How to Start a Bed and Breakfast


A charming room for two in an old house, glowing with the sheen of exquisite china, the patina of antiques, and the glitter of silver. A fire crackles in the fireplace, and the kitchen is filled with the delicious aromas of freshly brewed coffee and cinnamon pastries. It is the image that most people have in mind when thinking of staying at a bed and breakfast. And it paints a true picture.

Not limited to this, however. inns with a unique flair include bed and breakfasts. They are often seen in old residences, including Craftsman bungalows, Queen Anne palaces, and townhouses from the American Revolution. 

However, B&Bs also inhabit a variety of unusual structures that are rich in history and romance, including colonial taverns, Gay ’90s schoolhouses, Roaring ’20s banks, Victorian lighthouses, and more. Wonderful B&Bs may also be found in contemporary Manhattan high-rises, on operating dairy farms and cattle ranches, and in several new homes situated next to rivers, lakes, and the ocean.

Both Worlds’ Best

A bed and breakfast is precisely what? It is kind of like a cross between a five-star hotel and a private residence, combining the finest features of both. Instead of the 50 to 100 or more rooms found in most hotels, a B&B is often a smaller institution with four to ten guest rooms. 

The proprietors connect with visitors as if they were invited guests rather than nameless temporary room numbers since they reside on-site. Additionally, there are several other tiny luxuries offered to visitors, like chocolates on their pillows, turn-down service, and baskets of bath and beauty supplies placed on Jacuzzi pools.

Of course, there is also the “breakfast” part of bed and breakfast, which is a scrumptious home-cooked meal included in the cost of the accommodation and provided each morning in a dining room or the guest’s room. 

In addition, B&Bs sometimes provide complimentary refreshments as part of the hotel charge, such as chilled glasses of iced tea or lemonade on the porch in the summer, mugs of cocoa after sled excursions in the winter, platters of cookies in the kitchen, and wine and cheese in the parlor on gloomy nights.

It is understandable why bed & breakfasts are so well-liked and continue to grow in popularity. According to the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), a group located in Santa Barbara, California, there were only 1,000 B&Bs and country inns in 1980, accommodating 1 million visitors. According to the most recent estimate, around the turn of 2000, there were 28,000 establishments entertaining 50.5 million visitors.

According to PAII, average occupancy—the percentage of rooms that are full on a daily basis—has increased from 45 to 50 percent over the last four years, skyrocketing along with the supply of hotels. Additionally, during the same four-year period, hotel rates climbed as well, rising from $103 to $121.

The Profit Element

You should be aware of the profit element whether you want to establish a B&B to escape the grind, supplement your income, turn a beloved historic property into a company, or just to enjoy your passion of hosting. What kind of earnings may a bed and breakfast proprietor anticipate?

The answer varies greatly based on the number of guest rooms in your B&B, whether or not your location is seasonal, how long you have been in business, how creatively you market your company, and how motivated you are to work.

However, keep in mind that the bed and breakfast sector does not often generate big incomes. Former instructor on B&B businesses and current innkeeper Nancy Sandstrom warns, “This is not a business you go into to earn a lot of money.” 

“Many of your personal expenditures are partially covered, and you may turn a profit. But it is a choice of lifestyle. When you sell, it is when you will really earn.” The more guest rooms you have, the more money you will make in gross revenue. 

So it makes logical that two rooms costing $100 each would cost $200 per day, but ten rooms costing the same amount with full occupancy would cost $1,000 per day. it is fantastic. However, it also makes sense that the more rooms you have, the more money you will spend and the labor you will have to do.

Also, take notice of the phrase “at full occupancy” that we have used. No innkeeper anticipates year-round full occupancy unless a number of significant conferences, the Olympics, and a royal coronation are concurrently taking place in the city.

It need not be all doom and gloom, either. All bed & breakfasts are not seasonal establishments. Even if yours is, there are ways to increase business during the off-season, such as coming up with activities other than skiing or beachcombing for visitors to partake in. For instance, a beach B&B may have a Victorian Christmas weekend to draw visitors in the winter, but a ski resort B&B would offer a “Murder Among the Pines” mystery weekend to draw visitors in the summer.

Startup Money

No matter how profitable a B&B might be, you will not start making money unless you can host visitors. And it requires bread to get up and go about. You may use the spare set of Little Mermaid sheets from your daughter’s trundle bed for family and friends who are coming to visit, but you will need to purchase brand-new bedding, mattresses, pillows, towels, and other supplies for your B&B visitors. 

