinking of starting a B&B, have come up with a list of 13 questions you should ask yourself before you go any further…

  1. Are you self motivated?
    This is vital for anyone looking to start up their own business or work for themselves, and you will need to learn how to set your own schedules and targets to turn your B&B into a successful business.
  2. Are you organised?
    Running a B&B involves more than just a bit of cooking and cleaning. From book-keeping and setting budgets to keeping records and handling reservations coming from a number of sources, a B&B owner must constantly be on top the situation.
  3. Can you take criticism?
    B&Bs have always relied heavily on word-of-mouth advertising, but in days gone by owners had very little way of knowing what guests were saying. Nowadays that’s all changed; a recent study has shown that over 70% of travel bookings are made on the internet, and over 25% of holidaymakers will refer to an online travel review site before making their bookings. B&B owners must not only be aware of what’s being said about them, they must develop a skin thick enough to cope with what they read. The real benefit of this change in the industry is that now owners have the opportunity to learn from and respond quickly to every comment, possibly winning back guests that would have been lost in the past.
  4. Is your family guest-friendly?
    Crying babies, squabbling children and barking dogs do not make for a relaxing holiday, so your house must be large enough to give everybody the space (and soundproofing) they need. Of course it’s important that quality family time does not fall by the wayside – consider limiting your opening hours to give you more time together, although this may affect your profits.
  5. Do you have a strong network of support?
    Emergencies happen, and when they do, it helps to know that you have someone there to lean on, whether it’s for a financial helping hand or just someone to make the breakfast when you’re too ill with the flu to get out of bed.
  6. Do you have experience in the hospitality industry?
    If not, get some. Whether you take a business course specifically aimed at aspiring B&B owners or just spend a few weeks helping out at a local B&B, it will make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. You may find after a short taster that running a B&B wasn’t what you were expecting, or you may find yourself even more determined than ever!
  7. Are you flexible?
    We’ve already said that running a B&B means being a jack of all trades: cook, cleaner, concierge, accountant – even gardener or repairman! However you must also be flexible in your personal life, and be aware that you may not make every dinner party, recital or football match. In addition, you may find occasions when you need to think on your feet and be flexible with your policies and your guests, perhaps adjusting the room rates or overlooking a breakage if the situation requires it, and if it could lead to a return visit.
  8. Do you have stamina?
    As a B&B owner, you need to be on call 24/7. If a guest has locked themselves out or can’t work the TV remote, you must be there to sort things out, at most a phone call away. You also need to be able to deal with repeated late-night arrivals and early departures if necessary.
  9. Are you a people person?
    Some guests will leave as friends, others you may not see until they check out. B&B owners do not have this luxury; at all times they must be friendly, welcoming, patient and forgiving, however they feel inside. If you or your family like your privacy, this may not be the right career for you.
  10. Are you open-minded?
    The 2010 Equality Act stipulates that accommodation providers in the UK cannot refuse guests on the basis of race, religion or sexuality. This has led to some dispute where B&Bs are concerned, and the law may well differ in other countries. In any case, B&B owners must be open-minded. Even at the simplest level, people’s ideas of what constitutes appropriate behaviour when staying in someone else’s home may vary, and B&B owners should be able to approach any differences of opinion tactfully and respectfully.
  11. Are you confident?
    If you don’t have confidence in your services, neither will anyone else. This applies to how you market your B&B as well as how you deal with guests, whether in person or over the phone. While we all know that ‘the customer is always right’, you should still have the confidence to stand up for yourself if necessary.
  12. Are you computer literate?
    Nowadays it’s important for a B&B to have an online presence, whether it’s a full website or simply a listing on various directories and booking sites. While you can pay someone to create a website for you, you still need to be internet-savvy enough to know how to upload availability, fix rates, set packages and respond to requests. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter also offer huge advantages to B&B owners as they provide an open, direct and free way to reach potential customers.
  13. Are you passionate?
    Running a B&B is a lot of hard work, but if you enjoy it then it all seems worthwhile. Make sure you have a passion for the industry that goes deeper than just a fondness for entertaining. If you don’t love it, you’ll hate it.

