At some point many of us have dreamed of quitting our jobs and running a B&B. There’d be hard parts, but not having a daily commute into work surely makes it all worth it! B&B owner, Donna Brooke delves into how you can make this common fantasy come true.
There could be many reasons that triggered your B&B dream. You might be inspired to ‘set up shop’ after a recent vacation. You might be looking for a new project in retirement. You may even be looking to make a sea change and step out of the rat race. It can be tempting to launch in headfirst … and worry about the details later.
However, it is those very details that will make – or break – your business. Are you really cut out for this type of work? Do you live in the right location for a B&B? How will it impact on your life and your home?
Here are my top six things to consider when it comes to setting up a B&B.
Location, Location, Location & Target Audience
You’ve heard it in real estate and the same goes for B&Bs. What is it about your location that would make someone want to stay there? A picturesque view in a holiday hotspot? Proximity to inner-city nightlife?
Is there an available market for the type of accommodation you can offer in this location? Do some research and identify who the market is in your location. Are they tourists, international or domestic? Perhaps there is a market for business travellers in your area? Know your location and know your market. Then figure out how to make them a perfect fit.
When a guest chooses to stay in a B&B, they are choosing specific local knowledge, over a generic ‘could-be-anywhere’ experience. They are paying for – and relying on – your personal knowledge of the area to ensure they have the best experience. Your local knowledge will contribute significantly to the success of your B&B.
Be in the know-how of timings for tourist spots and supermarkets, as well as other functional and local information that makes visitor experience even better. As a B&B operator, you will be expected to be an ambassador for your area. Building and strengthening your local relationships is important too. It’s not who you know, but who
knows you in the B&B business. If other people and businesses in your area know you and your business, they’ll be great ambassadors for your B&B.
Delivering an Excellent Guest Experience
The ability to offer a great experience for your guests starts from the moment they arrive at your front door. As a host, you must always be there to meet and greet your guests. For unmanned receptions, this can sometimes means long waiting periods – are you prepared for these? Will you be able to cope when guests’ best-laid plans go awry and you have to adapt to accommodate their needs?
A positive guest experience relies on you being present and on-hand to assist, as and when required, for the duration of their stay. The time and effort this takes is entirely dependent on the guest, but it helps to be prepared for adaptability!
If you’re not a morning person … forget it! And if you hate cooking, running a B&B is definitely going to be a challenge. Some B&Bs don’t offer breakfast at all (misleading, given they are ‘Bed & Breakfasts’) and others offer Continental only so they don’t have to cook.
If you are serious about providing a personal experience guests wouldn’t normally get in a hotel or motel, providing a cooked breakfast is the standard. It’s also an opportunity to offer something extraordinary and set yourself apart. A good breakfast inspires many a positive review!
You’ll Need to Be a ‘People Person’
Running a B&B is essentially all about inviting strangers into your home and befriending them. You will meet people from many walks of life, with different cultures, different values, different worldviews. If you show empathy and understanding of other cultures and if you have the ability to convey genuine interest in others, your guests will feel at ease and their experience will be positive. Being empathic to others also means sensing when your guests want company and when they want privacy and acting accordingly.
Merging of Home, Work and Life
Operating a B&B brings together these three critical elements. It is important to consider how this is going to work and who it will impact in your family. Consider how you can ‘guest proof’ your home without making it sterile. Are you truly willing to share your personal space with strangers? Are you going to run this business solo or do you have a partner? If you’re a sole-operator you’ll need to consider security, workload and available help when things go wrong. If you’re operating with your partner, consider the impact this will have. Are you an effective team? Have you worked together before? Who will do what? Clarity around your roles and how you distribute the workload will set you up as a successful team. Be prepared to adapt and redefine things as your business evolves.