Additionally, local rules may force you to improve the pool to meet safety requirements, add fire safety fixtures, or install new kitchen appliances or fixtures even if you choose to operate from your current home rather than purchasing a fixer-upper.

Your specific B&B will determine just how much you spend. Naturally, you will need to purchase fewer beds, pillows, towels, and other items if you have fewer guest rooms. Additionally, renovating your current house with lots of guest rooms will cost far less than purchasing a run-down antique that was condemned 20 years ago.

Although it is hard to place a figure on the land you will turn into an inn, you may estimate the cost of remodeling and furnishings. According to Jerry Phillips, executive director of PAII, a decent guideline is $35,000 to $50,000 per guest room for bigger establishments and $20,000 to $40,000 for extremely tiny or low-cost companies.

Common Markets

More goes into making your B&B fantasy a reality than merely selecting upscale towels for the restrooms. In order to replace imagination with serious strategy, you must first identify the kind of visitors you can draw and make a plan for how to charm them.

Look at the usual target markets listed below. It is fantastic if you can draw in two or more. But you will need to draw in at least one, or be inventive and think up another idea that will draw a lot of people.

Tourists. These are the individuals that are out to have a good time—the classic vacationers. Their mode of operation includes going to theme parks, national parks, and museums, as well as beachcombing, boating, skiing, sightseeing, and, of course, shopping. You have a fantastic market if you are adjacent to any kind of tourist destination, whether it be man-made or natural. Depending on where you live, the tourism industry might be quite location-specific.

Traveling on business. Business travelers, including traveling salesmen and company presidents, are a significant portion of the accommodation market. According to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIAA), there were 212 million business visits made in a single year, and more and more business travelers are choosing the benefits of a bed and breakfast over a hotel because of its impersonality. 

Business travelers might be a great market for you if you live in an urban area. However, you do not have to be situated in Chicago or New York City to draw in business. One or two big businesses that make a lot of money and travel for business are located in many small towns and suburbs. Additionally, corporate travel is not seasonal like the tourism industry.

Romance. The B&B is the perfect example of the romantic retreat that everyone adores. It is a large market: according to the TIA, over 62 Americans, or 31% of all adults, recently splurged on a romantic weekend or longer. It continues by saying that the typical traveler took 2.5 romantic getaways in a single year.

University or a college. You have a built-in market if you are in a college town, at least during certain seasons of the year. Football games, homecomings, and graduations may draw large crowds of spectators, in addition to parent weekends, new student orientations, conferences, and other academic or public events. 

This market may be yours to dominate as many college towns are also tiny communities with minimal hotel competition. If you can not supplement it with a different target market, keep in mind that your company will be seasonal.

Second bedroom for locals. You could assume that locals would not be interested in your bed and breakfast. But by positioning yourself as “your extra bedrooms” to the locals, you may create a nice supplementary market. Everybody knows someone who is planning a wedding, family reunion, or other event and cannot accommodate all of the out-of-town guests that are invited. You can bridge the gap.

Do You Have a B&B Zone?

You will also need to apply for a number of additional municipal or county licenses and permits, in addition to a fictitious business license, which legalizes your company name. A business license comes first. Both the paperwork and the licensing cost are inexpensive.

The tricky part is that the city will check to see whether you comply with its zoning and parking rules after you have filed for a business license. This takes us to the crucial subject of zoning. The municipal or county planning commission or planning board normally controls zoning rules, which vary greatly from place to place. 

Some communities may classify a homestay (a little B&B that is used for additional income and often does not promote) or smaller B&B as a domestic business and let it go at that, working under the peculiar idea that boarding houses and tourist homes are still widespread. Others believe that any bed and breakfast is a company that belongs in a commercial area. 

Others make decisions on a case-by-case basis since they are not acquainted with the B&B idea. In addition to location, several towns include additional provisions in their zoning laws. Some restrict the amount of nights visitors may stay during a visit, usually to seven or fourteen, in an effort to keep them from becoming long-term renters. 

Some cities have a cap on how many hotel rooms may be built in a residential area. Some do not allow kitchenettes and other culinary appliances in guest rooms. You will undoubtedly pass with flying colors if your B&B is situated in a commercial area. However, if a bed and breakfast is not permitted in your area, you will need to get a variance or a conditional use permit. 

Typically, this implies that you represent yourself before the planning commission as the lead character in your own legal play. You describe how your company will function and why it will not alter or negatively impact the neighborhood’s atmosphere. You should not encounter much resistance if your community is B&B-oriented and has a lot of bed and breakfasts already established. 

