Having a clear picture of what you want from owning a bed and breakfast will help you determine if the trade-offs still make it worthwhile
If you are like most people, there are three stages that you go through
when trying to determine if owning a bed and breakfast is right for you. You may not recognize them all, because you didn’t get “stuck” resolving the questions at a certain stage.
These stages seem to apply to everyone - whether they are using their current home, looking for a new property or considering buying an existing B&B.
Here are the three stages, and the questions you need to answer to know if owning a B&B will bring you the income and fulfillment you are looking for: Stage 1: Find out if you can have the life you want as B&B owner
Get really clear on what that life would look like and then determine if you have what it takes to be a success B&B owner under these circumstances:
- Do you have the type of personality to handle guest demands?
- Will the amount of work required still allow you enough time to do the things you want?
- Are you prepared to run your own business?
- Do you have the personal support you require to help you deal with this lifestyle?
I think the key to this step is understanding how much work it is going to be running a bed and breakfast. The best way I can explain it is to think about the amount of work you put into having a party – all the preparation and clean up required – and then think about doing that each and every day during peak season.
A lot of people don’t realize it, but the work doesn’t stop there – you also need to spend time working ON your business – planning, budgeting, marketing and learning new things
– whether it’s technology, food and decorating trends, marketing concepts, etc.
Once you understand the amount of work you are dealing with, you will have to decide if all this work is worth the income you will be generating, and whether you will still have time to do the personal things you want to. Here’s my trade-off
My B&B is located in a seasonal tourist town that attracts the majority of people between June and October. My goal for my bed and breakfast is to generate enough revenue to live off of and have some more time to do the things I want to do. My trade-off is that I am tied to my B&B for five months of the year to generate that income, but then I have seven months to do what I want. Since the kinds of things I want to do aren’t seasonal (I’d be in trouble if I was a golfer!) it really works for me! Stage 2 – Do the research to make sure it will work
Once you are clear on the type of life you want, that will go a long way to helping you determine an appropriate location. However, you then need to make sure that this location will provide you the types of guests you want?
The most successful bed and breakfast owners are the ones who are smart enough to identify the kinds of people they want as guests – this is called target or niche audiences
. The neat thing is that these people are generally people who are very similar to you!
They have the same interests and are seeking the same things from your location that you are! When you have guests like this, you are comfortable and instinctively have a good feel for what they are looking for and can create a good connection with them.
This type of situation will go a long way towards helping you achieve the personal fulfillment
you were seeking by owning a bed and breakfast.
Once you have identified who these people are:
- Are there enough of your target group coming to the area that more accommodation is needed?
- Can you set up a bed and breakfast in that area?
- Do you have the financial resources to set up your bed and breakfast here?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you know you have to keep looking! (It took me two years to find the right property for my B&B) Here’s my trade-off:
I had chosen Owen Sound as my ideal location. All my market research showed that the kinds of people I wanted as guests came to the area, and while it was a seasonal area, it still had a number of things to draw people in year-round. However, there was no way I could afford the type of property I wanted. Therefore, I chose to keep looking and found the perfect property in Parry Sound. The trade-offs? Parry Sound is about one-third the size of Owen Sound; it truly is seasonal and doesn’t have all the social and cultural activities I was personally hoping for. BUT, I was able to afford the type of house in the location I wanted and can still meet my income goals.
Stage 3 - Create the road map for your business
If you need to generate a specific amount of money from your bed and breakfast, then having a business plan is critical.
A business plan will help you to answer the following questions:
- How much money will I need to set my bed and breakfast up?
- How will I get people to stay at my bed and breakfast?
- When and how much money can I expect on a monthly/yearly basis for the first three years?
This is the document that utilizes all the research you did in Stage 2
to make you feel comfortable with the numbers you are creating.
A business plan is critical if you need financing. When creating your plan in these circumstances, it is as important how you position the information you provide as is the actual information. There are key factors that lenders are looking for – strong, quantifiable research based on reality, not what you think and why and how your business can achieve the financial goals you are projecting. The trade-offs of not having a business plan?
