If you have ever stayed at a charming and cozy bed and breakfast, it has probably occurred to you that owning and running such a place would be the ideal job. Of course, the reality of running a bed and breakfast is that it isn’t as easy as most people think, but for those who take the plunge and decide to become an innkeeper, it can be a challenging and rewarding career. And there are usually plenty of B & B inns for sale all across the country, at any given time.
It’s a huge decision to open and run your own bed and breakfast, and if you feel that it’s right for you, there are still several things to ask yourself. One of the most important decisions will be whether to turn your current home into an inn, or purchase an existing inn. Buying an existing B & B has an obvious advantage – there are probably already some established customers, allowing you to measure your costs and predict your profits to some extent. It also saves on costly renovations to your home.
An established clientele is important; it’s estimated that around 40% of people who stay at bed and breakfast inns are repeat customers. And most people will recommend a bed and breakfast to their family and friends if they have had an enjoyable stay. The internet has made word of mouth advertising even more important – there are plenty of sites that give happy – or disgruntled – travelers the chance to give their opinion. A fairly recent trend in the bed and hospitality industry is that of more business travelers choosing to enjoy the comfort and personal service of a bed and breakfast instead of the anonymity of a chain hotel.
If you are thinking of buying an existing establishment, one of your most important concerns will be whether it is making a profit. If so, what level of occupancy is required to realize and maintain a profit? Occupancy is a term that the hotel industry uses to determine how many rooms are full, and what is the number of rooms that need to be occupied regularly, in order to break even. For example, you may have 6 rooms in your B & B; you may need to ensure that half the rooms are occupied, at least 3 nights a week throughout the year, simply to break even.
You will also want to consider all the daily expenses involved in running a bed and breakfast – electricity, water, cable television, etc. Extensive grounds or a swimming pool can add to the overall maintenance costs. Ask yourself how much work you are prepared to undertake yourself in the way of cleaning, cooking, basic maintenance and generally looking after guests? You may find you need to hire extra staff – another expense. And one of your most important considerations – how easy would it be for you to take some time off if you wanted to?
Whereas breakfast is the most important meal of the day in most bed and breakfast inns, your duties as innkeeper don’t end after the breakfast dishes have been cleared away. Your days will be spent cleaning and preparing rooms, processing bookings and payments. Your guests, of course will expect you to be available whenever they need you. You will also have to advertise and market your B & B regularly, to make sure your occupancy levels are adequate.
You will also need to understand at least a little bit about such things as zoning laws, taxes and business permits. You will probably need to apply for a fire certificate and health certificate as well as a permit to collect sales tax from the state that your inn is located in. And if you are thinking of expanding your investment by adding on to it, you may have to have some knowledge of local planning regulations. One of the best ways to grasp all of this is simply to talk to the present owner of the inn.
If all this hasn’t put you off, a next step might be to take a class on running a bed and breakfast; you can even spend a weekend at some inns, learning how everything works. You may decide it is better being an owner than a guest!