B&B owners, have we missed anything? What do you think are the most important qualities for running a B&B?

Still think you’ve got what it takes to run your own B&B? We want to hear from you!


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

World Events Calendar: July Events Today’s Top B&B: Foley’s Townhouse and Restaurant, Killarney, Ireland

21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brian Whelan  |  April 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    A recent report clains that the ‘burn out’ rate for city b&b owners is 3 years!

  • 2. bedandbreakfastworldblog  |  April 23, 2010 at 8:53 am

    (from Twitter) Could you run a B&B? @Cornwall_Info @BBreakfastWorld No! could do all bits but have strangers sleep/live in my house, have run a campsite which was fun 🙂

  • 3. Maine Innkeeper  |  April 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Love the list! I would add a couple of things that may seem obvious, but are often overlooked (as I can testify to given some of the places I’ve stayed):

    Can you cook? Really and truly present a meal someone other than your family will eat and enjoy? If not, take a class.

    Can you clean? Really and truly go after the dust bunnies, the grit, grime, the stains? If not, practice. Your family may not mind the occasional tumbleweed rolling out from under the couch, but the guests will not appreciate it.

    The cooking can be simple, it does not ever have to show up on a Gordon Ramsey show, but it has to be good. Altho, if you’re on Gordon Ramsey, even if the food is horrible your bookings will soar!

    Clean is a must. You don’t want to be the star on one of those ‘Hoarders’ TV programs!

    Overall, it’s a very rewarding life. I’ve met people from all over the world who I would never have had the chance to know in any other line of work.

  • 4. bedandbreakfastworldblog  |  April 23, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Great comments, thanks!

  • 5. Kim Wilson  |  April 23, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    You have to be prepared to break off from what you are doing at any time, there will be times when you lurch from one crisis to the next. The ability to hold your nerve is vital.

  • 6. Burned Out Keeper  |  April 23, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Your list is a great start! But I would also point out to any potential innkeepers that even if you are excellent at every area mentioned, your hard work will not be appreciated, you will never get a break, and you must be “on” at all times. Most of all, you should point out to readers that the work is MIND NUMBINGLY BORING! The same thing day after day after day…it’s exhausting. I’m so glad to be getting out!!!

  • 7. Nic  |  April 29, 2010 at 11:08 am

    We have considered opening a B&B for several years, having spent time abroad and considered buying there (Africa was just too far from home in the end…) we are now committed to remaining in the UK and are still researching this possibility carefully.

    So this article has been good food for thought. Whilst appreciating the commitment and hard work involved we are still not put off.

    What I would be interested in is perhaps ‘b&b sitting’ whilst current owners take a holiday – as a useful insight for ourselves and a way to get a taster whilst we are still committed in the short term to other careers.

    Does anyone know of any sites to make contact with such owners or where such adverts may be placed? I have a feeling it will be word of mouth and difficult to come by..

  • 9. pauline  |  April 30, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    My parents ran a B&B for 20years, my Father loved it with a passion ,it was hard work day and night and left both my parents in bad health. Hoteliers are on their feet from morning to night, seven days a week and unless they know someone trustworthy who can keep their cool in all situations, holidays often meant closing up shop for a week or two.
    Anyone out there thinking of going into this business needs to do alot of research, and speak with other hoteliers in the area, they will give you a great insight into the business. Cooking, cleaning, book keeping, laundry, handyman, being onsite 24/7 are just a handful of things to think about. I always thought my parents were mad for buying the B&B, and seven years after they retired I now own holiday apartments and understand totally how they felt, I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world, yes it’s hard work but so rewarding,

  • 10. bedandbreakfastworldblog  |  May 4, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Comment on FB from Maria Deolinda Almeida: I think I could…a small and cosy one, that’s my dream!