If your projection the amount of money you planned to generate from the bed and breakfast is off, you won’t know why. In my case, I surpassed my first year’s revenue projections and was able to make as much revenue as the other well-known B&Bs in the area – without having an established reputation. This meant that I knew I had a pretty good chance of being successful in the long-term., so I went ahead and made the next major investment in the property – replacing all the windows in the house.
If you need help with some of the stages and questions you need to be asking yourself, I rRecommend you listen to the free recording “3 questions everyone who wants to own a B&B asks – or should”
(Button on home page of web site)
If you are ready to move forward and want my guidance to help you with your current stage, please check out the courses I offer.
Establishing how you will handle family and friends’ visits during busy times at your bed and breakfast will help prevent hard feelings and embarrassment
Believe it or not, this piece of advice had nothing to do with the day-to-day operations or how to get people to stay at my bed and breakfast. It was about my family and friends!
When I found what I thought was the perfect property in the perfect location, I wanted to validate all the research to make sure I was right. So I decided to stay at local bed and breakfasts’ and talk to the owners about my plans and ideas and get their feedback. (This is just one of the many tips I recommend in Step 2: Is this the right place for my B&B?)
That was the smartest thing I ever did, although not for the reasons I thought it would be. The owner listened very carefully to my plans, my motivations and then said to me “the most important thing you need to decide is how you are going to handle family and friends that will want to come and stay with you.”
Here are some of the things you need to think about:
- Will you be comfortable having family and friends as “guests” when there is the potential for other guests to be present at the same time?
- Will you treat them exactly the same as any other guest?
- Do you expect them to help with the work around the B&B?
- Will you be charging them to stay with you?
- If you are going to charge them, how much? The same as everyone else? Less?
- Will they expect you to spend time with them that you wouldn’t spend with other guests?
- Can you afford the time and money to have them stay with you during busy times?
Here’s why you need to think about these things:
- Having friends and family as guests when you have other guests can lead to some problems. They have a certain “familiarity” with you, and more than likely expect to access areas of the house – like the kitchen and your private quarters - where you don’t want other guests to go. How are you going to make that distinction to “regular” guests?
- Are family and friends expecting the same “perks” as the other guests, whether they pay or not?
- If family and friends join the other guests, sometimes the discussions with you can get personal or touch on topics you would never choose to discuss with your regular guests – which can make everyone feel uncomfortable!
- If you, like me are located in a seasonal tourism destination, it means you will have a limited time to make most of your money – can you afford to pass up the opportunity to make money if you don’t charge family and friends?
- If you am going to charge them (and let me tell you – that is a very awkward discussion to have!) what rates – the same as everyone else? At a discount? Not at all?
- A lot of family and friends want to help out, but in my experience don’t realize that the way you do things may not either “be the way you were brought up” (from my mother) to “I didn’t know you’re such a perfectionist”! (from a friend). How can you dissuade them not to help? – or to do it your way?
- Can you be very clear about your boundaries and how much time you can actually spend with them while they are staying? Don’t forget you will have to be around for check-in times, to answer guest questions, help guests with their plans, etc., which may mean you won’t be able to get away for dinner, etc? If there is the expectation that you are going to provide them with dinner, where are you going to eat? How will you handle the other guests?
- Will they understand that you can’t stay up all night visiting with them? You will more than likely be tired and your day starts early preparing for breakfast
My solution to having family and friends visit during my busy time is to book them to stay somewhere else,
and set specific times to get together to visit. This works best for me as it means I don’t have to worry about giving them preferential treatment, I can get my work done as required and still enjoy spending some time with them.
Every situation is different. But by thinking how you will deal with visits from family and friends and letting everyone know ahead of time what to expect can save everyone a lot of headaches – and may be even heartache! photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhoto.net
Running a b&b with small children requires you to first determine whether your guests would want to stay in a B&B that has small children living there
A number of people have asked me “Can you run a B&B with small children at home?”. In my personal situation, I wanted to find the right location which would have required another move for my family. Since my children were in their late teens and almost finished their schooling, I decided to wait a couple of years before proceeding.