But if you are a trailblazer, you may also need to demonstrate how bed and breakfasts in fact enhance local communities. A shotgun rider Parking and signage concerns go along with the zoning debate. In most localities, companies must provide enough off-street parking for a certain number of automobiles, often one place per guest room. 

They will also need more pacing for the family cars. You may be able to avoid this depending on your location by advising that visitors park in neighboring public lots, in corporate parking lots, or on the street after hours. If you are in a residential neighborhood, you may not be able to display any signs at all. This is OK if you want to remain in residences and/or do not want walk-in traffic

However, you will struggle to draw attention to yourself if your business is too little to draw in bystanders. Some communities might be picky about signage, even in commercial areas. They could request that your sign be positioned solely on your building or at a certain distance from the curb. 

This is hardly a concern for the majority of B&Bs, which choose covert, understated signage nonetheless. But before having a sign produced, you should research the issue.

What to Bill

Your room prices will be influenced by a number of things: The facilities you provide. You may provide more standard amenities like a swimming pool or more opulent ones like whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, king-size beds, or private balconies.

Where You Are Located 

A bed and breakfast that is located off the beaten path, where few visitors or business travelers frequent, will not be able to charge as much as one that is located in a well-known tourist and/or business location. Additionally, where you live in your neighborhood might have an impact. 

For example, in a seaside town, a beachfront B&B might charge more than one that is one mile or even two blocks away from the water. A prominent historic district’s inn might command a greater price than one along the town’s entrance route.

The standard prices in your area. Your pricing must be competitive with those of other B&Bs and accommodations in the region, no matter how luxurious your facilities or how prime a position you have. You will lose business if you price much more, and curiously, you will also lose if you charge significantly less. (Guests will not test you out since they will assume there is a problem with your inn.)

So how do you even begin? Return to your market analysis. Look at the prices everyone in your area is charging, from cheap motels to expensive hotels and, of course, other bed and breakfasts, next choose your position within the housing hierarchy. 

You could wish to price your rooms similarly to an upscale hotel or comparable B&B if you operate a straightforward homestay with a family vibe but few frills. On the other hand, if you have expensive facilities and a classy atmosphere, you may price your rooms similarly to upscale bed & breakfasts or luxury hotels.

Remember that you most likely will not maintain the same room prices throughout the year or even the whole season. Most accommodations, from the most basic motel to the grandest hotel, change their rates according to the time of year. Particularly in highly seasonal settings, this is true.

The day of the week might also affect how much a room costs. During slower seasons, hotels and inns sometimes offer midweek accommodations at a discount. This is wise since the visitors you do get will often be weekend getaways if your town is not frequently visited by tourists at certain periods of the year. 

A three-night midweek stays for less than the cost of a two-night weekend stay may entice visitors to take off work, visit, and fill up your schedule for the rest of the week.

Employing Personnel

Your energy level, the size of your business, and the occupancy rate all influence when you will require help. But just when does the moment arrive? Pat Hardy of the Professional Association of Innkeepers International says, “Probably your first day.” “Regardless of how many rooms you have, you are not required to clean them. You start to observe a slip and battle with burnout as soon as you are the room cleaner and do not have time for marketing or to interact with visitors.”

Whether it is an inn sitter who temporarily takes over to give you a few weeks off or a high school student who comes in to clean on the weekends, Hardy advises everyone to include some kind of respite in their company plan. “You can not remain fresh if your work is innkeeping, which should not be 24/7.”

According to Hardy, between 30 and 40 percent of all innkeepers do not have any employees. Small businesses may be able to operate alone, but if they reach five or six rooms, they must consider hiring workers.

While getting assistance with cleaning is often the initial step, it is definitely not the only one. Your staff budget may be better spent on a bookkeeper than a chambermaid if you are a neat freak who loves the cardiovascular workout of zooming about with a vacuum, dust fury, and sponge but despise number-crunching fiercely.

A chef or kitchen assistant can be good to recruit if you can demand greater room revenues by imparting your knowledge to your clients over a leisurely breakfast rather than racing to and from the kitchen.

Or, like Bruce and Judy Albert in Seaside, Florida, choose a fantastic multitasker that can chip in and assist with anything. As they explain, “The folks who work for us are multi-talented, from washing dishes, serving breakfast, cleaning rooms, taking bookings, and answering the phone to gardening and welcoming and checking visitors in and out. It takes a certain kind of individual to handle all the hats they wear.

If you are interested in more articles like this, here’s one about how to expand your company globally.

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