Bed and breakfasts are very popular businesses for first-time entrepreneurs. With a significant market that benefits from seasonal demand, bed and breakfasts are great opportunities to profitably provide an enjoyable experience to a variety of travellers.
Why start a bed and breakfast?
Bed and breakfasts are typically home-based businesses and can be extremely personally rewarding. There’s a huge seasonal market in many places, and a year-round market in the most popular tourist destinations. This means a considerable market for you to tap into, and plenty of opportunities for local and online promotion that can help keep you booked up regularly. Running a bed and breakfast allows plenty of creative opportunity, from decoration to deciding what food options to offer.
What skills will I need?
The ability to combine business and pleasure is essential, as you’ll be living and working in the same place, which can be difficult to cope with. Having a separate flat in the building can help but you’ll still need to regularly move between private and public spheres, which can take its toll on your relationships. You’ve also got to be a people person, able to converse easily with strangers and endear yourself towards them. Being a good cook and homemaker will also keep your standards high, encouraging people to return.
The biggest part of running and bed and breakfast is hospitality; cooking breakfast, cleaning rooms to a professional standard and greeting strangers and making them feel at home. If you are confident domestically then it may be that you can start running a bed and breakfast and pick up any additional skills on-the-job. However, if your domestic skills are not developed then you may turn off customers. Consider taking a specialised hospitality or catering course. These are available both at specialised institutions and more informally in your local area.
Initial start-up costs can be considerable, depending on the location chosen, the type of property being purchased and the degree of luxury you aim to provide. Many bed and breakfasts are large, 10-12 bedroom mansions which can be very expensive to buy. If you’re looking for significant demand, you’ll also need to buy a property in one of the UK’s most prominent tourist destinations, which can quickly multiply the price. If approaching a bank for a loan, ensure you prepare fully with business plans, five-year plans, personal backgrounds of founders and a professional attitude.
Public liability insurance is essential to cover you in the event of accidents or damages caused to third parties – many people will be coming and going all the time. You may also wish to get professional indemnity insurance. Employer’s liability insurance will be essential when you take on staff. Many companies offer consolidated bed and breakfast insurance that provides a host of tangible benefits specifically to bed and breakfasts.
Contact local environmental health officers before starting your bed and breakfast as you may need them to inspect your equipment and property. This depends on the amount of bedrooms you have; typically above 4 or 5 will require an inspection. Fire regulations are also important; for smaller bed and breakfasts basic fire protection equipment should be ok, but for larger places you may need emergency lightning, designated fire escapes and other specific – and quite expensive – measures. If you’re converting an existing building, make sure you check with your local planning authority before you go ahead.
Your first step
Conduct sufficient market research, including the price of property in your chosen area, how saturated the market is and what the best time to buy would be. The local tourist office can advise regarding tourist influx and the percentage that stay at bed and breakfasts in a defined period. If your domestic skills are not completely up to par, consider a hospitality course either locally or at an accredited institution. If you’re going to be running the business with a partner or family, make sure you discuss all aspects of the bed and breakfast with them before hand. You don’t want to be dealing with domestic disagreements when you’re trying to get everything up and running effectively.