How to save and make more money at your B&BSep 07, 2022
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With increases in the cost of living; energy bills, fuel, food and supplier costs increasing, many bed and breakfast owners are bracing themselves for potentially difficult winter.
Whilst we have little control over rising costs, now is the time to be thinking about taking positive action to help your business through this period.
At our latest B&B community meeting, we talked through ideas, both for saving money by reducing costs and also ideas for generating more income.
This blog post includes some of those ideas. I hope you find it useful and are able to implement some of them in your own business.
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How to reduce costs at your bed and breakfast
Turn off appliances when not in use
If you have room fridges or televisions, turn these off at the wall socket on the nights that you don’t have guests staying.
Invest in more energy efficient appliances
Old fridges, freezers, tumble dryers etc can use an awful lot of electricity compared to the latest models. It may be worth investigating how much you could save by replacing them with more energy efficient appliances
Install heated towel rails with timers
We installed heated towel rails with a timer when we redid our bathrooms. Towels dry quickly, even in the summer, meaning they are less likely to be chucked on the floor to be washed after each use.
Invest in individual radiator thermostats
Buy individual thermostats for room radiators that you can control from your phone to ensure that you’re only heating the rooms you need to >> Check out these individual radiator thermostats
Buy an Air Fryer!
Air fryers cook food more quickly and use about 50% less energy than a standard electric oven and grill. They don’t need the long preheating time that electric grills do.
I can cook a full English for 2 people in one ( except the eggs ) in about 10-12 minutes.
You could get one that is just an air fryer like this one made by Tower ( which is the model I just bought for my Dad to safely cook his weekly sausages in! )
But I love my Ninja 9 in 1. I use the pressure cooker function a lot to cook stews, curries etc in the autumn and winter. It’s a significant money and time saver if you’re a fan of slow cooked food!
You might consider buying 2 air fryers, one purely for vegetarian food and the other for meat dishes.
Reduce food waste
As the cost of food increases, it’s more important than ever to reduce food waste. I’ve written a separate blog post with a load of ideas for achieving this and saving a lot of money in the process >> How to reduce food waste at your B&B
Bake your own bread and cakes
Whilst this takes a bit more time, baking your own bread, cakes and biscuits can be much cheaper than buying them in.
OK, I admit I'm the gadget queen and I do have a cupboard dedicated to those gadgets that I've bought and used twice. But 2 gadgets that are in continual use, and have paid for themselves many times over, are my my air fryer and and my bread machine.
I love my Panasonic bread machine as it makes it so easy to bake your own bread. I have a method for baking 3 loaves at a time, which is a huge time and cost saving
Find out more about the Panasonic bread machine here.
And here’s my method for making 3 loaves >> How to have freshly baked bread every morning
Here are all my recipes including my freezable lemon drizzle >> Bed and Breakfast Academy recipes
Review your working practices
Can you drop the room refresh?
It’s always worth reviewing the way you’re running your business on a regular basis, both to identify what you can do differently to reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction.
In this blog post, Should you offer a room refresh at your bed and breakfast when guests are staying, I talked through the different options for refreshing rooms.
Members in our B&B community that adopted some of these approaches have found that most guests are happy with fewer ( or no ) room refreshes.
This means they are saving energy costs in reduced use of vacuum cleaners and laundry costs.
Pre-order breakfast menus?
A lot of our members adopted the pre order breakfast menu following the Covid-19 lockdowns, and saw a big reduction in food waste. See the blog post above for more info.
Introduce a minimum night stay
A lot of B&B owners moved to a minimum night stay, not accepting one night stays, after the lockdowns, and haven’t looked back.
It obviously depends on the reason why most of your guests are staying with you, but one night stays come with a higher cost for the B&B owner.
I stopped them at my B&B years ago ,and when I occasionally caved and accepted a one night stay, I regretted it. Without exception they would want to arrive early, leave late and use EVERYTHING in the room! And that increased the cost to me.
If you don't want to introduce a minimum one night stay, or it's difficult to do so because of your market, then consider increasing the cost of a one night stay instead.
Put a warmer duvet on
In this blog post , Is it time to put on a summer duvet yet? I talked through the different types of duvets available. Maybe it’s time to get that winter duvet on to prevent guests turning the heating up to max!
Are there other things you can do in your B&B rooms to make them warmer?
- Check for drafts around windows and doors. Replace window seals if necessary and maybe invest in one of those old style sausage dog draught excluders by the door!