(Our family joke is that not only did I sell the house and move town, but I rented out the beds so my kids couldn't keep returning home!)
Even if I did have personal experience with this, as The B&B Coach, I don’t feel I can answer that type of questions for you…a good coach will help you to figure out the answer that is right for you, in your particular situation.
So, here are 10 questions to help you figure out if you can run a b&B with small children at home. 1.
What will draw people to your area that will require them to book accommodation?2. Are those people going to want to stay in a B&B that has small children living there?
How will you balance the demands
of your children with those of guests? (Think schedules, illness, transportation to/from school, after-school activities and check-in times, etc.)
4. How does your child react to strangers?
And if they are a little older, how will they feel about sharing their home with strangers?
5. What happens if guests are late checking in and you made a prior commitment regarding your child?
6. How will you handle disagreements/discipline
in front of strangers?
7. Will you accept other families as guests?
If so, what impact will that have on your children ? What will the expectations be that they share their toys, furniture, etc.?
8. How will you screen guests to ensure your children are kept safe?
9. Is your house set up so that you can have separate spaces for family apart from guests?
10. How does your partner feel
about this? What role will/can they play?
Having a paying guest in your home is very different from having family and friends staying over. So, can you
run a bed and breakfast with small children at home?There are successful families that run bed and breakfasts and if this is a route you are considering taking, I would strongly recommend you speak to a few of them to understand how they balance the demands of family and business. To find people with real life experiences, I
recommend you get onto one of the major directories (e.g. BBCanada.com or Bed and Breakfast.com) and search through the listings until you find a B&B owner who has small children.
For more help in determining whether owning a b and b is right for you, check out The B&B Coach’s Pros and Cons of Owning and Bed and Breakfast
to get guidance on determining the impact owning and operating a b&b will have on your personal life, how much work it will be and whether you really want to run your own business.
The final touches have put on your bed and breakfast
; your web site, brochures and business cards are hot off the press! So now what? It’s time to get the word out locally that your bed and breakfast business is open and ready to go. Networking is great for raising awareness
. Owning a b and b
is a people business, and you need to market yourself, as well as your bed and breakfast
. You never know who may send guests your way; so now is your opportunity to get out and make a memorable impression!
Here are some of my suggestions for networking at the local level:
- Take full advantage of memberships in local organizations such as Chamber of Commerce and tourist associations.
- Invite key people for breakfast and a tour of your B&B.
- Attend local networking events. (WoW – it is more important to get someone’s business card than to give them yours. It provides you with an excuse to follow up at a later date and have a more detailed discussion about how you might be able to help one another. (Follow this link for a great how-to network article.)
- Get involved in local events and activities – especially those that occur on an annual basis and bring in out-of-town people. You can volunteer, discount room rates for attendees, donate a one-night stay as a fundraiser, consider advertising in pre-event literature, or ask event organizers how they would recommend reaching potential guests.
- Reach out to front line staff at local attractions and businesses with cookies/muffins or other goodies so they remember you.
- When handing out your promotional materials, don’t provide large quantities to any one place. Rather, stay top of mind by stopping by on a regular basis to check whether they need more.
- At the end of high season, recognize those businesses who make referrals to you by sending them handwritten thank you notes.
Even though your bed and breakfast business
may rely on people who are coming from out-of-town to stay, local networking is essential to let people know you are open for guests!
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Bed and breakfast owners need to be able to answer the first question potential guests ask - how far are you from ____? from a guest’s perspective.
As a new bed and breakfast owner, you might as well be prepared! The number one question potential guests generally ask has nothing to do with the rooms and amenities at your B&B, but rather..."How far are you located from _________________? ".
Location is tends to the main reason a potential guest chooses a certain B&B. Even with Google Street Maps and location pages on your web site,
people like to clarify your position in relation to whatever happens to be bringing them to the area.
