How to start a bed and breakfast business

Running a B&B is a labour intensive, but highly rewarding, small business. Here's our Startups guide to help you make your bed then lie in it...

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What is a bed and breakfast and who is starting a B&B suited to?

Tourism is big business in the UK. Even during a recession, UK destinations do well as more people choose to stay within the British Isles for their holidays. With the Olympics fast approaching you may be considering getting yourself in on the action sooner rather than later. According to a report by Deloitte, tourism was worth over £115m to the UK economy in 2009, and a high proportion of this figure is attributable to domestic spend. According to VisitBritain, British residents took 126 million trips across the UK and Ireland in 2009, spending nearly £22m in the process.

Bed and breakfasts are ideally placed to capitalise on domestic tourism footfall, and the industry is currently in excellent health. The Bed and Breakfast Association claims Britain’s B&Bs generate total revenue of £2bn per year; the B&B industry is currently 28% larger than budget hotels sector, and 35% of the size of Britain’s overall hotel sector.

Need a loan to start your B&B? Find out more here

If you like the idea of really being at home with your business, then running a B&B could be perfect for you. From a guest’s perspective, a well-run B&B can be more comfortable and more local than a hotel, offering homely surroundings and a relaxed atmosphere. They can be a home-from-home and a welcome respite for weary travellers.

A B&B is different from a hotel in that it’s generally more basic. You will offer a bed for your guests to sleep in, and a full breakfast before they check out. No gyms, no health spas and no concierge service. Of course you may provide some other basic facilities such as access to television but the main ethos behind the traditional B&B is that it’s not the kind of accommodation you expect the guests to spend much time in. It’s somewhere to sleep and have breakfast before setting off for a business meeting or exploration of the local tourist attractions. Most guests are aware of this, and are quite content with a more basic level of service as long as their accommodation is clean, tidy and functional.

Given that you are effectively opening your home to strangers, you are blurring the edges between your business and your home life so you need to be confident and happy with the arrangement. To a certain extent, it’s a creative profession: you have to enjoy cooking and making your accommodation as pleasant and welcoming as possible. It’s also something of a lifestyle business, a job that many people will undertake with their partners or perhaps later in life.

To run a successful B&B you have to be a real ‘people person,’ especially if your guests are sharing some of your own space, such as the lounge or dining room.

David Weston, chief executive of the Bed and Breakfast Association says: “You’ve got to consider if you’re the right type of person to run a B&B because you’re allowing strangers to come into your home. You also need to be someone who pays attention to detail, is house proud and keeps the place welcoming. If you’re not very neat and tidy it’s probably not a good business to get in to.”

However, if you do have the characteristics listed above you could find it’s the perfect way to make a living or supplement your income. Christine Williams, owner of the Drifters Lodge in Buckinghamshire and a recent BusinessLink advisor, says:

“I’m rushed off my feet and working harder than I ever did in my life, but it’s a wonderful way to make a living. While I’m not the mistress of my own time in the way I thought I’d be, I don’t mind because I love it.”

Ready to get started? Find out everything you need to know about how to start your own business here.


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