While there are a number of steps to starting a bed and breakfast, it’s not necessarily difficult. One of your biggest challenges will probably be to find the right location and then a property in that area.
At times the process, especially the property search, will test your patience. However, once you’re up and running, your effort will be rewarded twofold. Hosting guests from all over the world can be a very enriching personal experience and profitable business venture.
If you’re ready to enter into the world of hospitality, here’s how to start a bed and breakfast.
A bed and breakfast is a small property with generally fewer than 10 rooms that offers accommodation to paying guests. It’s typically owned by a family and operated by a small team that resides on-site.
What sets bed and breakfast establishments apart from traditional vacation rentals is that it often has an interesting history and offers a cozy atmosphere, making them a popular choice for a romantic weekend.
You’ll first need to know how much you can afford to spend on a property before you can start your property search. When working out your budget, you’ll also need to keep in mind that there will be several other expenses. Some of these will be one-off costs like kitchen equipment, brand new bedding, and king size beds, while others will be ongoing expenses such as maintenance costs, insurance, and cleaning costs. So, it’s key that you ensure that your new business will have adequate cash flow.
Before you can buy a property, you first need to know where. Not only should there be sufficient tourist demand (preferably all-year round), but you should also keep in mind that there might be local laws and regulations that could make it less profitable.
It’s important that you know beforehand of any factors that could have a bearing on demand. For example, is the area maybe known for tropical storms during the summer? Also, pay attention to the attractions and activities that are available. In short, there should be a reason why travelers will want to visit the location.
After you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of locations that boast sustainable demand, be sure to study the local laws that could impact your bed and breakfast. What’s legal in one state could be restricted in another, possibly even prohibited altogether.
You’ll be able to find more details about these rules on the website of the local government.
Armed with better insight into what you can afford and which real estate market will offer an attractive occupancy rate, you can start searching for an actual property.
Even if the property is located in an in-demand neighborhood, you’ll still need to keep in mind the physical location of the property. It should be easy to reach by means of different sorts of transport. If incoming guests will need a SUV to reach it, you’ll be excluding a big group of travelers.
Ideally, it should also be located nearby public transportation routes and amenities like restaurants, convention centers, and shops.
In addition to accessibility, you should also pay attention to the size of the property. How many rooms does it offer? More guest rooms mean more potential guests (but also more work).
Depending on the jurisdiction, you might need to apply for permission or a business license.
You’ll also need to register for tax and apply for insurance. As it will be operated as a business, it’s key that you take out adequate insurance that’s specifically designed for bed and breakfast establishments to protect yourself and your assets. If you’ll be listing your bed and breakfast on online travel agencies (OTAs), keep in mind that while they offer some form of insurance, these policies have a number of exclusions, making them inadequate.
You’ll want to ensure that you have everything in place before you open. An attorney and tax advisor who specialize in this type of business will be able to help you navigate your way through all the red tape and register your new business name.
Depending on the condition of the property, you might need to set time aside for renovation. At the very least, you’ll need to hire a professional cleaning company for a deep clean.
Once your calendar starts filling up with reservations, it will become a logistical nightmare trying to find time for maintenance works and property repairs. So, it’s strongly recommended to attend to these matters beforehand.
Also, the last thing you want is for your brand new bedding to become a dust trapper. It’s best first to complete the dirty work before you add any furnishings, new or old.
This is probably the step that you’ve looked forward to most. While it’s tempting to start buying items for your bed and breakfast business even before you’ve found a property, it makes more sense to leave it till now. Not only will you feel more at ease knowing that the legal aspects have been dealt with, but you’ll also have a better idea of what you’ll need. After all, what’s the use of buying small patio sets if you can’t find a property with private balconies?
There should be no need for your guests to pack in their own supplies. This means that you’ll need to ensure that the bedroom and bathroom have all the necessary supplies and amenities. These include:
Nowadays, guests also expect reliable Wi-Fi. If you’ll be targeting business travelers specifically, this will be a deal-breaker.
Depending on your location, air conditioning might also be a necessity.
That said, don’t stop at just the bare necessities. To ensure your guests have a memorable experience, remember to add extras, such as a welcome basket with a handwritten note. Small gestures can make a huge difference in the hospitality industry.
If your bed and breakfast has over five rooms, you’ll need extra help. You can hire an employee to help with various tasks or create a job description for a specific role like cleaning rooms, cooking breakfast, or marketing.
As it will most likely be a more practical role, you can ask shortlisted candidates to complete a test such as making a bed or frying an egg. Then, just like with any other appointment, ensure that you follow up on references and conduct a short job interview first.
To attract guests, you’ll need to create a well-thought-out marketing strategy. From social media platforms to email, there are various ways that you can get the word out about your bed and breakfast.
Start by designing your own business website. While word-of-mouth advertising remains a very effective form of advertising, in the past few years, it has become even more important that you market your business online.
Here are some helpful tips for attracting guests:
Even if you’ve decided to hire staff to support you with key tasks like cleaning rooms and cooking breakfast, there are still many other routine tasks that will require your attention and time. For example, guest communication alone can take up a considerable percentage of your time.
Vacation rental software, like iGMS, is just the thing that bed and breakfast owners need. By leveraging the power of automation, you’ll be able to streamline your daily operations to save time and reduce human error that can easily creep in when you’re still new to the hospitality industry.
iGMS can help hosts with a host of tasks like:
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of tasks that need to be completed before you’re ready to start welcoming out-of-town visitors at a bed and breakfast, it will help you to ensure that the most important aspects have been covered. As with any other type of business, you’ll continue to learn on the job.
Not only will you learn new skills and how to wear many different hats, but you’ll also meet many interesting guests. That said, as you’ll be working with people, you need to enjoy interacting with them day in and day out. Any successful bed and breakfast owner will tell you that to establish a name for yourself, takes more than simply decorating a property.
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