Be prepared to discuss your B&B's position in regards to:
- Distance from other cities and tourist sites - for instance, I get asked by a lot of people how far Parry Sound is from Niagara Falls, Ottawa and Toronto. I have learned to point out to people is that in Canada, we tend to talk about the time it takes to drive from one place to the other, and not the number of kilometers, as speed limits and road conditions vary depending on your route. I also warn guests about peak traffic times they might want to avoid, if at all possible, to make their trip less stressful.
- Distance from major transportation routes, such as highways, airports, bus and train stations. Think about how your guests might be arriving at your location and be prepared to provide them with travel options and routes.
- Public transportation such as bus, subways/metros and taxis. This works both for when people originally arriving to check-in, as well as during their stay.
- Local attractions - whether they are something specific to your area, such as sight-seeing, or something more generic, such as golf courses or movie theatres.
- Key venues for entertainment - beyond movie and performing arts theatres, think about wedding venues, banquet halls and other places that can accommodate large groups of people.
- Shopping and restaurants - even if guests are just stopping over on their journey, they will need to get out and stretch their legs. Shopping might include the need for additional supplies for the road, gifts for people at home or just a pleasant diversion. I have found that guests like restaurants nearby so that they don't have to worry about drinking and driving, as well as avoiding having to get back into the car for any reason!
Here is my WoW – I make sure that guests can find my bed and breakfast three ways
– I have a paragraph in my confirmation letter
providing directions to the B&B; I send a map
that shows not only the B&B but includes the local attractions and venues, and I provide a link to my web site where they can get specific driving directions
. (Check out the links above to see my examples). How can you incorporate this type of information into your reservations process?
Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Rick Newman, Founder of Commercial Capital Network (CCN) and InnFinancing.com
. Rick works with American bed and breakfast/inn owners and aspiring owners seeking information on sourcing funding for the purchase or refinancing of a hospitality property.
Most of Rick’s clients are seeking properties with 5 or more bedrooms or properties whose expenses equal approximately 40% or less of the gross income
Rick offers three key services – pre-qualification of potential purchasers, recommendations for alternative sources of funding (i.e. using your 401K), verifying inn financials and providing financing to qualified borrowers on viable businesses.Pre-qualifying potential purchasers for loans
A pre- qualification is not a pre- approval for a loan, as the pre- approval phase requires both the buyer’s qualifications and the information from the property in order to be able to assess the risk or merits of any loan application.
The pre-qualification takes into consideration the following factors:
* Types of financial options available
at that time (i.e. since 2007 it is generally only Small Business Administration (SBA) loans available)
* The buyer’s financial status
(including resumes for both principles and borrowers; financial statements, credit reports and proof of identity
* The state of the current market
(such property values, consumer spending, etc.) and
* Available loan programs.
Rick recommends that potential borrowers’ have 30% of the project costs
, i.e. down payment, closing costs and reserves, available in cash and/or accessible retirement funds. Twenty percent of the money would be used for the down payment, while the remaining 10% would be used for closing costs and to provide a “cushion”.
The other issue that potential borrowers run into is that they are (generally) unable to include their partner’s income to help debt services (pay) for a commercial loan
, making it very difficult to be able to cover the expenses of an inn, the mortgage and still have money left to draw a salary. Without paying a reasonable salary, most lenders would perceive that type of B&B/inn as a lifestyle inn and too risky.
CCN offers a similar service to hospitality properties that need to be re-financed.Suggestions for alternative sources of funding
Many people have monies tied up in retirement plans, call 401K in the US. Just like in Canada, should you decide to borrow from these funds, you are required to make repayments. If you make a withdrawal, there are taxes to be paid and penalties assessed.
However, CCN has developed a strategy by which owners of the 401K form a new corporation which will own the business assets of the B&B/inn. Then the funds from the 401K are used to purchase the stock of that corporation (to a maximum of 95%).
This essentially provides potential purchasers with access to funds which will provide a larger down payment for a property.