- Ensure your central heating system is serviced and that all the radiators are working properly
- Provide your guests with hot water bottles
- Put up thermal curtains and / or blinds on the windows,
- Invest in some thick rugs that will insulate the floor
Put more time into marketing your own B&B
The Online Travel Agencies can be hugely beneficial in helping you attract more bookings, but with a bit of effort you can get attract more guests booking with you directly, which is going to save you 15% or more!
And if you don’t want to stop using the OTAs altogether, you could consider using them just for last minute bookings.
Check out this post on 10 ways to attract more guests to book directly with you.
How to generate more income at your bed and breakfast
Put your prices up
There’s been a lot of discussion about putting room prices up in the New year, but there is no reason why you can’t put your prices up at any time of year. Most big hotels vary the prices daily!
Note that once your guests have booked with you, then you should honour the price they booked at.
Some people are concerned that by putting prices up, there is a risk that guests won’t book. But there’s nothing stopping you from reducing prices nearer to the time if the room hasn’t sold.
You could always offer discounts to repeat guests if you were worried about them being put off by higher prices. But bear in mind that repeat guests are unlikely to be returning to you because of how much you charge, but rather the experience they get at your B&B.
Interestingly, several B&B owners in our group have commented that the higher their prices, the less people they have complaining about value for money.
And this was always my experience, the less people paid for the room, the more likely they were to complain. In fact I closed out my cheapest room after one summer. It was priced at £75 a night, whilst my other rooms were £110 per night. The cheaper room had only 20% occupancy for the summer with difficult customers, whilst the more expensive had been fully booked.
Increase the value of your offering
If you are worried about increasing the cost of your rooms, then you could look at ways to increase the value at the same time.
Value for money is not the same as price!
One of my repeat guests once left a review saying "this is the most expensive B&B in the area, but it's worth every penny"
For example, You could put a platter together and include it in the room cost. The cost of the platter is less than the increase in room cost, but to your guests it could be represent a lot of value.
You provide a platter, somewhere to eat, glasses, corkscrew and wine ( if you're licensed or they can bring their own if you're not)
They can eat in their room, or your dining room, with a nice bottle of wine. The value to them is that they don't have to venture out again after a long day, they don't have to pay for a meal out or worry about a designated driver not being able to drink.
Tell them about the added value
It's important that when you're marketing your B&B that you're communicating the added value to your customers. If you include a cream tea, a homemade cake in the room, a platter, make sure that's included on your website, social media, newsletters etc. That way when they're comparing you to other B&Bs in the area it's immediately obvious that you offer more value for money even if you're more expensive.
And value doesn't have to be about material things like cake. The value to the customer could be:
- sea view
- country view
- proximity to pub
- peace and quiet
- early check in
- late check out
- free newspaper
- restaurant booking service
- lots of advice on what to do locally
- catering to specific diets
- welcoming dogs
- welcoming walkers
- welcoming families
Sell your cakes!
A lot of people want to take something away as a souvenir from their holidays.
You can make that very easy for them by setting up a little shop in a place that guests will see it, such as reception or near the door in the dining room.
Here are some ideas for things that you could sell:
- Local beers and wines ( provided you have the correct licence )
- Local Postcards
- Local Calendars
- Local art
- Local jewellery
- Local crafts
- Fridge magnets
- your own knitting or crochet - guests were always asking to buy our tea cosies!
- Gift baskets of some of the above
If you are selling pre packaged food that you make yourself, you do need to ensure you are complying with the Prepacked for direct sales legislation. Find out more here >> https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/introduction-to-allergen-labelling-changes-ppds
Set up an honesty bar
Some of our B&B members do well from having an honesty bar and selling alcohol to guests.
In the UK, you do need to be licensed and meet certain criteria, but once you’ve done this, you can generally sell alcohol at 2-3 times the price you pay for it wholesale.
Find out more about getting licensed here >> Do you need a licence to sell alcohol at your B&B
Offer Packed Lunches and Evening Meals
I’m not a huge fan of providing meals at a B&B. I did it for a few years and it was an enormous amount of effort for not much return.But it could be an option if you wanted to make a bit of extra income.
I did offer platters to guests, which I left in the room fridges ready for guest arrival. This generated a bit of extra income for me.
Thank you to all of the members of our B&B community that have contributed their own ideas
I hope you found them useful. If you have any other suggestions let me know.
Remember that all of these increased costs are usually tax deductible, so talk to your accountant to make sure you're claiming for everything you're are allowed to.
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