How to Start a Bed and Breakfast

How to Start a Bed and Breakfast

Imagine a cozy rural bed and breakfast with a roaring fireplace, where you can share stories with fellow travelers over a glass of brandy or red wine. The romantic allure of a bed and breakfast has made it a popular dream for many. This has contributed to the significant growth of the bed and breakfast (B&B) industry in recent years.

Do you drive by historic properties and dream of turning them into a bed and breakfast, where you can serve hearty meals and fill the place with the aroma of fresh-baked goodies? If this idea has crossed your mind, starting your own bed and breakfast can be a rewarding and profitable venture. However, it requires constant hard work and attention to detail.

This article provides step-by-step information on prepping for and launching a bed and breakfast business. To gain insight into the day-to-day operations of a successful B&B, I interviewed Kathleen Karamanos, owner of Fundy Heights Bed and Breakfast in Saint John, New Brunswick.

What is a bed and breakfast?

If you’ve never stayed in a bed and breakfast, you might mistake it for a small inn or motel. However, a bed and breakfast combines the luxury and comfort of a hotel with the charm and atmosphere of a private residence. Many B&Bs are historic properties that offer guests a taste of centuries-old hospitality. In fact, 36 percent of American B&Bs have received historical designations.

What sets a bed and breakfast apart from hotels and vacation rentals is the personal attention guests receive from the owner, who acts as host, chef, and meal companion. As the name suggests, the nightly fee includes a hearty, home-cooked breakfast.

The rise of vacation rental platforms like Airbnb has blurred the line between vacation rentals and traditional bed and breakfasts. Airbnb, which previously focused solely on vacation rentals, now includes listings for B&Bs.

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The state of the B&B industry:

In the United States, the B&B industry is projected to exceed $5 billion in 2020, with over 19,000 establishments across the country. Unlike major hotel chains, B&Bs are typically privately owned.

According to recent data, B&B ownership in the United States breaks down as follows:

– 72 percent are owned by couples

– 18 percent are owned by individual females

– 5 percent are owned by individual males

– 5 percent are owned by non-couple partnerships

– 79 percent of owners live on the premises

The average American bed and breakfast has an occupancy rate of 43.7 percent with an average daily rate of $150. Staying connected with industry associations like AIHP (Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals) can help you stay informed about B&B and lodging trends.

Questions to consider before committing:

Are you a people person? Interacting with guests is a pivotal aspect of running a bed and breakfast. Enjoying meeting new people and learning about them is crucial to success in this industry.

Do you have a sufficient business background? While owning a B&B can be fulfilling, it also requires business acumen. Planning for cash flow, managing staff, and strategizing to maintain high occupancy rates are essential skills.

Are you looking to get rich quick? Running a B&B can provide steady income, but it is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Occupancy rates fluctuate depending on the season, and it is unlikely to be at maximum capacity year-round.

Are you prepared to give up weekends and holidays? Running a bed and breakfast is a commitment that may require sacrificing personal time to ensure guests have a pleasant experience.

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Create a bed and breakfast business plan:

Writing a business plan is essential for any new business. If you plan to seek funding, a business plan is crucial. Resources like hotel and bed and breakfast sample business plans and business plan templates can assist you in getting started. Tools like LivePlan can help you manage your finances and model growth scenarios.

Consider your startup financing:

Many couples invest in a bed and breakfast by selling their home or business. If this is not an option, there are funding alternatives, such as private investors, small business loans, or business support programs. The funding needed depends on whether you inherit a ready-made B&B or convert a building into one. Costs include remodeling, furnishings, and maintenance.

Choose your location:

While any residence can be converted into a B&B, not every property is suitable. To stand out, your B&B should have unique and attractive features. Consider historic homes or proximity to notable landmarks as selling points. Location is key; Kathleen Karamanos credits the convenient location of her B&B as a significant factor in its success.

Other factors to consider when choosing a location include zoning and regulations. Check local zoning by-laws and ensure the property is in an area that supports tourism and has a robust local economy.

Take care of permits, licenses, and certifications:

Make sure you obtain all necessary licenses and certifications to operate your B&B. This includes sign permits, business licenses, certificates of occupancy, tax accounts, health and fire department inspections, and insurance. Compliance with local regulations is vital.

Develop your marketing strategy:

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Word-of-mouth recommendations are crucial in the B&B industry. Satisfied guests are more likely to refer others, making guest satisfaction a top priority. Up-to-date websites, listing platforms like Airbnb, and partnerships with local businesses can help attract guests. Positive travel advisory ratings and involvement in local tourism boards can also boost occupancy rates.

Hire your staff:

Running a B&B involves significant responsibilities. If you are not prepared to handle the workload on your own, hiring staff is essential. Determine the responsibilities you want to handle personally and those you prefer to delegate. Specialized training, such as culinary courses, can enhance the quality of service you provide.

Additional resources:

– Free Bed and Breakfast Business Plans: Library of sample business plans for bed and breakfasts.

– Resources and information for innkeepers.

– The American Bed and Breakfast Association: National association promoting B&Bs.

– Forum and resources for innkeepers.

– Forum and resources for innkeepers.

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