I would recommend that you read some of the FAQ’s on InnFinancing’s web site about this topic
and do additional research prior to considering this action.Verifying Inn Financials
The final step to move from pre-qualification to pre-approval for a loan requires a review of the financial statements and other related materials from the seller in order to determine if there will be enough money to cover what is known as debt service coverage ratio (DSCR). When a commercial real estate loan is approved, it is done so on the assumption that the repayment will come from the income created by the property and not from somewhere else (such as a partner’s income). Documents required to verify a bed and breakfast/inn’s financial status include:
* 3 years of business income tax returns
* A year-to-date Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss Statement
* For comparison purposes, the previous years Balance and P&L Statement for the same period of time
* A detailed list of capital improvements for the last five years
* Photos or web address of the property.
These documents are used to determine if the Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) will meet general underwriting guidelines. The figures need to show that after items such as depreciation, officer’s salaries and mortgage interest, are added back into the net profit and loss figures, there are adequate funds left over to comfortably cover the mortgage.
Rick will also provide these services to inns and bed and breakfasts that are thinking of selling, and see this as an advantage to offer potential buyers.
There is a small fee to start this process; however Rick Newman is certainly the man to speak with if you are looking for a commercial property loan to purchase your bed and breakfast in the United States.
The other day I got the following question via e-mail:We are developing our new brochure and just wanted to know what your personal feelings were about not including pictures of all our bedrooms in the brochure. Instead we would suggest for further information/photos to go to our website. What are your thoughts on this?
I’m sorry to say that B&B owner was more than likely a little frustrated with my response; because it wasn’t a response – it was a series of questions that need to be answered prior to designing any piece of marketing material – especially an expensive print item like a brochure or rack card.Let’s first define the difference between these items:
- A rack card is a two-sided document
- A brochure is larger and is typically created to be folded
Besides a rack card or brochure, carefully consider if a post card
or well-designed two sided business card might also work.
One of my favourite sayings is “Form follows function”
. Therefore, you need to start at the very beginning and ask yourself:1. What is the purpose of this material?
My primary purpose for having a piece of print material is to generate walk-in traffic
for when I have vacancies. Other ways you might use print material like this is to:
- accompany gift certificates in the mail
- attach to a guest receipt as a reminder of your B&B
- hand out when someone comes to the door and make inquiries about your bed and breakfast
2. Where will it be used?
- promote your property in other venues
My print materials will be distributed locally to attractions, restaurants and shops
where visitors to the area typically go. Since this is the case, I need to size my material to fit into the most common type of brochure holder that is being used locally. 3. Who is your target audience?
My primary audience is visitors to the area that don’t have or are uncomfortable using mobile technology
. My secondary audience is the people who work as the various venues, so that I stay top of mind and can be easy to make a referral too.
4 What action do you want people to take once they have seen this piece?
- The ideal action is to have people come to the B&B so I can show them the rooms before I have to give a price.
- Secondary is having a referral source call me to see if I have a vacancy and then have them send the person over
- Third is a phone call from the potential guest so that I have an opportunity to sell the value of my B&B prior to stating the rate
5. How will you measure its effectiveness?
- I ask people who walk-in how they found me – if they mention my print material I make note of it (you can also check the garbage pail in the room - you will often find your piece – as well as several of your competitors in there!)
- I keep track of the phone calls and whether it was a potential guest or someone working at a local business
- I also keep track of how many brochures I place where and when – it provides me with some idea of the volume of traffic that location gets and what types of information people are seeking when they go there. (In the beginning, I used to put a sticker on each brochure with a number signifying a specific placement location; over the years I don’t need to do that anymore because I have a good feel for where my business comes from.)
Now that I have a much better idea of whom and how it is going to be used, I have a much better idea of what information I need to include.
