Daydreaming of owning your own business? If you enjoy cooking and entertaining guests, starting your bed & breakfast at home is a great way to be your boss. Running a B&B may seem intimidating, and it’s not for everyone.
A good place to start is by asking yourself these questions:
- Are you a people person?
- Is your partner also interested? Smaller teams or families who live on the property run bed & breakfasts.
If you’re interested in generating a little extra cash or starting your own small business during retirement, read on to transform your home into a successful bed and breakfast.
Start your bed and breakfast business plan
Before you start picking themes for the guest rooms, sit down and outline a general business plan. Most bed & breakfasts don’t generate a lot of cash right away. B&B owners typically make more money selling their operations to a larger hotel chain.
Still, running your bed & breakfast at home can be profitable. It’s a great way to make some extra money during retirement. You’ll make a profit, and while many of your expenses might be covered, running a B&B is more of a lifestyle choice.
Decide how much money you’ll charge each night as you outline your business plan. Consider how much tourism your area sees and how close you are to competitors. Demand makes or breaks a business, so do your research when determining your price point.
Consider the different amenities you have available to offer. If the guest bathroom has luxury whirlpool tubs, you’ll be able to charge a bit more. The location also plays a role. How far are you from restaurants, beaches, or entertainment centers? Look at comparable B&Bs to get an idea of where to start with room rates.
You’ve already made your house a home – now you’re making your house part home, part luxury hotel. You’ll want to invest in quality bedding, linens, and even new mattresses. Local laws may require installing new kitchen equipment or adding safety features to accommodate guests.
It’s also a good idea to start a relationship with a reliable local handyman. You and your spouse might know about the trick stair on the porch. However, if you don’t fix it before guests arrive, you might find yourself at the wrong end of a lawsuit.
Other necessary startup costs include insurance, hiring employees, permit applications, signage, and more. Marketing comes at a price, too, whether that’s your time spent promoting the B&B online or money paid to a marketing company.
Between renovations, hiring staff, and marketing, starting a B&B is an up-front investment costing tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, this number depends on factors like the size of your property and the amount of work you need to do, just to name a few.
Getting started can be daunting, but a business plan that clearly outlines your budget, costs, and goals is essential.
Considering local laws and regulations
Before you start, ensure your business is fully legal. Check local guidelines about zoning compliance, parking availability, special permits for selling food and alcohol, and passing mandatory inspections. You and your staff may need to invest in special training, like first aid classes and safe food handling.
It might take a couple of years for your bed and breakfast at home to have all the required permits and licenses. A few standard licenses, permits, and programs you’ll need include:
- Business name and DBA registration
- Certificate of occupancy
- Federal and State Tax ID
- ServSafe food certification
- Health Department inspection
- Fire department inspection
- Property management/reservation and accounting software
Outline the different items you need as part of your business plan. Be patient and get everything set up correctly. Your guests will appreciate it, even if they don’t know all the red tape you had to get through.
Review your facilities and location
So, you’ve got your list of items to fix. Then the Health Department conducted an inspection, and you need special equipment to add to the kitchen. Or the handyman you brought in to fix the faulty sink found some damage in the bathroom wall, and now you need to renovate the whole room.
Getting your property in tip-top shape is crucial in impressing your guests. Whether you’re making your own home into a bed & breakfast, buying a nearby property, or purchasing an existing B&B, you’ll need to plan on fixing a few things. Even if you only need to paint or refinish a few floors, freshening up the property is vital to your success.
Update appliances like the stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher. You may also need a new water heater or furnace to keep your guests comfortable. Smart home technology, like thermometers and security systems, can also be helpful when inviting guests into your home.
Invest in quality linens, towels, and dishware. Paint the rooms, choose unique wallpaper, and ensure the bathrooms are in great shape. If you’re unsure what to do to transform your home into a bed & breakfast, consult an interior designer. Social media is free marketing, and your guests will be more likely to post about your bed & breakfast if their rooms are comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.
Guest rules of the house
You’re starting a bed & breakfast at home – so it’s still your house, your rules. Consider your target market and the space you have available. Will you allow smoking on the premises? Can guests drink on the property? If you can’t get a liquor license, the answer is obviously “no.”
Part of the appeal of a B&B is how it’s more homey and unique than a chain hotel. Is your bed & breakfast the kind that will allow pets? If guests bring their kids, will you have a babysitter on staff or a trusted service they can hire?
Will the guests have access to the entire property? If you plan on living there while running the bed and breakfast, you’ll want to make it clear that certain areas are off-limits. You’ll also want to ensure family members and employees know which areas are for the guests.
Of course, this depends on how much space you have. If your home is on a lot of land or has outbuildings, you’ll want to ensure your guests know where they can go. You may also want to set a curfew to limit access to the main door after hours. Will breakfast be served all day or at a certain time? Make sure these rules are clear to you, your staff, and your guests to keep everything running smoothly.
Set up a menu
Get ready to serve breakfast and maybe brunch. Most B&B owners love to cook, so break out your favorite quiche recipe and the good serving dishes. Have coffee, orange juice, and tea ready for guests in the dining room. You can come out and serve guests at the table or set up a buffet in the kitchen.
No matter what you do, make sure to accommodate specific allergies and diets. Nut allergies are increasingly common these days, and many people are vegan or vegetarian. You can always have a question about special dietary needs on the reservation form. That way, you’ll know ahead of time if you need to do anything special for your guests.
Impress guests with local ingredients made into classic breakfasts with a bit of variety. Make Mondays a waffle bar day, and Sundays can be for gourmet eggs benedict. Play to your strengths and have fun with menu planning!
Market your B&B
As part of your business plan, you’ve figured out your target market – now you have to reach them. Where do you start when it comes to marketing your at home bed & breakfast?
First, you need to generate some awareness in your community. Work with your chamber of commerce and local travel sites. People who stay at B&Bs want to experience your local community, so partner with local businesses. Is there an art festival coming up? Talk to some gallery owners about your new business.
Feature toiletries from local businesses or pastries from your favorite corner bakeshop. Local business owners need to help each other out. You’ll bring some tourists to their shops, and they’ll bring guests to your B&B. Networking is a vital part of marketing your business.
Of course, you can’t sell anything anymore without a social media presence. Start a Facebook business page and an Instagram account. Hire a professional photographer to take photos and videos of your completed B&B for maximum impact. Guests’ social media posts will be free advertising on social media, but getting professional photos done will help your B&B make a great first impression.
Use tools like Google AdWords to promote your business. Anyone can get AdWords certified if they invest in classes and pass the test. You can create and change your online ad campaign at any time. AdWords will help your bed & breakfast place higher in the search results list when people are looking for a place to stay in your area.
As you can see, turning your home into a bed & breakfast is no small endeavor. Careful planning is key to success. If you love entertaining others and want to show off your cooking skills, running a B&B may be a great lifestyle choice.
The most successful bed & breakfast owners love their work. Make your business plan, get the property ready, and enjoy making your home into a place where travelers love to come and stay.