  • 11. NantucketInnkeeper  |  May 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Great article. Being hospitable and people-oriented is most important. Guests come to relax, so the overall ambiance of the inn, the attitude of the staff, the service, the decor, etc should always reflect that.

  • 12. BellBuskBob  |  May 4, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    It’s not difficult!! Just remember what you look for when you are a customer in any ‘hospitality’ environment, and make sure thats what you give your guests.
    What makes you feel like you want to return when you have visited a bar/restaurant/hotel?
    Quality of environemnt and product is vital, but problems with these can be overcome if you are made to feel as if nothing is too much trouble and all your hosts want s to do is make sure you are having a good time.

  • 13. Olivier Charles  |  August 16, 2010 at 2:53 am

    Thanks for the article. Passion and dedication is everything for us. Yes we have decided to retire from the rat race in London and open a European style B&B in Japan (as well as a language school, a boulangerie and a cafe). We cant do it for the money otherwise would have been best to stay in the UK. We have two young children who love meetting new people. it all very new but it is never quite the same. every guest is different. days off during the week is essentiel to give us time together. never work so hard, never felt so alive!

    • 14. bedandbreakfastworldblog  |  August 16, 2010 at 8:14 am

      That’s great Olivier, glad it’s working out so well for you! Japan truly is a world away from the UK but it’s an amazing place. Best of luck with your exciting venture!

  • 15. Derek Pennycook  |  August 16, 2010 at 9:02 am

    One thing to be made aware of is that many aspiring B&B owners believe that once the cleaning is done then the rest of the day is theirs.

    Excellent list! – certainly reflects what has to be expected from a B&B owner.

    • 16. bedandbreakfastworldblog  |  August 16, 2010 at 9:11 am

      Thanks for the comment, Derek. Out of interest, when would you say you get most free time?

  • 17. Jan Rogers  |  August 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    This is an excellent list as it points out that there’s much more to this business than meets the eye.

    I would add:
    Can you multi-task? You need to be able to as you rarely finish one job before another needs your attention straight away, and I frequently have several balls in the air at once, not because I’m disorganised merely because that’s how it is!

    Can you keep smiling when you’re on your knees with exhaustion? This point needs no explanation at all!

  • 18. Paul White  |  August 16, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Excellent article and some great comments.

    Nic if you want to meet lots of owners join me on Facebook and TW. I have around 1200 owners on there.
    Twitter @bandbclub

  • 19. Alan Fanning  |  August 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Brian (my Manager) was the first to make a comment on this article. We both agreed that it was a bit negative and that many following comments had more negative than positive things to say about owning a B&B so here’s the good side –

    I was lucky enough in having trained as a 5 star Hotel Manager in a 500 bed roomed Dublin City Centre Hotel before transforming an old large house and neighbouring house into a 3 star B&B.
    20 years later I have no regrets because with experience you learn the tricks of the trade and how to maximise your free time.
    The essential times are when your guests arrive and when they depart – if you give adequate information and free maps and guides etc… on arrival, a big part of your work is done.
    It is also essential to have separate living quarters from your guests so you can be around for the more needy guests and be slightly removed from guests that like their space.
    I’ll probably be around for the next 20 years to meet many more Dublin visitors!
    See you sometime,

    • 20. bedandbreakfastworldblog  |  August 17, 2010 at 8:26 am

      Great to have some positive comments too, thanks Alan. Don’t want to put people off entirely!

  • 21. Pascale Hall  |  August 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Great post,
    One that is key is language capabilities. A lot of people go for organized trips because of being afraid not be guided around or not having someone that speaks their language.
    As a b&b runner it is key to know the local spots that tourist guides may not be aware of and where your guest will be welcomed as if they were locals!
    On burn out, only open a few months a year and enjoy travelling in b&b’s yourself, I always gather some cool ideas. Before we opened our b&b (this is our second one) I had a book with LIKED/DISLIKED and I would source my ideas from the book.
    Always happy to answer question future b&b runners may have. Pascale


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