Posted by Clive Braude on 19th Jul 2016
So you’ve taken the leap, and now you and yours are embarking on the unique journey of starting your very own Bed & Breakfast. Aside from the business paperwork, accounting, maintenance, marketing, and administration side of your new lifestyle, you’ll also need one crucial thing: an attractive and inviting B&B.
Now that the keys are in your hands, you should begin by asking yourself a number of key questions when it comes to furnishing your new B&B. Consider where your business is located, and the local culture that helps to identify your community. Your B&B should reflect the culture of your surrounding environment.
Second, consider who your target market is, and the things that they’ll appreciate. Why are people going to consider staying with you, rather than booking a hotel room, renting a cottage, or staying with friends? Identify what is going to make you unique, and go after it, adding your own personal touches along the way.
B&B’s need to be comfortable and should portray a relaxing, worry-free lifestyle. Perhaps most importantly, they need to make your guests feel like they’re at home, while subtly reminding them that they’re on vacation, or enjoying some time away from the daily grind. Balancing these ideals will help to set your B&B apart from the rest.
Finally, as yourself what kind of environment you’d want to encounter on a stay to a B&B; go with our gut and listen to your own instincts. Chances are if you’ve opened a B&B, you’ll have a hankering to impress and cater to people’s needs, while you enjoy the freedom of your newfound home-based entrepreneurial spirit.
Remember, you got into this so you could be comfortable yourself – spread the wealth and treat your guests like they were family.
The bedrooms of your B&B are 50% of the battle, and arguably the most important part of your business. This is where people are going to spend the majority of their time during their stay, so they should be the epitome of comfort, and coziness. A warm & inviting bed is just the thing to build your room around.
Ensure that the room is bright, fresh and inspires a deep breath of relief when your guests open the door. Use fluffy duvets and a plethora of throw pillows to ramp up the level of comfort your guests will feel – and aim for a clean, simple colour palette. Using white and cream colours can help a small room feel larger, more open, and brighter – desirable traits when you’re trying to inspire positive comments and word-of-mouth from your client base.
Add a cozy touch of including a welcome basket to each room prior to your guests arriving. Include trinkets like complimentary soaps, teas, washcloths, a set of wine glasses, and a tourist map of your area’s attractions, and incense. These bonus items will make your guests feel as though they’ve checked in to a resort. Make use of warm end-table reading lamps to give a comfy feel at dusk when your guests return to their rooms and settle in for the night.
Be sure to add a comfy seating area in your larger suites. This corner of the room will invite your guests to use the room as their home base for the weekend, allowing them to take their morning coffee back to their cozy corner of the house and enjoy their mornings on their own time. Go the extra mile and leave some light reading materials on top of a lofty pile of fluffy towels.
If your region experiences a drastic changing of the seasons, invest in bedroom sets that accentuate the specific time of year – have a few alternate sets that exhibit different colour palettes, textures and designs based on the time of year; a winter visit should be met with warm hues, rather than blues and whites, and a summer stay should appear light, airy and fresh, rather than stuffy and warm. If there happens to be a statutory holiday, or a long weekend happening, make sure that there’s some kind of signifier in each room drawing attention to the fact that you’re celebrating too. Your guests will feel as though they’re in the right place at the right time.
The breakfast portion of the B&B experience is a big draw for those looking to relax and have their most important meal of the day prepped for them in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise do for themselves.
Invest in a creative branding package to brand your breakfast menus, and present them as a restaurant would. Your guests will appreciate the fit-and-finish and effort you’ve went through to show them a good time.
Treat your guests to a hearty meal of comfort foods – provide a small menu that gives room for some dietary choices, but keep things simple and nostalgic. Eggs, toast, bacon, fruit cups, coffee, tea and croissants give the feeling of a complete home-cooked meal.
Building on serving the right experience at the right time of year, experiment with your menu seasonally as well. Serve fresh fruit in the summer, and more hearty foods in the fall and winter.
Consider getting creative with the visual aesthetic of your dishes, using cast iron, or China mugs. Offer your meals at small, intimate tables, imitating the cozy feel of a bistro, or café, rather than a large dining room table where people have to dine together – give your guests the continued feeling of intimacy before they set out to explore your area in the morning.
Consider using handkerchiefs or rather than napkins, and a bright, aromatic flower or two on the centre of the table never hurt anyone. And be sure to set the coffee timer for an early hour – nothing says cozy and relaxing like coming down stairs to the aroma of a fresh brewed coffee waiting for you.
Pleasing everyone is difficult, but having some soft music playing in the dining room in the morning is a signifier of comfort for many people. Try playing some music as you cook for your guests, and gauge their responses.
Curb appeal is everything for a B&B, so your place had better look the part when your guests arrive. Landscaping and yard maintenance aren’t everybody’s forte, but focus on having the gardens looking manicured and the lawn freshly cut. Ensure that the parking lot, or laneway is clear of any obstructions, and always leave the light on for guests arriving late – you want them to feel as though they’re coming home, to a place that they’re welcome.
When they do pull in, make sure you have a good-looking sign, letting them know they’ve arrived at their destination. Take this opportunity to evaluate your B&B’s marketing strategy based on how welcoming and comfortable your business looks from the street.
If you have a deck or patio that the guests are welcome to use, be sure that there is ample seating and a comfy place for them to put their feet up. A small chimnea, or fire pit also can help to create a homey, cozy feel. Leave a few blankets draped over the chairs to encourage their use. Throw up a hammock in the yard, and leave a few umbrellas and a walking stick at the door for guests who prefer to explore the grounds on-foot.
The gist remains – if you’ve decided to start a B&B, chances are you’re looking forward to the freedom of the lifestyle as much as your guests are anticipating the feeling of freedom when they stay with you; like attracts like, so listen to your gut and take the extra steps that help make your home feel like your home – your guests will appreciate the attention to detail, and it will come through by way of return visits, positive feedback, and smiling faces. B&B’s are meant to be cozy places that inspire tranquility and comfort, so make sure you’re enjoying owning the space as much as your guests are enjoying their stay.
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