Despite last year being one of the toughest yet, things are starting to look up for the hospitality industry. Thanks to easing COVID-19 restrictions and an increased confidence following the vaccine rollout, people are ready to enjoy the holiday season.
While international travel is still largely off-limits, record numbers of people are planning a staycation in their respective countries this summer. Bookings are coming in thick and fast, and demand is beginning to outstrip supply at holiday destinations across the country.
It appears that the present time really is the perfect time for anyone considering opening their own bed and breakfast (B&B) business. For example, the surge in UK holidays has brought a whole new wave of investors racing to snap up properties in popular UK hotspots in a bid to cash in on the opportunity.
The good news is this year’s staycation boom isn’t just a fleeting fad. The pandemic is believed to have permanently changed people, including how they shop, live, work, and move around. It has ultimately led people to rediscover the joys of staycations, including the sustainability benefits of travelling more locally, and experts believe this is a trend that’s here to stay.
Against this positive backdrop, we look at the key factors to consider when setting up a successful B&B business.
1. Is this right for you?
Opening a B&B can be a very lucrative move, especially now. However, it’s a big and life-changing decision, so make sure it’s the right one for you.
There are, of course, lots of positives, including being your own boss, meeting new people, and working from home. However, it can also be a highly demanding job, requiring long hours and a multitude of skills – from cooking and cleaning through to DIY. You must also have a good way with people.
For those interested in taking the plunge, make sure you do your research first and have a clear picture of what’s expected of you. The best way to do this is to meet with other owners who’ve experienced it all first-hand.
2. Location, location, location
Once you’re happy this is the right venture for you, it’s time to get planning.
Location is absolutely key. Whether you’re renting out spare rooms in your house or investing in a separate property in a new location, think about what makes the area special and what will attract people to visit.
Do you have a quiet, picturesque retreat by the coast? Or are you in the heart of a bustling city center next to local amenities and useful travel links? Check what’s nearby that might drive business, such as tourist attractions or beauty spots.
Also, don’t forget to check out the competition. See what other B&Bs are nearby and make sure there’s enough business to share.
3. Your target customer
Once you’ve secured the location of your B&B, you need to work out who your target market is. This will naturally have an impact on the facilities you offer, pricing, and marketing efforts.
It’s also worth remembering that holidaymakers won’t be your only potential customer. You might attract businesspeople during the week, or if you’re near a university, parents of students could be potential year-round customers. You might even be near a popular wedding venue and can help accommodate guests.
Whoever your customer is, make sure you’re catering to their requirements. For example, if you have a steady stream of business customers, make sure you can provide a suitable space to work and strong internet coverage.
4. Let’s talk money
The upfront costs will vary substantially depending on the setup of your B&B. It might be that you’re just redecorating some rooms in your house, but it could also be that you’re taking out a mortgage to buy a new property.
Whichever route you choose, make sure you’ve also factored in funds to cover additional costs such as:
- Merchant services
- Extra linen
- Your website
- Room furnishings
- Fire alarms
- Business supplies
- Kitchen equipment.
You’ll also need to budget for advertising and marketing, and of course, salaries for any staff you might hire.
When it comes to working out what you can realistically earn from your B&B, there are lots of variables and there is no standard industry profit margin. As with most other businesses, you’ll only get a good idea once you’re properly up and running.
Make sure you set up your accounts from the start so you can keep a close eye on your performance and monitor profitability.
5. Market your B&B
Effective marketing is vital to the success of your B&B business, and this starts with your website. This is the perfect place to show off your property and outline all the key information that guests need. Make sure it’s easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, includes attractive up-to-date images, and promotes the destination as a whole.
Ideally, it would also incorporate a booking platform so people can easily make bookings at the touch of a button. Social media platforms are also important, so ensure they’re kept regularly up to date with fresh, engaging content. You can even try offering special rates to followers or running competitions.
Another way to draw in more customers is to advertise rooms using online travel agents (OTAs), such as Booking.com or Airbnb. Whilst you do have to pay a commission fee, listings on these sites will boost bookings.
That said, positive word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool of all, so make sure guests consistently have a great experience. Remember to ask people to leave reviews when checking out, whether it's on your own website, social channels, or on sites like Tripadvisor and TrustPilot.
6. Rules and regulations
While you don’t need any specific qualification or licence to run a B&B, there are certain legal requirements that you need to be aware of. For example, all B&Bs need to carry out thorough fire risk assessments and install necessary fire prevention measures.
As you’ll be serving food, you’ll need to follow food hygiene regulations and register with a local environmental health office for inspection. You’ll also need a licence if you’re planning to serve alcohol and you’ll need copyright licences for TVs and radios used by paying guests.
Personal and business insurance is also crucial, so talk to an insurance broker for recommendations.
7. Energy efficiency
One way to boost profitability is to ensure you’re running as energy efficiently as possible. Heating is responsible for more than half of your energy costs, so it pays to make sure you’re on the best deal.
Dealing with draughts, insulating your B&B properly, and using smart thermostats can also go a long way in reducing heating bills.
For rural B&Bs off the mains gas grid, make sure you’re opting for an energy-efficient fuel like LPG (liquefied petroleum gas). Liquid gas has the lowest carbon footprint of any off-grid fossil fuel, so it’s better for the environment and it’s cost effective.
Ultimately, opening a B&B in today’s climate could be a smart move if you do your research and plan well. There are lots of factors to consider, so make sure it’s the right decision for you.