How to start a bed and breakfast How to start a bed and breakfast

How to start a bed and breakfast

With hard work and sound planning you can turn your dream of opening a B&B into a reality. Here’s our guide to how to start a bed and breakfast.

Opening a bed and breakfast represents a huge challenge and yet for many it’s a dream they’ve had for years. Natural entertainers, compulsive cleaners, talented chefs – they all have something of what it takes to open a B&B and make it successful. 

But are you someone who has it all?

Our guide to how to start a bed and breakfast will help you decide if it’s right for you.

Why are you thinking of opening a B&B?

There are countless good reasons to consider opening a B&B. There are also a couple of bad ones. Running a bed and breakfast is a huge commitment which demands long hours, relentless attention to detail, exemplary cooking skills and a good way with people. It’s not the business for you if you’re looking for a way to keep yourself mildly busy while you enjoy a leisurely retirement.

You’ll also need strong financial planning skills and self-discipline, so that your cash reserves last you through the lean winter months.

If you’ve read all of that and are still keen, then perhaps opening a B&B could be for you.

Buying a bed and breakfast business

Recent research by Direct Line for Business indicates that a bed and breakfast is the most expensive type of small business to buy when comparing the amounts paid up front to the expected turnover. That’s because for every £1 of annual turnover expected for the business, they’re typically valued at £4.49. This is much higher than most kinds of business, such as a pub which would cost 96p for every £1 of expected turnover.

On the other hand, B&Bs are also property assets and usually residences too, making them more attractive than would otherwise appear.

When you buy a bed and breakfast, try not to be swept away by the romance of your new adventure. Due diligence, market research and a property survey are all necessary, as is proper budgeting for any renovations that may be needed.

Remember too that customer expectations are rising all the time – the standard of your bed and breakfast must be able to meet them.

Opening your own B&B from scratch

If you don’t want to buy an established B&B business, you can either convert your existing home or buy a property to turn into a bed and breakfast.

If you go down this route, make sure you have a clear view of your target market. If you’re aiming high, you’ll have to decorate, furnish and maintain the rooms accordingly, from the wallpaper to the plumbing.

It’s also worth making sure your Wi-Fi is fast enough as it’s the often biggest complaint on travel review websites such as Trip Advisor. If you’ve got an old property with thick walls, you may need WI-FI boosters so guests can access the Wi-Fi in the bedrooms.

Try to have a consistent decorative theme throughout the guest areas, and opt for stylish furniture that’s sturdy enough to last. This latter tip even applies to the more budget B&Bs, as cheap items will not survive the heavy use they’ll receive and could cost you more in the long run.

Opening a bed and breakfast from scratch means the business will have no customer base or prior reputation. In some cases, this can be a good thing, but mostly it means you’ll have to put in a lot of work promoting your new business.

Here are a few ways to get your message out there:

  • Get a website and fill it with interesting, useful content (not just obvious sales messages)
  • Hire a professional photographer 
  • Work with a graphic designer to produce a powerful logo and brand
  • Register on hotel directory websites
  • Build a customer database and contact them – sparingly – with news, offers and useful information to encourage them to return
  • Boost sales from word-of-mouth by encouraging customers to review your B&B
  • Be active on social media, giving good local advice and showing off how helpful you are
  • Consider working with discount sites like Groupon and Wowcher
  • Advertise through traditional means like magazines and newspapers, but make sure to monitor their effectiveness (one way to do this is to give out promo codes specific to each ad).

Starting a B&B business in the UK: Rules & requirements

If you intend to build or convert a B&B, first find out if you’ll need planning permission. In fact, even if you haven’t altered your premises significantly, there is a chance you will still need to apply to your local planning authority to change the building’s use. Contact them before undertaking any work.

If you provide accommodation for paying guests in England or Wales, even for a small B&B, you need to comply with the fire safety laws laid down in this government document. In summary, this involves:

  1. carrying out a fire safety assessment
  2. taking actions if necessary after completing the assessment
  3. keeping fire safety under regular review.

A gas safety check must be undertaken by a licensed professional every year.

As you’ll be serving food, you’ll also need to register with your local Environmental Health Officer, who will arrange a time to visit your property for an inspection.

Other legal issues depend on your business plans, but could include having to obtain:

  • a different kind of television licence (for “hotels, hostels, mobile units and campsites”)
  • a licence to sell alcohol
  • a DVD concierge licence.

If you are employing any staff, you’ll need to have employers’ liability insurance and display your certificate publicly.

If in any doubt about the licences, permissions and regulations that pertain to your bed and breakfast, it’s always best to get in touch with the relevant authorities to check.

Writing a B&B business plan

You might decide to put together a B&B business plan for the purpose of a credit application or to help you decide on your strategy and tactics. It can also with creating some benchmarks to measure your business performance and generally help you work out if you really do have the basis for successful business.

Bed and breakfast business plan templates aren’t difficult to find online, but try to avoid the temptation to focus on style and format over substance. What matters are the facts and forecasts, and the evidence behind both of them.

If you’re submitting a bed and breakfast business plan as part of a credit application, make sure to include plenty about yourself. Avoid waffle, but emphasise your skills, experience and achievements in as concrete a way as possible. Finally, have a trusted person proof-read it before sending it off.

To sum up, running a B&B is far from a leisurely part-time role. Even if you have just a couple of rooms, you’ll have to be up early and making sure the place is shipshape every day, while remaining welcoming and eager to please your paying guests. On the other hand, you can build a business that makes you proud, as you delight in making overnight stays and holidays extra-special for your visitors.

As you rush to get your new bed and breakfast ready to receive its first guests, don’t forget that accidents can happen. Help to secure the future of your B&B with Bed and Breakfast Insurance from Direct Line for Business.

Small Business Insurance

Last Updated: 18 Jul 2016