Tips, deals, and advice on traveling the continent on a budget.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How to Open a Bed and Breakfast

Opening a bed and breakfast is a challenging task and not for everyone. If you've always dreamed of having your own B&B, make sure you know what's involved so your dream doesn't turn to a nightmare. Follow these steps:

1. Assess whether or not you have the personality to be a good B&B host. You need to be outgoing and friendly at all times. You need to be on call 24/7. Talk to some bed and breakfast owners. Ask about their day-to-day activities. Is this the kind of life you're prepared to lead?

2. Find a location that is not only a place you'd like to live and work, but is also a place visitors would come to. This might be in or near a popular tourist spot, or it might be an out-of-the-way corner where passers-through can stop for rest and good food. Make sure there is something distinctive and alluring about the surroundings.

3. Check the zoning laws in the area. Be aware that not all cities allow bed and breakfasts. You must also check if there are any food service restrictions. If you're remodeling or restoring an older building, make sure you comply with all local building codes. Your contractor should be handling this for you, but it's your responsibility, so check on him.

4. Create a business plan. You need to know as closely as possible, what your costs will be in order to set your prices. Talk to other bed and breakfast owners, who may be willing to share their numbers with you. You can also contact the American Bed and Breakfast Association (ABBA, or a similar organization in your country) for any guidelines they may have.

5. Determine the number of guests you'll have at any one time. If you have more than five guest rooms in the U.S., you'll have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This may entail installing wheelchair ramps and other handicap conveniences and providing handicap parking.

6. Check the competition in your chosen area. You'll need to set your prices to stay competitive and you may find a way to get an edge by offering services they don't.

7. Be realistic about your marketing costs when creating your marketing plan. They can be expensive. Find ways to get free press – press releases, articles in travel magazines, editorial coverage of your special events, etc.

8. Put up a website and get your B&B listed in all the guides and directories. Keep an eye on the competition's advertising. What's working for them could work for you.

9. Hire staff as needed. At first you'll need a housekeeper for sure. As your bed and breakfast grows more popular, you may need to add a cook, a bartender, a waiter and a gardener.

10. It's a good idea to hire a reservation service, like B&B Midwest Reservations. This will not only reduce your workload, but it will eliminate the need to get and pay for a credit card merchant account and it will expose your B&B to a wider audience of potential future guests than you could do on your own. It's somewhat costly, so use your judgment and don't forget to take these fees into consideration when setting your prices.

11. Set up the rules of your bed and breakfast. Things to consider include hours of check-in and checkout, whether or not pets will be welcomed, cancellation and late arrival policies, whether children and smoking will be allowed.

12. Plan the details that will keep your guests returning – a good wine list, excellent food, spotless rooms, tours of local attractions and those special personal touches.

13. Join ABBA and other useful organizations like your local chamber of commerce. This will increase awareness of your business in the community.

Follow these steps carefully and turn your bed and breakfast dream into a reality.



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