Are you starting up your own bed and breakfast or just looking to give a new lease of life to an existing property? BedandBreakfastworld.com is here to help you create a truly unique B&B which will have guests coming back time and time again.
Don't worry, guests know that they are staying in your home and won't be expecting all the facilities of a 5-star hotel. Indeed, many guests choose to stay at B&B's precisely because of that homely feel. However, they are on holiday, so a little touch of luxury will be greatly appreciated. To strike the perfect balance, try to create the home that they wish they had.
To get some good ideas before you start, try staying in a few B&B's yourself. Find out what works and what doesn't work, what you like and what you don't like as a guest.
Let's start in the bedroom…
Taste is subjective, so the décor of your rooms should be kept simple and understated. Fashions are forever changing, and what looks great one year can just look dated the next, so unless you can afford to constantly update your rooms, choose a timeless design scheme. Choose neutral colours - pastels and soft, earthy tones - and use no more than three or the room will look too busy and won't create the relaxing atmosphere a guest wants.
Furniture should be coordinated as far as possible and should include a bed, a bedside table with a lamp, a wardrobe, one or two chairs, a television, a DVD player and tea/coffee-making facilities. A desk is important if you are hoping to attract business travellers, in which case free wireless internet access would also be greatly appreciated.
Wall art should be tasteful. Consider exhibiting works by local artists; you could supplement your income with the commission and guests will love to have such a personalised souvenir of their stay.
The bed is probably the most important thing for your guests, perhaps even more so than the breakfast! Do your beds look so cosy you want to jump in right now? Buy good quality bed linen - not only will it feel nicer but it will need to be replaced less frequently. Again, select neutral colours, and make sure the bed linen goes with (not necessarily matches!) the curtains and other fabrics in the room. Materials should be pleasant to touch as well as look at; appealing to all the senses will make your B&B more memorable.
Themed rooms can be fun to create and give your property the personal feel people stay in a B&B for. Give the rooms names related to their theme rather than numbers.
A bowl of fresh fruit in the bedroom assures guests that rooms are attended to daily, as well as adding a splash of colour.
The littlest room in the house…
It's nice to have an en-suite bathroom for every guestroom, but for most people it isn't a deal breaker. It may be preferable to have one really nice, spacious bathroom shared between a few people than trying to fit a matchbox-sized bathroom into every room.
Bathrooms can be kept simple - a toilet, a sink, a bath or shower and a mirror - but make sure everything is well maintained and, above all, clean. Ensure there is plenty of hot water at all times with a decent water pressure. Baths should ideally have shower attachments.
Good lighting is also important, and little touches can turn the bathroom from somewhere purely functional into a place to relax and rejuvenate after a busy day - a picture on the wall, a bunch of flowers and a scented candle, for example. Even a fresh coat of paint can work wonders, and that goes for every room in the house.
The most important meal of the day…
You don't have to serve everything under the sun, but a full cooked breakfast as well as a continental option including fresh fruit and juice is expected, and you should be able to fulfill any dietary requirements your guests may have.
Home-baked goodies are always appreciated, as are locally-sourced, organic products. If you can grow some of the ingredients in your back garden, all the better, and if the words 'hearty' and 'wholesome' can be used to describe your breakfasts, you're probably on the right track.
The customer is always right…
The key is to make it personal. You are, after all, welcoming somebody into your home. However it can be tricky to get right; some people prefer to be left alone and shrink at the thought of a conversation with a stranger over breakfast, while others will end up leaving as lifelong friends.
As the host, you should be an expert in the local area, with plenty of suggestions for activities to suit guests of any age, as well as knowing all the best places to eat and shop. It is also useful to have up-to-date public transport information to hand.
You've worked hard - show it!
Once you've created something you can really be proud of, there's no sense in letting all your hard work go to waste with a bad photo. We see so many potentially lovely properties let down by bad composition, bad angles, bad lighting or just bad subject matter. Show off your best bits. First impressions are everything, so make sure you really capture the viewer's attention before they move onto the next property.
Take lots of photos. Especially if you have a digital camera, take plenty of photos from lots of different angles - you can always be selective later. Once you see that photo full-size, you might see an obstacle you didn't notice when you were taking it, or realise that arty shot you experimented with didn't quite work.
Take photos at different times of day. Potential bookers like to see the guestrooms looking light, airy and spacious, but perhaps your B&B looks particularly inviting lit up at night, so try an exterior shot. Just remember: if it's dark, use a tripod.
Take photos of each room. If you only have one or two photos, however nice they may be, it will seem as though you have something to hide. Guests want to see the whole property, so try to include at least five photos, ideally a couple of guestroom shots, a (tasteful!) bathroom shot, a breakfast room or lounge shot and at least one exterior shot. If your guestrooms are themed, include a photo of each one; this will help your B&B to stand out and really reflect the feel of the place. Find out how to take good interior photos here.
Tell me about yourself…
An excellent description to go with your photos is vital. A picture speaks a thousand words, but a booker relies on the text to tell them what the photos don't. Keep it structured; introduce your B&B with a short tagline. Then dedicate a short paragraph to outlining what makes your property special before moving on to describe the rooms, the location and the facilities. Put details such as policies and terms and conditions at the end. An example of a good B&B description can be found here.
You know the irresistible smell of freshly baked bread or homemade cookies baking in the oven? Not only will it create a great first impression for guests just arriving after a long journey, but it also makes a tasty treat to leave in the rooms or serve with a cup of tea in your cosy lounge.
If you can run to providing toiletries in the bathrooms, do. Tie them in with your theme; if you are a luxury B&B, try to provide miniatures of luxury brands; if you are an eco-friendly B&B, make sure the products are organic. If they can have the name of your B&B printed on them, so much the better.
If guests are staying with you on a honeymoon or a romantic weekend away, ask when they book if they would like a bunch of flowers or a bottle of champagne waiting for them on arrival.
Create your own CD, a compilation of relaxing songs which you think reflect the mood of your B&B. Use one of your best photos as the cover and leave it in the room next to the CD/DVD player. As well as helping to create the right atmosphere, the CD also makes an excellent souvenir; guests will be reminded of your B&B every time they play the CD and may even share it with their friends.
We hope this guide has been helpful to you.Visit us on Twitter or Facebook to tell us what has worked for you in your B&B, or sign up to see your top B&B featured on BedandBreakfastworld.com. Stuck for inspiration? Look at some of our top B&Bs.
By: Eleanor Brown