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What does a B&B owner actually do all day?

running a bed and breakfast starting up a bed and breakfast Apr 27, 2021

This is a bit of a different blog post this week. 

I was asked recently what a typical day involves when you're running a bed and breakfast.

I've had a few people attend my courses over the years who have underestimated the amount of work you need to put in...

One person, wanting to run a 5 rooms B&B on their own with no staff, thought that breakfast would be finished by 8.30, the rooms would be cleaned by 10.30 and they'd be on the golf course by 12:00 and spending the evening in the pub.

Maybe I've been doing wrong all these years, but that's not been my experience of running a B&B.

The reality is that guests check out late, rooms take longer to clean to B&B standard than you think, your cleaning is interrupted by the phone ringing, you run out of sausages and guests don't tell you they're not arriving till 11am, so your pint goes undrunk on the pub bar, as you wait in for them.

I filmed this short video for the online course last year, so I thought I'd share it with you instead of the normal blog post. I have transcribed it below if you prefer to read!

There's lot more detail about what's involved in the Online Course, which you can start straight away --> sign up for the online course today

Running a bed and a breakfast - what does a typical day involve?

One of the things I do on the classroom course is get my trusty flip chart out and go through what a typical day would look like for a B&B owner. 

So I thought I would do that today. 

I've done this example based on a three room B&B, which is what I've had for most of my B&B career, with just one person running it. 

This would be a typical timeline, starting at six in the morning, and going on to nine o'clock in the evening.

How long does breakfast service take?

For me, this is the way it works:

I serve  breakfast between 830 and 10. Most of my guests, or all of my guests actually, are tourists, leisure guests. I don't get any business guests or  people coming here for conferences. 

When guests first arrive at the B&B, I'll tell them what time breakfast is. And I'll ask if that’s okay, ask them if they’d like an earlier breakfast?

I can’t remember the  last time someone had breakfast before 830 -  it just doesn't happen here. 

I do ask people for a time on the breakfast menu because I don't want to be getting all ready for 830 and then they don’t turn up till 10 o'clock. If I'm doing an 830 breakfast I really need to be getting up at 630 which puts me in the kitchen at seven. 

I allow one and a half hours for prepping for breakfast. I serve quite comprehensive breakfasts. It's not just the full English.

I do serve a few buffet items; fruit. Bircher muesli, freshly squeezed orange juice, some sort of baked goods like muffins, something like that. 

And I'll also be preparing the cooked dishes, putting butter into butter dishes and putting the milk into jugs etc. 

And then I do  quite a comprehensive breakfast menu. 

There's the full English obviously,  but then there are vegetarian and vegan alternatives as well. 

I offer breakfast specials such as: eggs benedict, herby mushrooms and granary, bread, buttermilk pancakes, omelettes, French toast. 

So I really do need that hour and a half prep!

I also offer homemade bread, which proves overnight in the fridge. 

You can find the recipe and method in this blog post here --> How to enjoy freshly baked bread in the morning

As soon as I've got up and before I have a shower, I'll come down and put the oven on to heat up. Once I've had my shower, I'll go down and put the bread in to bake, because the bread needs time to cool down enough for me to slice before the guests arrive for breakfast. 

Whilst breakfast is between 8.30 and 10, most people arrive at nine o'clock. But I do have some guests who come a bit earlier. And I have one set of guests who always come at 10 o'clock, which does eat into my day a bit really. 

They're very nice guests, who visit several times a year - nine times in 2019! 

But if they have breakfast at 10, then they quite often don’t leave  the dining room until  11.30.  This is partly my fault, because we do chat quite a lot. But obviously that eats into my day. 

If you want to find out more about serving breakfast at your B&B check out these blogs:

4 Tips to an easier breakfast service

Do you have to serve a cooked breakfast at a B&B

What time do I ask guests to check out and check in?

I ask guests to check out at 10.30.

I really need them to do that in order for me to be able to do all I need to do before the next set of guests check in!

I say no check ins till four. I actually say “Check in between four and seven. Please let me know if you're going to be arriving any later than seven to allow me to plan my day and to ensure that someone is there to greet you”

I used to say “please arrive after four o'clock. And let me know approximately what time you'll be arriving”. 

And no one ever let me know what time they'd be arriving. Then I could have people arriving at 10 or 11 o'clock at night and they wouldn't tell me. 

Since I've said “please arrive between four and seven. And if you're going to be later, let me know, so there's someone here to welcome you.” I think it's happened once in six years that someone hasn't told me they're going to be arriving after seven. 

Nothing concentrates the mind more than thinking you're going to turn up to B&B and there's going to be no one there to meet you!

But what if people can’t arrive before 7?

If people do want to arrive after seven. I don't have a problem with that because of the way my B&B is set up. 

Both of the rooms are outside. and I just leave the key in the door. 

If guests are going to be arriving after seven, I say, “let me know. And please check yourself in”

To be honest, we don't go out that much. But knowing what time guests will arrive does allow me to plan my evening.

What do you do between checkout and check in? 

Once guests have checked out, there is the crucial time period between 1030 and four when I have to do everything. 