I start with three valuable pieces of information that I know resonate with my guests:
- My USP (unique selling point) – waterfront location near the attractions, restaurants and shopping
- What my target audience wants and is willing to pay for – en-suite baths, air-conditioning and WiFi
- How to contact me – name address phone number(s) web site
This provides me with some key ideas about what the content has to be
– i .e. ways to convey my location, that I have en-suite baths, air-conditioning and WiFI. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, what professional, print-quality photos do I have that I should use?
- I have a shot from the harbour showing the B&B, plus I have several interior shots that show the waterfront from the window of those rooms.
- Getting photographs of bathrooms is very difficult – however a specific vignette of a feature of a bathroom will work
- I don’t have pictures that portray the air-conditioning and WiFi, so that will be included in the text
- Food is always good to include – however, remember not everyone likes really “fancy” food – especially for breakfast, so I need to choose the picture carefully
Now is the point where I start considering the information that I want them to know:
- There is no smoking; I don’t take pets or children under the age of 11
- I am very proud of my Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor – most people don’t really understand what it means, but it adds validity to my claims of a great place to stay
- I want them to know we pay as much attention to the breakfast and that we can accommodate special diets
Any good piece of marketing materials provides more than one method of getting your message across
, so I know that the most important selling points of my property need to be included in as many different ways as possible so they can’t be overlooked.
- My “tag-line” will include that I am located on the waterfront
- Pictures chosen will provide “proof” of the waterfront location, a sample of a bedroom and bathroom feature, and something perceived by the majority of people as a “breakfast dish”
- Text will include references to the location, en-suite baths and breakfast
- Icons will deal with the Trip Advisor reference and the no smoking, kids or pets
- Because of my central location and the size of Parry Sound, I have excluded a map.
Since the inception of the internet, the value of print material has diminished greatly. I know that very few people that pick up my print materials actually keep it
; therefore I want to provide a quality piece of material, but at a limited price. With carefully considering my content, I know I can convey my message using the smallest option available – a rack card.
There is no right or wrong way to run a bed and breakfast. You have to do what is right for you, other guests, and your business. One of the hardest things I find difficult to explain to guests is my need to be firm about my cancellation policies, as this is how I make my living.
Here’s an example of a situation I ran into a couple of years ago:
A couple from another country made a reservation for a week’s stay in peak season. It is highly unusual for people to stay that long – there is enough to keep people busy and interested for three days in the area, but most only plan on a one or two night stay. I enquired as to the purpose of their visit (WoW - I always find it useful to know guests’ motivations as it helps me to make sure they have the appropriate information during their stay – and provides me with an opportunity to up-sell at the same time) and was advised that they were coming to go kayaking. As our area is well-known for kayaking and I have had many guests come for that reason, I didn’t think much more about it.
Upon arrival at the bed and breakfast, the gentleman was quite rude and demanding. However, after running a b and b for several years, I had experienced this before - some people are uncomfortable in new situations, it was possible he was tired or not feeling well - so I wasn’t too worried.
Once my guests have had a chance to get organized and are ready to go out, I have a book of local attractions as well as a binder with menus from local eateries that I show them, and provide information based on their interests and preferences. I managed to catch this couple heading out and offered the information, but it was declined. I showed them where the information was kept, and let them know that at any time they could look at the materials at their convenience.
On the third morning at breakfast while other guests talked about their experiences and activities, this gentleman started to complain – he had had no idea that the area was so limited in activities, the one restaurant they had been able to find wasn’t very good…etc. Guests enthusiastically provided their recommendations based on their experiences and knowledge of the area, and everyone headed off for the day.
Later that day, the gentleman came to me and advised that they would be checking out a day early as there was nothing else they wanted to do. We have a policy of 48 hours notice for cancellations, or we charge the full price of the room, and that applies even if you’ve checked in. There are two times I make exceptions – if we are able to re-sell the room, or if I haven’t had to turn potential guests away. However, I had turned down numerous requests for a room for the next day, so I was quite comfortable with my decision. He was very irate and pointed out that you can check out of a hotel at any time…but I stuck to my guns and offered to try to re-sell the room if anyone called. Check out this thread on Fodor’s about how hotel cancellation policies can vary widely.
