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What makes a good bed and breakfast? 10 tips for running a successful B&B

running a bed and breakfast starting up a bed and breakfast Jan 18, 2022

When I was setting up my own bed and breakfast, my focus was very much on those added extras that would turn it into something special; the very expensive welsh blanket, the eggs benedict at breakfast and the huge brass bed to name just a few.

And if you want to create a B&B that stands out from the competition, all of those are important.

But before you start to think about any of the bells and whistles you have to make sure you get the basics right first.

1. Invest in comfortable Beds

Providing a comfortable bed for your guests is one of the most important basics for any bed and breakfast.

We’ve had so many holidays ruined by a bad mattress. Places that we would have loved to visit again but couldn’t bear the thought of another week without sleep.

Once we stayed at a villa on a vineyard in Tuscany near Arezzo. The views were breathtaking and we could help ourselves to as much free wine and olive oil as we wanted. But that bed !! We ended up sleeping on the floor…

Buying the right beds is an important and expensive decision.

Unlike, say, pillows, where you could offer different pillows to meet different customers’ needs, it’s impossible to get a mattress that everyone is going to love.

So your aim is to get a mattress that will meet the needs of the majority of your guests. A firm mattress with a topper gives most people the support they need, whilst not feeling like they’re sleeping on a board.

To find out more about how to get the right beds for your B&B check out this blog post >> How to buy the best beds for your B&B 

2. Consider your bathrooms design carefully

The majority of people will want an en suite, or at least a private bathroom.

There may be some target markets that would happily share a bathroom, but generally if you can get an en suite in then I recommend you do so.

A private bathroom is one that is external to the bedroom but is for the exclusive use of guests during their stay. A private bathroom will have a lock on the outside so that guests can leave their personal belongings there.

In my experience, the majority of guests want a shower these days. I provided both shower and a large separate free standing bath but, whilst at my B&B the shower was generally always used, the bath was probably only used about 20% of the time.

You need to consider your market when making the bath/shower decision.

Another essential for a bed and breakfast is ensuring you have enough hot water for every guest to have a shower or bath without running out. Speak to your plumber about how you can achieve this.

3. Make sure your bed and breakfast is clean


A B&B must be spotlessly clean. Whenever you changeover a B&B room, it’s almost like doing a spring clean for each new guest.

Even if you employ people to help you clean, the final responsibility for ensuring that room is up to standard is yours.

Read more in this blog post >> Top 10 tips for cleaning your bed and breakfast 

4. Serve a good breakfast 

The type of breakfast you provide is going to be determined by the type of guest you have coming to stay and your location.

Most guests coming to a B&B in the UK will expect some form of cooked Full English/ Welsh/Scottish/Irish Breakfast. This needs to be made with the best ingredients you can source within your budget and be well cooked.

But you may have guests who have different breakfast requirements. For example, you might find business people may just want to eat off the buffet or overseas guests have different requirements.

Following the first lockdown, several of the B&Bs in our group successfully transitioned their full cooked breakfast to a a continental delivered to the room.

If you’re in a town and city, if there are plenty of places that people can go out to find breakfast, you may decide not to offer it all.

You’ll also need to cater for people with other dietary requirements such as vegetarians or vegans or those with food intolerances or allergies.

You read more in these blog posts >>

How to cater for B&B guest’s dietary requirements and restrictions 

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

5. Deliver great customer service

Many people choose to stay at a B&B rather than a hotel because they enjoy the personal interaction with the owner.

So being welcoming to guests is a basic requirement. 

I was reminded recently, that you can provide a wonderful B&B in a beautiful area and provide the best breakfast possible, but if you get an element of the customer service wrong, all of that won’t matter.

A guest hadn’t received the confirmation email I’d sent her. It had disappeared between me sending it and her inbox. Unfortunately, this is the email with directions to find us and recommendations for local places to eat.

To cut a long story short, she was very unhappy with me from the moment of her arrival, wasn’t interested in any of my explanations and, despite me providing her with the best possible customer service whilst she was here, went on to send me emails pointing out what I should have done.

There was nothing I could do to make this woman happy. I’d lost her before she arrived! However, normally, if something goes wrong at the B&B, and you handle it in a way that really impresses the guests, you can turn a negative situation into a positive.

