Bed and Breakfast: 1 All you need to know

The Cornerstones Guest House
The Cornerstones Guest House | Source

Our Bed and Breakfast story

We created Cornerstones, from an old run down Victorian building built in 1871; arriving in early December 1984 with three boys: aged one, six and eight years of age; not a lot of money for the work involved, and a few chosen words of encouragement from my mother-in-law.

“I think you’re mad”

For some time now, on the numerous occasions of odd and humorous things occurring while running the Cornerstones, I’ve remarked from time to time, you could write a book purely on the day to day events of running a Guest House.
So I intend to take you through the process of setting up and running a guest house, b&b, small hotel, bed and breakfast; the information relates to them all.

We opened Cornerstones with three bedrooms and as time went by with a lot of hard work we gradually ended up with 9 rooms, culminating in an award of Four Diamonds Highly Commended from the then English Tourist Board, plus ratings in the The Which? Good Bed & Breakfast guide and the Michelin Accommodation Guide.

To be entered in the guides was an award in it's self as both guides had a policy of only entering chosen establishments. Sadly the Which? Guide is no longer published after the author retired.

Two things that will make you successful. Be ultra clean and go out side the box with your decor.
Two things that will make you successful. Be ultra clean and go out side the box with your decor. | Source

Are You the Right Person To Run a Bed and Breakfast

First of all you may want to ask yourself why? instead of how.

'Why are you doing this'? Answer this question.

Your answer will then form the foundation of your goal.

It's 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 into a nightmare. You may think your the right person for the job but the question has to be asked.

'Are you the right person for the job'

  • To start any new business you will need to be in good health,
  • To run a bed and breakfast you will need to be full of energy, enjoy meeting people, be able to talk to them interact with a groups of people also.

  • Go out of your way to help people.

  • Have a good telephone manner while still keeping your sales head on.

  • Be good at DIY, this is a must, it will save you thousands of pounds, yes thousands.

  • Be well versed in local knowledge, history, transport and night life.

  • Know your surroundings that well, you'll be able to guide anyone who's lost, on the way to your location.

  • Be able to read people, what type of person are they, do you really want them to stay.

  • Make rules and stand by them.

  • Be able to let people know when there breaking your rules.

  • Be diplomatic?
    Or do you insist on making, and winning your point?
    It is almost guaranteed that you are going to play host to people who do not think exactly like you do.

  • Are you tolerant of other people and their lifestyles? You are going to be meeting a lot of different people from all walks of life, and from all over the world. Can you be a good ambassador?

  • You must be able to cook.
    People come for the view, or the location, and a thousand other reasons, but breakfast is one of the last interactions they have with you and your bed and breakfast; will they remember that fantastic breakfast you served them before they set out on their days adventure.




So you've made up your mind and no matter what ever anyone says about considering the changes you're about to make to your life style, your family and your home, it's going in one ear and out the other.

That's how you should be, single minded, get the job done, if your still in the same frame of mind as when you started reading, 'Are you the Right Person for the Job' you will be at the height of enthusiasm and I'm about to give you a shot in the arm.

At the back of your mind your probably still thinking, but what if? how do you? can I fit it all in?

I will hold your hand through the whole procedure, answer all your questions, save you literally thousands of pounds, and most of all, bring the stress level of starting a new business down to a close zero.

So where to start. You may have some expertise in an area that will be beneficial to your new bed and breakfast business; but there's nothing like the real thing; getting your hands dirty as they say.

A part time job in a small hotel would give you a good idea.

Volunteering to help out at a guest house/Bed and Breakfast, shadowing the owner, without pay for a couple of month, would introduce you to every aspect of the job, gaining invaluable experience.

The no pay bit is and inducement to make sure your shown everything.

What are you going to open:

  • A Bed & Breakfast
  • A Guest House/Inn
  • A Hotel

Traditionally someone who provides bed and breakfast in England usually has a couple of spare rooms in their house that they use for guests, to get technical say 33% of the building or less. The guest stays the night and in the morning are provided with a traditional English breakfast. After breakfast the guest leaves for the day until around 5 to 6 pm hence there not in the building in the day and no other meal is provided until the following days breakfast.

A Guest House

Also provides bed and breakfast, with some also providing an evening meals.

They can have anything up to 10 bedrooms consequently most are using more than 50% of the rooms in the house for guests, including a sitting room and dinning room.
This figure of over 50% is quite significant, using the majority of the rooms in the building, brings it into a class of having to obtain planning permission for 'Change of Use'.
Which also classes it as a commercial building.
It's also recognized that people are out all day and come back in the evening, however the more commercial it is the more people tend to relax this rule especially at the weekend. Some have menus for breakfast and dinner most don't; again depending on how commercial they are.
A guest house can also obtain a licence to serve alcohol.

A Hotel

I know of no minimum to class your business as a hotel, however I would say it should start around 12 rooms at the higher end because that's when you may need full time staff, if you went to 14 rooms there would be no question, you would need fulltime staff.

As we all know hotels can have hundreds of rooms, staff, and guests but where just dealing with the tiddlers, small Hotels.

Staying below the 12 room threshold will silt give you full control.


Should you go for a hotel

After saying that if it's your goal to open an hotel you may come across bigger properties for sale at a lower price than some of the smaller hotel/guest houses, that's because of the nature of the business and the amount of staff needed to run them, makes harder to turn a profit.

Making the decision to grow from 10 to 14 rooms is a massive jump and should not be taken lightly. Anything in-between will put you in the delicate situation of not having enough staff in place one day to to many the next, also fluctuating in and out of the VAT (Tax on the service provided) thresholds (£77,000), so you might as well go for broke.

  • It'll take your baby away from you, from having more or less full control to sharing out responsibility.
  • In the U.K. you will hit the V.A.T. threshold which means you'll have to add VAT on top of your prices.

  • P.A.Y.E. You can do all the wages yourself with a little help from your accountant, who will show you the different calculations, or you can just hand it over to him, again more expense but you can only do so much your self.

    You will have to have full time staff, Reception/Cleaners, Chef.

So all though there's a lot of mix and match going on in the first two options; weather your providing food or not, if people are allowed in in the day, can they use the sitting room.
It's really what you make it, how you want to live with what you've got.

Their official descriptions are:

  • Bed & Breakfast: Provides bed and breakfast.
  • Guest House: Provides bed and breakfast on a more commercially bases.
  • Hotel: Provides bed and breakfast, food & drink.






More by this Author


Click to Rate This Article
working