If you were running a b and b, what would you do? I made a guest who wasn’t happy even less pleased; I offered him a solution he wasn’t happy with, and I stuck to my policy. (PS I wasn’t able to re-sell the room and he stayed as he wasn’t willing to lose the money.)
For more real-life situations on running a b and b, and how it could work for you, sign up for the Recipes for Success Newsletter. There is a wide variety of information that can help you deicde f this is the right move for you personally, financially and how the reality of owning and running a bed and breakfast compares with your vision.
Owning a bed and breakfast isn't always fun and games - in fact, sometimes it is just down-right disgusting!
There - I said it! And, although they may not admit it, there isn't a bed and breakfast owner out there that would disagree with me!
A while ago there was a on-line forum discussion on pet peeves of b and b owners, and it was interesting to see how similar everyone's gripes were about their guests. Most complaints fell into one of two categories: cleaning up after guests and dealing with inconsiderate guests.
Under the disgustingly dirty category, common examples were:bed and breakfast owner
Hair - hair in the sinks, drains, tubs and showers; on the floors, in the bedding and everywhere else imagineable!
Garbage - believe it or not, not everyone will bother putting their garbage in a waste basket - dirty tissues and leftover food and drink are a prime example! Some guests will put recycling and regular garbage in the same container; panty liners and other sanitary products are just pitched in; I have even found needles and broken glass.
Toilets/bidets - clogged, not flushed, or used inappropriately (not all cultures are use to the fixtures seen in most North American/European bathrooms)
Bad smells - such as very dirty sports clothes, cigarette smoke (on clothes or from people who disregard no smoking signs, or smoke directly outside of the room right by the open window/door); heavy perfumes such as patchouli or musk and personal care products that use aerosol sprays. (These smells permeate the soft furnishings of a room and if not dealt with immediately can be very difficult to remove.)
Dirty shoes & luggage - very few people take their shoes off; most luggage is dragged along the ground and then placed on the bed, sofa or dresser tops - even when there are luggage racks available
Spills & wet towels - left on bedding, rugs, furniture, towels and tablecloths
Make-up and hair dyes - on pillowcases, facecloths, towels, and sheets
Under the incredibly inconsiderate area, common complaints are:
People who call late in the night to make a reservation or want a room
People who spend (what seems like) hours on the phone asking for details and then don't book, rather than reading your web site
People who argue with you about your price, or expect a discount because they are a senior, belong to AAA, they are on a fixed income, etc
Guests who ask for a special check-in time and then don't show up or call until much later...or show up even earlier!
Guests who arrive early and if you won't let them check in, still expect to be able to use a bathroom
People who want breakfast at a special time and then decide to sleep in
Guests who insist they need special foods (whether they have booked in advance or walked in off the street) and then decide they want what everyone else is having
Guests who bring other people into the bed and breakfast - i.e. booked a room for two and want four people to share the room
Guests who wake you up in the middle of the night because they want a cup of tea, need a bandaid or forgot to ask you for something earlier in the day
Guests who want to pay cash so they can avoid the taxes at check-out
People who go back to bed/out for a walk and are late checking out
So - are bed and breakfast guests really that bad?
It depends on your attitude, and how tired you are at the time; and how prepared you are to deal with the situation.
As for the cleaning issues, if you've had kids, here's a good analogy: think about when your child was a baby and had a REALLY messy diaper. It was pretty bad to clean up, but hey, that's what you did as a parent. Now - think about a time when you had to change someone else's kid with a diaper like that. You more than likely handled your own kid's diaper with a lot less trepidation, gagging and disugst than you did when it was someone else's kid!
When you apply that analogy to cleaning up after a bed and breakfast guest, it gives you a better understanding of why it can get so disgusting - especially when you do it day in and day out (90% of my guests stay 2 nights or less).
As for people being so self-centred, consider the fact that many people don't understand, or confuse the concept of a bed and breakfast being your home with that of a hotel with a 24-hour reception desk. In addition, they have no concept of all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make their stay so enjoyable, so how can you expect them to know how their actions are going to impact on you?