In the online bed and breakfast course; How to set up or buy, run and market a B&B, I’ve defined 5 stages in the B&B guest’s experience of your B&B and what you need to be doing in each stage.

The stages are:

  • Before guests arrive
  • Check in
  • Whilst they’re staying with you
  • Departure
  • After they’ve left

In my example above the process went wrong in that very first stage before they’d even arrived. It’s important to ensure your processes are running smoothly for each stage and that your customer service is consistent throughout!

Read more in this blog post >> How to deal with difficult guests

6. Ensure you're complying with legal requirements

One of the basics of running a B&B is to ensure that you’re complying with all of your legal requirements.

It’s a bit of an urban myth that a small B&B in the UK doesn’t have to meet any legal obligations. A smaller B&B may have fewer requirements than a larger establishment but that doesn’t mean there are none!

To name just a few you’ll need to consider:

  • Accepting guests with disabilities
  • Fire regulations
  • Food safety
  • Entertainment & alcohol licensing
  • Insurance
  • Planning Permission, Building regulations
  • Health & safety
  • Equality legislation
  • And more...

That’s a bit of a list and it’s not everything. But it shouldn’t put you off running a B&B. It’s just a case of going through them one step at a time and making sure you have all your legal ducks in a row.

Then you can relax… well almost. It’s important that you keep up to date with changes in legislation and that you remain compliant. That’s where our Past Course Attendees facebook group comes into its own; helping each other work out way through the latest legislation!

Read more about serving alcohol at your B&B in this blog post >> Do you need a licence to serve alcohol at your B&B 

7. Provide WiFi and power sockets

This may be a bit of a contentious one, as some people don't care whether they have WiFi or not.

I was recently looking for a holiday cottage in a remote part of Wales. I found one that advertised itself as “No Wifi, no phone signal and bats in the roof” and was fully booked for the next year!

But for others it’s an essential.

A B&B owner friend had a guest who refused to stay because the B&B WiFi was not working. This may seem to be a bit extreme. But he was there on business and needed access to the internet to work in his room.

Unfortunately for my friend she was having ongoing problems with her internet provider. Her broadband signal was either non-existent or very slow. She decided to be completely upfront with her guests and publish on her website and social media pages the problems she was having and that she couldn’t guarantee WiFi would be available.

Would this put off some guests and lose her business? Potentially, yes! But at the same time, I think it’s best to under promise and over deliver.

As with WiFi, having enough power sockets to plug in all your devices is an essential requirement for many people.

If you can, try and make sure you have power sockets next to both sides of the bed and consider investing in power sockets with integral USB sockets for faster charging.

8. Pick the right location

One of the most important elements for people is the location of the B&B and, for many, the proximity to the amenities they want.

We live in a beautiful rural area with stunning views, but guests often mark us down on location because we don’t have a pub or restaurant within walking distance.

It’s really important to know what your target market’s requirements are in a location.

If you’re moving to set up or buy an existing B&B, you’re in a good position because you can choose somewhere that will meet your potential guests’ criteria for a well located B&B,

If you’re setting up in your existing home, you’ve got no control over your location. But if there are disadvantages to where you are, you’ll need to look and see what you can do to make your B&B more attractive to potential guests.

So, for example, if there is nowhere to eat within walking distance, you might offer platters for guests or evening meals.

9. Be open to customer feedback

Whilst most of us don't like to receive constructive feedback, it is worth listening carefully to what your guests are saying. 

They may have ideas for improving the B&B guest experience that you hadn't even considered.

You don't have to take every bit of feedback on board, but if you're hearing the same thing from guests several times, it's probably time to act on it if you can!

If you do get a negative review, read this blog post on how to respond to it >> How to respond to a negative review about your bed and breakfast

10. Look after the most important asset in your business

A good B&B is usually only as good as the people who run it, which is why it's so important to look after the most important asset in your business - YOU!

Many B&B owners run themselves ragged during busy season, which leaves very little left in the tank if something goes wrong.

Remaining well, happy and refreshed isn't a luxury it's good business sense. So make sure you take time off, book in holidays and stay steps to stay as healthy as possible.

I hope you've found this blog post useful.

If you're thinking about taking the first steps to owning a B&B, you can find out more on this mini course >> First steps to owning a bed and breakfast

Or if you've ready to take the plunge find out more about the online B&B course >> How to set up, buy, run and market a bed and breakfast



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