Why Owning a B&B is a 24/7 Job

In discussions with potential bed and breakfast owners over the last week, one of their biggest surprises is when I discuss the fact that owning a b&b means you are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you have guests in your house.

To me, being a B&B owner is all about what my guests want and need during their stay.

So what does that mean?

It requires you to be flexible and be prepared to extend your normal check-in and check-out times.  Some guests may have to hit the road really early to make it to their next destination on time, which means you will be up at the crack of dawn.  And at the other end of the spectrum, another guest may not be able to get away quite as early as they had planned, have car problems or traffic jams that prevent them from arriving at a reasonable hour.  And, since breakfast is part of your name, you need to be able to plan on how you are going to accommodate those very early risers.

It also means you need to be aware of what is happening in the bed and breakfast at all times of the night!  You need to be able to know if people are having problems with toilets, blown fuses, medical emergencies, are being rowdy and disturbing other guests, have gotten lost on the way back to your premises, are too hot/cold, and a whole plethora of other issues and concerns.

Many first time potential guests don’t realize that B&Bs don’t have a 24-hour manned reception desk, with kitchen and cleaning staff  Therefore, when you own a b&b, it is your job to determine what your boundaries are, how you are going to take care of yourself so you can function properly, what the value of a room is to you and educate potential guests about the realities of staying in a bed and breakfast.

How to establish essential boundaries

Here are some words of wisdom that I used to manage my B&B – they won’t work for everybody, but at least it’s a starting point for you to think about what you could do!

  • In my confirmation e-mail, I always told guests to make special arrangements if they were arriving after 9:00 p.m., so that if they got delayed, they would at least call and let me know what time to expect them.  I could then decide if I was just going to stay up, or go to bed and get up when they arrived.  Some owners have keyless locks and will text the code and leave a note welcoming guests and giving them directions to their room.
  • To deal with early breakfasts, if most of the guests are here to participate in an event, then breakfast was served at whatever time works for them.  On special request I would serve as early as 7:00 a.m.  Any earlier than that, I would either provide a slight discount to the room cost, provide a “on-the-go” breakfast, or two gift certificates to a local 24-hour coffee shop.  Some b&b owners will leave out a cold meal the night before, or just say goodbye to their guest in the evening.
  • Most people who stay at B&Bs are very kind and don’t want to disturb – especially in situations when it would be better if they had of!  That is why I always suggest it’s not a good idea to sound proof owner’s quarter from the noise in the rest of the B&B.  (I liken it when I had teenagers at home – I tended to sleep with one ear open to be able to make sure everything was OK!)  Most of the time it is easier to deal with a situation during the middle of the night by intervening in a situation before it gets worse, then waiting until the  morning when everyone is up and around, you are trying to prepare breakfast, and guests are checking out or anxious to get their day started.

For other ideas that might make owning a b&b work for you, check out my suggestions for policies that can help you establish boundaries and manage your business.

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