So, what scares you the most about owning a bed and breakfast? I would love to know what keeps you up at night worried about making the move to owning a bed and breakfast? Leave a comment or contact me directly to see if I can help you get over that fear!
After wanting to know what the pros and cons of owning a bed and breakfast are, the number 2 question I get asked is: How much money can I make? Can I make enough to live on? How big does the B&B have to be to make a living from it?
The bad news is no one can answer that question for you. The good news is there are ways to calculate some ball park figures.
Here’s the calculation you need to create:
Personal costs + B&B running costs + BB startup/maintenance costs = 1 +
# Guest nights x room rate
This exercise will be much easier for you if you are considering using your current property as the B&B, or purchasing an existing bed and breakfast business. If you are looking to move and start up from scratch, don’t make the common mistake that many people do - they assume that if you are moving to a smaller town, your costs will be lower – quite often it is the opposite! The cost to provide the services is divided by a smaller population and goods cost more because of added transportation costs..
include things like gifts, grooming, vacations, car, life/health insurance, savings plans, groceries, and your portion of the B&B fixedowning a bed and breakfast calculator costs .(If you need some help thinking of all the things to be included, take a look at your credit card statements and cheque books.)
Don’t forget to subtract any income that you will have from these costs – whether it is money from retirement income, full or part time jobs outside the B&B, etc.
B&B running costs are divided into two categories:
Fixed expenses which are costs that don’t change if you have guests staying or not (such as mortgage, taxes, utilities, B&B insurance, advertising etc.) and
variable expenses, costs that will be impacted by the number and prescence of guests (such as food and cleaning expenses). (I use $10.00/guest/night)
You will also need to calculate the amount of floor space that you are using strictly for personal use vs. B&B use as a percentage. If there are some areas that are used jointly (i.e. kitchen and laundry rooms) I recommend you split the floor space evenly between the two. You will then need to apply the percentages to the fixed costs to establish what can be written off potentially as a business cost, versus personal costs.
B&B start-up and maintenance costs
these are all the non-food and cleaning supplies required to run and maintain the bed and breakfast. Wear and tear on everything is much higher in a busy bed and breakfast, so while the first year’s start-up costs might be more, don’t forget to include a generous maintenance budget for future years.
# Guest nights
this does not refer to the number of nights you will be open for business, but rather, how many nights will people actually be staying at your bed and breakfast? (To get some idea, check the dates on availability calendars of local B&Bs, talk to the owners and others involved in the local accommodation sectors.)
I recommend that you always half the number of nights you are projecting for the first two years, as most B&Bs take 3 – 5 years to get well established.
in order to determine what a realistic room rate is, you need to do some research. Look at what competitors (I would suggest you check hotels, motels and other B&Bs) are offering in the way of amenities – i.e. bathrooms, location, other key features and find out which ones are similar to you.
Having narrowed down the field, you can now take a look at what they charge and determine what your potential room rate could be.
Generally, people don’t own a bed and breakfast business to make money. Rather, they enjoy the lifestyle it offers and the write-offs you get on your income tax for the business portion of your expenses, and then hope to make money off the sale of the business when they turn around to sell it.
Can you make a living owning a bed and breakfast? I do. But, you may not want my lifestyle, or you might be at a very different spot in your life. The key thing to keep in mind if you need to make money from a bed and breakfast is that it is a business, and needs to be treated like one. That means you have to invest in the B&B continually, and specifically with ongoing web site updates and advertising and be ready to learn and expand your business skills.
My 3-step "How to turn your passions into a thriving bed and breakfast business" provides a step-by-step method and forms for figuring out how much money you have the potential to generate, as well as how much money you will need to spend for the first three years of business. Check it out!
If you found this information useful, why not check out
Running a bed and breakfast? Need to know how to increase your prices? Part 4
5 pros and cons to owning your own bed and breakfast business