One of the problems with running a B&B on your own, is that I can't start doing anything until all of the  guests have checked out. 

So I'm sort of hanging around waiting for them to check out. I can't start cleaning rooms until they're left because I have to be there for checkout. 

In this scenario, there’s just one person doing all the room cleaning. That's where it's a bit easier if there's more than one of you, or you employ someone to clean, because one of you could be finishing off breakfast and checking guests out, while the other goes off to start cleaning rooms.

That’s one of the disadvantages of running a B&B on your own. So you've got to be really tight with Checkout times.

 For more on setting boundaries such as check out and check in times, read this blog post --> Running a B&B |Setting boundaries at your B&B

How long does it take to change over a room?

A changeover is when one set of guests leaves in the morning, and a new set of guests arrive in the same room that evening. You have to completely change over the room. 

Pre COVID, it would take me about one hour and 20 minutes to change over one room. With three rooms, that's four hours. So you can see there's not a lot of flexibility here. 

Now with COVID, there's additional cleaning. With what we term a COVID changeover, one took me two and a half hours.

Because you're either replacing mattress protectors or you're steaming them and then you have to steam any soft furnishing. 

In my B&B rooms, we've got sofas and a couple of soft chairs, and super king size beds, which have to be steamed. 

And everything now has to be taken out of the room. 

Before COVID,  if a box of tissues, for example, didn't need replacing, because it wasn’t empty, we would have just left the box of tissues. Now we have to take the box of tissues out and then bring a brand new box of tissues in.

We’re not wasting that box of tissues. We have something we’ve called a 72 hour box. They think COVID hangs around a maximum of  72 hours on surfaces, and probably less on paper and things. 

We'll take everything out of the rooms, put it in a 72 hour box, and then we can cycle it back in after a minimum of 72 hours. 

It’s taking everything out of the room and putting it back in that’s taking this extra time. Hopefully as we get more used to it things will speed up. 

We’re also having to sanitise all of the touch points - the points that guests are most likely to touch. That's a bit obvious, but things like light switches and TV controls. 

You can start to see why B&B owners can get a bit grumpy when people try to try and check in early. 

I'm a bit of a lightweight, I have to have my eight hours. So I need to be in bed by nine o'clock. This is another reason why I ask guests to give me a time if they're going to be checking in later. 

For cleaning tips you may find these blog posts useful:

Top 10 tips for cleaning a bed and breakfast

Running a bed and breakfast in the COVID-19 pandemic

What else are you doing apart from cleaning?

As a one person show,  you're not just cleaning, you're potentially having to answer the telephone and deal with emails, you might have people turning up on the doorstep for deliveries or whatever.

You might find that you've just used up all the tomatoes and you've got to go out and buy new supplies. 

I put a lemon drizzle cake and homemade shortbread in each room, so I've got to fit baking in somewhere.

I make homemade bread. I make the dough in the bread machine and then form it into loaves, prove overnight and then bake it. 

What a lot of B&B's are doing with COVID at the moment is  making sure that they haven't got three arrivals on the same day in three rooms. 

So it's going to need a bit of careful diary management, but it is possible so you're not doing three changes. 

Traditionally for us a changeover would be on Friday.. 

So we'd have to do three changes on a Friday which can be a bit of a pain. So that's just something to bear in mind as we go forward. 

Don't forget the laundry!

Another thing that takes up a lot of time is linen, and ironing, I strongly recommend that you hire your bed linen. And that you actually send it out to be cleaned and laundered. 

It works as follows: the laundry company will come and collect your bed linen on, say,  a Monday and then they'll come back on a Thursday to deliver clean linen and pick up any dirty laundry. 

They’ll also launder tablecloths, robes, napkins and towels.

I tend to do towels myself, as it's easy just to stick them in the washing machine and dry them. But anything that needs ironing, I send out

It does cost to do that. For me, it costs about £7.50 per bed. That’s for a Super King Size fitted sheet, duvet cover and 4 pillowcases. But it costs me to launder the bed linen myself. There's the cost of the water - you have to do it at quite high temperature at the moment, because of COVID - the cost of the electricity, tumble dryer, laundry detergent.

You’ve also need to think about the cost of buying the bed linen in the first place, then its replacement cost. 

I allow four sets of bed linen per bed to allow for change overs. And guests who want a change more often or any accidents. 

If you've got three rooms, that's 12 changes of bed linen, you've got to buy. And I don't do one night stays. 

That’s a lot of Egyptian cotton bedding you've got to buy and it wears out. So you might find in two or three years you're having to replace it.

If you haven't already bought your bed linen, I strongly recommend that you hire it in. And that saves you so much time because you haven't got time here to be laundering bed linen, 

I cover all of this in the B&B course in more detail.

And finally, don't be put off!

I hope you found that useful and not too off putting. Of course, one of the good things is if I don't have a changeover as a B&B owner, I've got this freedom.

I can go out and walk my dogs during the day. If you've got young children, you're there when they come home from school, you're not having to worry about who looks after the kids whilst you're working.

You know, there are lots of positives being a B&B owner as well as some of the disadvantages such as being tied to the house. 


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