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How to Run a Bed and Breakfast

Updated on August 15, 2017

Ask why before how

When considering a potential business, many people ask how before they ask why. In my opinion, that is the wrong order. When you ask how, you often get caught up in the details of how and totally forget to ask the why.

So before you ask how, ask youself this question. What are my goals for considering this business? What do I expect to gain from this business? Am I looking at this as an investment? Is this going to be a source of income to support myself? Am I looking at this as a hobby to meet lots of interesting people? I think it is extremely important that you get clear about why you would consider this business. Often times when you get clear about your expected results, then it becomes much easier to make an educated determination if the business has the potential to fulfill those goals.

The answer is considering a typical B & B. While most of the points apply to all B & Bs, if you have some unique location you might enjoy less regulation, more income and better clients. But these are the exceptions.

Earning a living

Your initial goal might be earning a living. But here is takes some very realistic projections. I cannot know what the regulations might be where you are, but most cities have regulations that limit the size and location of B & Bs. That is to say that your number of rooms might be limited to 15 or 20. The hotel-motel industry views B & Bs as competition and they put a lot of pressure on regulatory agencies to restrict B & Bs to mom and pop type operations.

Therefore you need to do some realistic income projections. If you have 20 rooms, you will probably have an occupany rate of somewhere less than 75% and your room rate will be some discount to the average motel room rate in the area. But for the most part, you will have to provide the same function. That is, someone will need to clean the rooms, prepare breakfast, etc. So you have a limited income and that does not give you a lot of room to hire out the services such as room cleaning.

In addition you will need to determine how much maintenance is going to cost you. Unless you have some good experience in this area, you will underestimate the cost. Air conditioners will break down, toilets will get stopped up, guest will lose keys and door lock will jam up. In short things happen. Some will be because of mis-use, some abuse and some just normal wear and tear. But count on it. And count of spending a lot of your time dealing with maintenance.

In addition, you will need to factor in insurance, real estate taxes, food cost and constant replenishing of sheets and towels.

In short, you need to do a very realistic estimation of the potential income and expenses. In my experience, owners overestimate potential income and underestimate expenses. Be conservative. The B & Bs I have worked with did not make huge amounts of money.


If you enjoy meeting new people and interacting with them, then you may love running a B & B even though you might not make that much money.

However be aware that we tend to generalize how people will be. We probably think that all people are going to be fun, interesting and delightful to be around. Most people will. Some will not and those that are difficult can ruin your day and make you wonder why you ever thought that running a B & B would be undertaken by a sane person.

You will need a very level disposition. If you are easily upset by the way some people act, then a B & B is not for you.

Also if the B & B is year round, then you also have the problem of what do you do when you want/need to take off. While if might be fun somedays, it is still there each and every day ... needing constant attention. It is very easy to become a slave to the business - stuck there. Now if that is your lifestyle, then it is okay. If you are not used to being tied down to a location, you might have a lot of trouble adjusting.


Most people fall into the group that belives that "If you build it, they will come." The most important part of running a B & B is marketing. You can be a delightful host, hold interesting conversations, treat people like family and over the long term that will probably build your business. But in the short term you have bills to pay and mortgage notes to meet. You must have a marketing plan to market your B & B. There are co-ops that you can join, listing sites where you can get your B & B listed. But you must understand that unless you can meet your occupancy goals, you will soon be out of business. You must be very aggressive and doing effective marketing.

Your marketing will depend on your location, your ideal client and what makes your B & B unique. Just understand that to attract clients, you have to get their attention and then standout from all the others. You must have a unique message and find a cost effective method of getting that message out.


In my experience, a B & B is more a lifestyle than a business. If you are looking for a way to live in and around your business 24 hours a day and interact with lots of new people of all dispostions, then it might make sense. From a pure economic standpoint, there are probably lots of better opportunities.

Answer the question "why" before you get too far into the "how". You might save yourself a lot of time, energy and money.

I remember the wise advice, "Businesses are a lot like love affairs. They are easy to get into, but difficult to get out of." Understand what you are getting into, because it could be very difficult to get out of.


Submit a Comment

  • GmaGoldie profile image

    Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

    A friend is considering this - this is his dream job. I will be sure to forward this Hub to him. Thank you! Love your practical advice and balanced writing style - no hype - all facts and the lifestyle part is a pivotal point for the family.

  • profile image

    Pat Robeck 7 years ago

    We went into our BnB to meet people, have a nice house to share with others, and have some help with paying the mortgage. We kept our expenses low, by looking for the right house and shopping creatively. You MUST like meeting all sorts of people, or changing sheets and doing paperwork will get old very fast. Thanks for the article Mr. Chancellor. Pat

  • theherbivorehippi profile image

    theherbivorehippi 7 years ago from Holly, MI

    I do love the times that I have stopped at a Bed and Breakfast. They are just such a nice homey environment compared to hotels. The people that run them must see some very interesting people from time to time for sure!

  • profile image

    lana hingle 7 years ago

    This is excellent advice for women who want to start their own business. It's a good idea to ask why and how much time you want to devote to a business up front so you don't become a slave to your dreams.


  • Beth100 profile image

    Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

    Thanks for this hub as I am pondering an opportunity to start a B n B. I'm not sure yet, but you have given some great pointers and advice. Again, thanks!